The Elbphilharmonie

Construction of the century and new landmark of Hamburg


"Scaleless and monumental"

Future-oriented building and room automation made by GFR


Automation systems

by GFR



Facts & figures


GFR sensors
and actuators




metres of
automation cable


m³ of conditioned air per hour

Building automation and indoor climate made by GFR

Dear visitors,

We are happy that you show so much interest in the Elbphilharmonie concert hall, one of the most excellent projects of our company history and we feel honoured to present you the uniqueness and exceptional charisma of this construction of the century.  
We would like to start with a quote by Prof. Dr. phil. Michael Mönninger, a professor for aesthetics at the College of Fine Arts in Braunschweig: "It is not possible to make a sensible comparison for the Elbphilharmonie, not even within the unchained “starchitecture“of the global municipal competition. It is a location-based phantasmagoria which describes an aesthetic state of emergency by being scaleless and monumental and reaches the overwhelming force of natural spectacles."

We certainly agree with this appraisal and are proud of having significantly participated in the implementation of our future-oriented building automation system for Hamburg’s new landmark.

You will find interesting information on the “Elphi“and particularly on the unique building automation made by GFR on the following website.

Your GFR - Gesellschaft für Regelungstechnik und Energieeinsparung mbH

“Magical - spectacular - breath taking“
Elbphilharmonie "Great hall"

Inauguration of the Elbphilharmonie

“Magical, spectacular and breath taking“ these were the words of the first visitors after the inauguration of the Elbphilharmonie on 11 and 12 January, 2017.

The words were mainly in reference to the extraordinary architecture of the building situated on the bank of the Elbe, the unique geometry of the “Grand Hall” with its “White skin”, spectator balconies which call to mind a terraced vineyard situated around the orchestra, and the surface structure of the building exterior with its 16,000 square meter glass facade which magically mirrors the light and reflections of the water below.

"The Great Hall", the heart of the Elbphilharmonie, is an architectural masterstroke because the 12,500 ton heavy construction and the outer shell of the great hall rest on 362 spring assemblies and is decoupled from the rest of the building. The famous acoustician Yasuhisa Toyota developed the "White skin". It is made of 10,000 gypsum fibreboards that consist of waste paper and natural gypsum and which have been milled with millimetre precision on basis of 3-D calculations. The hotel contains 244 luxurious and individual suits and hotel rooms. There are also 44 luxury apartments in the living quarter of the Elbphilharmonie which start at a price of 15,000 Euros per square metre.

Even out of sight, the Elbe Philharmonic offers truly superlative features and impressive technology that contributes to the jaw-dropping effect. Part of this hidden magic is the building and room automation and thus the essential contribution of GFR mbH. The Elphi has special requirements for the indoor environment – for instance in the grand concert hall, where both people and instruments have to feel comfortable, and in fact this climate contributes to the unique acoustics.

From quay warehouse to construction of the century
The original idea for the subsequent use of the quay warehouse A was the construction of the MediaCityPort, an office building with 50,000 square metres of total floor area for the media branch which was supposed to rise 90 metres above the ground. It was refrained from implementing that idea because of the end of the dotcom boom. Originally commissioned by the project developer Alexander Gérard, the Swiss star architects Herzog & de Meuron were responsible for the project outline »Philharmonie Hamburg«.  The forward-thinking idea was the construction of the Philharmonie on a historical warehouse and surrounded by private usable areas and a freely accessible plaza. The sensational design convinced the Senate, the Parliament and the general public. The ReGe Hamburg, a municipal project management company, was appointed as builder of the Elbphilarmonie in May 2004.  After conducting a feasibility study and developing an utilisation concept, the consortium Adamanta, consisting of Hochtief Construction AG, Commerz-Leasing and Immobilien AG, won the European tender for the construction and operation of the building for 20 years (FacilityManagement). Together with the Skyliving GmbH, Hochtief as a building developer also created a concept for the 45 condominiums.

Construction progress
The construction works started with the laying of the foundation stone after the unanimous decision of the Parliament on 2 April, 2007. The building was completely gutted and only the brick facade remained unchanged.  634 piles were rammed 15 metres into the mud of the river Elbe, in addition to the existing 1,111 reinforced concrete piles, to carry the weight of the Elbphilarmonie (former quay warehouse) which equals 200,000 tons.
The roofing ceremony took place in May 2010 when the structural work of the last storey, the 26th, was completed. The roof of the hall was concreted in November 2011. The structural work was finished in November 2013.  The “White skin” was mounted from December 2013, the external facade was completed in January 2014 and the roof was finished in August 2014. The concert area was completed on time on 30 June after the assembly of the “White skin” had been finished in February 2016. The plaza has been accessible for the public since 5 November, 2016 and the concert area was inaugurated on 11 and 12 January, 2017.

