Timeless character, modern spirit

Digital technology is ushering in a new era at Hamburg’s Speicherstadt historical warehouse district – where landmark protection and technical progress aren’t mutually exclusive.

The change in the Speicherstadt historical warehouse district, Hamburg’s only UNESCO World Heritage site, is obvious. The former beating heart of the Port of Hamburg – where goods from all over the world were once brought in by boats and barges and stored in the hatches of the largest warehouse complex at the time – has been developing into an attractive and diverse urban district ever since the area was separated from the free port in 2003.

The transformation is being driven forward by the Real Estate segment of Hamburger Hafen und Logistik AG. The warehouses thus shine in new splendour while preserving their original features as closely as possible and under the strict eyes of the landmark protection office. However, technology’s progress cannot be stopped by thick red-brick walls.

Digitalisation in historical warehouses

Torsten Zorn, Head of technical facilities at HHLA Real Estate, oversees the technical equipment of all HHLA properties in Hamburg with the help of his ten-member team. This includes the maintenance, inspection and repair of hundreds of technical facilities. Legal requirements and modern standards regarding fire protection, building energetics, heating and air conditioning technology, security systems and much more also apply to World Heritage sites.

In the past year, the technicians in Zorn’s team set a new project in motion in order to make their jobs easier and therefore more effective. At the same time, the service offered to HHLA’s tenants was improved further. The name “Digital building control system” (GLT in German) stands for the visual networking and remote-capable control of all technical facilities through a central software system.

Digital building control system in operation

Project manager Christian Stange coordinates the implementation of the digital building control system at HHLA Real Estate. He tests the control, monitoring and management of the technical building facilities on the screen at his workstation.
This is how the heating system in warehouse block M26/M27, which is to be accessed in future by the digital building control system, actually looks.
And this is how the digital building control system represents the M26/M27 heating system on the screen.
In the future, Christian Stange will no longer have to go to the touch panel in the technical centre of warehouse block M26/M27 to, for example, check the real-time temperature or operate the pump function. The HHLA Real Estate technicians will be able to manage this from their workstations.

Zorn sums it up using a practical example: “If a heating unit stopped working today, the tenant would call and report the disruption. One of our technicians would then first assess the situation on-site. In some cases, we have to commission specialists who might realise that they do not have the adequate replacement part with them. And until the disruption has been resolved, the tenant will have no heating.”

GLT will considerably simplify this process. “The software will proactively notify us if something’s wrong with the heating system – preferably before the tenant starts feeling cold,” Zorn explains, describing the future. “Ideally, the notification will also include information about the type of disruption and required spare parts.” A specialist company will then be commissioned automatically by the system.

More efficiency, increased tenant satisfaction, better environmental footprint

Zorn sees great potential in digital building control systems: “Even though GLT will initially have no influence on the number of disruptions, solving them will be much faster and more efficient.” Furthermore, the coordination of repair efforts will be easier. This can help to avoid double-booking specialist companies and to optimally bundle orders. And we cannot forget the economic advantage: fewer complaints would also mean less rent reductions because repair work will be accelerated.

The passionate technician: Torsten Zorn

Torsten Zorn is a technician in body and soul. The 54-year-old started his professional career as a heating fitter and later completed his studies in engineering, specialising in domestic and utility engineering. His goal from the very beginning was driving forward complex projects without losing the eye for details. As managing partner of a technical planning office for domestic and utility engineering and as a freelancer, he was a lone warrior for a long time, but always had a penchant for big projects. And thus he moved from independence to the Hochtief construction group in order to be actively involved in very large projects. Among other things, he oversaw the completion, operation and approval of technical facilities for the residential area of the Elbphilharmonie and also consulted in the construction of the Theater an der Elbe (which houses the play “Das Wunder von Bern”) in Hamburg. He joined HHLA four years ago and has headed the area of technical facilities for three years.

Building networking to begin in late 2021

We plan to connect the first Speicherstadt buildings via a central GLT system in 2021. Further HHLA properties at the port will also be integrated. The process will continue gradually after that. Achieving this will partially require establishing the network technology demanded by the technical facilities in older buildings. This has already been included in the plans for new renovation projects.

The member of the Executive Board responsible for the Real Estate segment, Dr. Roland Lappin, is enthusiastic about the project: “The establishment of a central digital building control system is a key requirement to position the Speicherstadt historical warehouse district at the forefront of sustainable buildings. The required expertise and skills to achieve this are firmly anchored in our real estate strategy.” 

Torsten Zorn is delighted to receive so much encouragement because his team is driving forward the project with great dedication. “My colleagues clearly see the advantages of digital networking and have thrown themselves into the project with unbridled enthusiasm.

Structural transformation in Hamburg’s Speicherstadt

HHLA Real Estate has opened up the Speicherstadt for attractive inner-city use. To ensure that the quarter is transformed, HHLA developers are sensitively renovating the historic building fabric.

Learn more