Problems during the construction phase
Disputes between the municipal Elbphilharmonie Bau KG and the property company Adamanta accompanied the construction of the Elbphilharmonie until summer 2013. Negotiations on supplementary claims concluded with an agreement (supplementary claim 4) in November 2008. The costs for the city of Hamburg increased from the initially approved 272 million to 495 million Euros. The new completion date 30 November, 2011 was defined. The Hamburg Parliament set up a committee to determine the reasons for the cost increase. Contracts for the reorganisation of the project Elbphilarmonie were signed by the project partners in April 2013 after resolving further issues on the construction and an interim standstill.
The reorganisation contained:

  • Additional services provided by Hochtief (assumption of all planning and construction risks, newly founded working community with the architects, guaranteed compliance with quality demands of the architects and the acoustician Yasuhisa Toyota, contractually agreed intermediate deadlines and a guaranteed completion date)
  • A new timeline for the construction (handover of the concert area of the Elbphilharmonie by 30 June, 2016, acceptance of the Elbphilharmonie by 31 October, 2016)
  • Additional costs for the city (256.65 million Euros for additional services by Hochtief and the architects). The total costs for the city are 789 million Euros.
  • The inauguration took place on 11 January, 2017.
  • The construction of the Elbphilarmonie proceeded without any serious problems since the reorganisation.

GFR services

Room automation and air conditioning

The air conditioning and the acoustics in the “Great Hall” harmonise as the room climate largely contributes to the unique sound experience.

Building automation

DIGICONTROL systems by GFR are solely used for building automation in all areas of the building complex.

Technical Facility Management

The building management platform WEBVISION and the energy data management WEBENCON ensure a safe and efficient operation of the building.

Forward-looking solutions for room automation, building automation and technical facility management

Systems by GFR are solely used for building automation in the entire building complex.  
5,210 DIGICONTROL sensors and actuators by GFR, 89,000 communication points and 648 kilometres of automation cable are required to automate the efficient energy-, heating- and cooling centres, the ventilation centrals with about 940,000 m³ of air, the 425 rooms and the multi-storey car park.

DIGICONTROL automation systems
GFR was in charge of the building automation which stretched from the manufacturing of the control cabinets, via the installation service to the programming and configuration of the system. The project engineers of GFR have been involved in the Elbphilarmonie project since 2009 and are providing on-site support for the building operator.
The building automation network has been structured extremely failure-proof and consists of IP networks and security networks. Those networks cannot be explained in detail because of safety reasons.
A total number of 100 air-conditioning systems are controlled. They contain 260 fans, 1,900 fire dampers and about 600 smoke extraction and multi-leaf dampers. 425 single room controls for various room zones that meet individual requirements are contained in the complete system.  Furthermore, cold water production with control of the cooling water supply from Elbe water and a system of deep wells is operated by GFR technology.

Automation and management systems

Two separate building management systems, “WEBVISION” and the energy data management system WEBENCON are used. They can be operated from six distributed locations.
A total number of 384 DIGICONTROL ems2.CP04D BACnet building controllers (B-BC) and three automated fibre-optic ring bus systems with a total of 660 participants and 77 frequency converters that communicate via BACnet MS/TP are integrated into the building network.

All smoke extraction systems in the concert halls, the hotel, the luxury flats and the other areas are controlled by means of multi-leaf dampers. The monitoring of the energy consumption is performed via the embedded MBus and KNX systems. Required third party software, like the hotel management software “Fidelio“, was integrated.  
GFR was in charge of connecting all control capabilities of the installed equipment and responsible for all services in the field of communication and automation.

Air conditioning and acoustics in the Great Hall
The Great Hall, which is hermetically and sonically sealed, is the heart of the Elbphilharmonie. 2,100 seats are upwardly arranged like vineyard terraces around the centrally located stage. This arrangement ensures that no listener is further than 30 metres away from the conductor. Air conditioning and acoustics have to harmonise particularly well because the indoor temperature and humidity play a significant role for the perfect sound of the instruments and the organ, the performance of the artists, the “white skin“, the audience and the music experience.

Special features of the air-conditioning devices
The Great Hall is supplied with conditioned air by two air-conditioning devices. The air conditioners are furnished with the functions heating, cooling, humidifying and dehumidifying. A cutting-edge soundproof air duct network spans the concert hall in the area of the external shell.
The two air-conditioning devices that are responsible for the Great Hall are equipped with a heat recovery system. These systems are able to recover heat as well as cold and use both alternatively. Control strategies in the automation station programs ensure a precise control of the mass flow in the HVAC system. The right decisions for switching processes following different criteria in accordance with air conditioning principles in the h-x-diagram have to be made. The adiabatic cooling in the exhaust air flow is used for cooling down the drawn-in outdoor air which reduces the mechanical cooling demand. By doing so, a considerable heat recovery from the exhaust air volumetric flow can be achieved when cold outdoor air is drawn in.
The ventilation system of the Great Hall is generously equipped with a total air volume of 130,000 m³/h. When cold and very dry air is sucked in, the air has to be humidified as otherwise the parquet flooring and musical instruments could be damaged. The adiabatic cooling effect that is accompanying the spray humidification has to be controlled with suitable algorithms for dosing the heat energy while minimising water losses. The necessary algorithms for that purpose are stored in the automation station programs.

Smoke extraction as special operating mode
If a risk of fire is detected, a large-scale scenario of system deactivations will be enabled in the entire building. Evacuation measures are taken and, if the concert hall is affected, the compulsive smoke extraction will be switched on. Nine special air-conditioning devices for rinsing and extracting the smoke are actuated with an air flow rate of 600,000m³/h. The air-conditioning devices are sealed off by dampers and are switched off, like other plants, in case of fire alarm.

Actuators and sensors
By means of 16 volume flow controllers, the conditioned air is brought into specifically designed supply air plenums under the seats of the concert hall and escapes via the outlets under the rows of seats. The close proximity of the outlets to the guests is a particular challenge. The air has to be conditioned in such a way that all comfort criteria are met. None of the guests shall complain about a draught, even if the concert hall is fully occupied. The indoor climate in the hall must be held stable at the same time. The measuring technology for the air conditioning was elaborately designed. The temperature is measured in the entire supply air flow.  Temperature sensors and indoor humidity sensors are installed at all relevant locations in the white skin of the concert hall. There are also various measuring points for monitoring the CO2 concentration. An exact image of the room is provided in this way.

Requirements on operating modes of the Great Hall
There is a large number of operating modes in accordance with the utilisation plans for the Great Hall. These operating modes are enabled by comprehensive equipment with sensors and controlling actuators of the volume flow regulator. If the hall and the audience seats are fully occupied or if just some musicians are rehearsing, the air quality in the hall has to remain well-conditioned.  Changes only result from small air quantities during rehearsals and recordings with a smaller number of people. Rest periods during non-usage periods also occur in the utilisation profiles. In this case, a room conditioning only takes place if the limiting values for the indoor climate have been violated. Then the air-conditioning devices are operated until the limits of the indoor climate are reached again. The operation modes are combined and selected in the programs of the automation station according to the requirements. Control variables are defined though the individual weightings of the measured values which are relevant for the current control. These control variables are transferred to the control of the air-conditioning devices as set point values. Different strategies and scenarios are considered in the actuator-sensor programs. This includes the calculation of start-up times for the conditioning with one of the predefined operation modes in the concert hall before the utilisation time starts. Another example is the conditioning of the indoor climate considering a gradient in which the indoor climate may change in order to reach the target condition.

Control of ventilation and air-conditioning technology
After the requirements for the air condition in the Great Hall have been calculated appropriately, the respective values will be transmitted to both air-conditioning plants. Both air-conditioning plants are always in operation, with one exception. One plant is in charge of calculating the supply air conditions and acts as master for the purpose of operating both devices synchronously. The other plant follows as slave until the utilisation is ended by switching off the plant or till the master device fails due to a malfunction. The properly working system will seamlessly take over the operation then. It accesses the calculated operating parameters of the air conditioning at the outlet of the device for this purpose. In case of a repair of the faulty machine during running operation, this system will also take over the operation while using the current parameters. In order to save energy, the air-conditioning devices can be adjusted in their performance by using frequency converters.  If the frequency converters stop functioning, a bypass circuit will ensure mains operation until the defective component has been repaired.

BACnet-MS/TP communication
The frequency converters of the air-conditioning devices are supplied with switching commands and actuating signals from the controller. The conventional enabling by means of digital switching outputs and analogue actuating signals was not required.  The communicative linking supplied the operational data of the converters, like current performance, power consumption, accurate rotation speed, etc. The BACnet-MS/TP standard is used as protocol. Classical mechanical protective measures are used for protecting the plant in the last instance.

The building automation in the Elbphilarmonie is the control centre of the technical building services. It combines different trades and allows to keep an eye on all technical building automation systems and to simultaneously control the devices. The Great Hall is exemplary and ideal. The responsibility of GFR exceeded the integration of HVAC technology by far. The energy data management system was integrated and the employees of the operator were trained on site.

Our highlights

Air-conditioning and acoustics in the Great Hall

The highly complex control strategies provide an excellent climate for the well-being of people and musical instruments.

GFR in all areas

GFR is the only company in the Elphi whose solutions are applied throughout the building.

A sense of pride

in contributing to one of the best and most spectacular concert halls in the world that is located in Germany.

A site office

above the river Elbe on the 16 floor providing a spectacular view over Hamburg and a technical centre at the same outstanding location.

Do you have any questions?

Do not hesitate to ask us.
We look forward to helping you.

Uwe Seppmann
Sales Director for region I

Phone +49 5246 / 962-247

Write an email

Project history


Laying of foundation stone

on 2 April, 2007



Celebration of roofing ceremony

in May 2010



Completion of structural work

in November 2013



Assembly of "white skin" in the Great Concert Hall

Starting in December 2013



Finishing of external facade and roof

in January and August 2014



Completion of concert area

in June 2016



Handover of the Elbphilharmonie to the city of Hamburg

in October 2016




on 11 and 12 January, 2017


Voices on project

Volker Westerheide

GFR Managing Director

“We are proud of having contributed to the construction of this great building. The Elbphilarmonie really is an extraordinary project and it was a unique challenge which our entire team tackled with success.”


Report in the BACnet Europe Journal - March 2017

BACnet Europe Journal - Ausgabe 26, März 2017

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