Roof and Façade

Illuminated landmark

© Andreas Heddergott / TUM

Clearly visible from afar: The Oskar-von-Miller Tower at the Technical University of Munich certainly attracts attention thanks to its translucent and illuminated facade made from PLEXIGLAS®.

Clothes make the man. And this also applies to the weather tower at the renowned Technical University of Munich (TUM). The rather inconspicuous steel structure was dressed in a tailor-made, translucent PLEXIGLAS® suit in 2010 and christened the Oskar-von-Miller Tower. Since then, it has become a landmark of the Garching research campus.

At the inauguration ceremony in July 2010, the Oskar-von-Miller Tower was the building with the tallest PLEXIGLAS® facade in the world. Including the needle, the meteorological mast measures a total of 62 meters and is used as a weather station and monitoring station for the research neutron source at the TUM. And it can show what is happening inside: Illuminated lettering on the facade displays meteorological data, such as the temperature or the wind speed, which is visible from miles away. This data is collected by sensors on the tower, transferred to LEDs via a computer and projected onto the PLEXIGLAS® facade from inside. A further 1,350 LEDs are used to display the TUM logo at the top of the tower.

The effect is particularly impressive at night. “People flying into Munich airport from the west can see the tower illuminated at night,” says a representative from the Technical University of Munich. “PLEXIGLAS® is an unusual and translucent material which adds to the special character of the building.”

PLEXIGLAS® enables dramatic illumination

When planning a new weather tower for the TUM, it quickly became apparent that the building was to be more than just a functional construction. The idea was to use a transparent building shell which could both show the load-bearing structure and be illuminated. Due to its optical properties, PLEXIGLAS® was ultimately chosen.

The brand acrylic glass from Röhm is available in both a highly transparent version, which allows 92 percent of light to pass through, as well as in translucent versions with lower light transmittance. This building uses a special translucent version of PLEXIGLAS® with a light transmittance of 88 percent and a slight white coloring for light-conducting purposes. The LED projections are therefore brightly displayed on the facade.

Tailor-made

Every one of the approximately 200 facade segments made from PLEXIGLAS® XT is unique.

© Röhm GmbH – Acrylic Products / Photo: Thomas Ries

Translucent

The PLEXIGLAS® facade has a light transmittance of 88 percent and makes the structure of the tower visible.

© Andreas Battenberg, Technical University of Munich

Flexible and sustainable construction material

“The idea was not to just build a tower, but to breathe life into the facade,” says Thilo Üblagger. He is the Managing Director of k-tec Thermoforming Solutions near Salzburg, which manufactured the facade of the Oskar-von-Miller Tower. It consists of around 200 thermoformed sheets of extruded PLEXIGLAS® in a thickness of 25 mm. As the elliptical tower shell tapers in from the bottom to the top, each segment has a different curve.

Although PLEXIGLAS® is a very light material, the largest segments have an area of 14 square meters and each weigh almost 400 kilograms. “Processing components like these with the highest level of precision is a challenge,” says Üblagger, whose company specializes in processing large plastic components.

He knows PLEXIGLAS® from many projects and values it as a construction material. “It is light, can be formed on multiple axes and is available in very large sizes. And PLEXIGLAS® is also sustainable. This is quite noticeable through the lower energy inputs required during production and processing, as well as during transportation.” The thermoforming of PLEXIGLAS® therefore only requires a fraction of the energy which would be needed for a comparable glass component. The light weight of the plastic means less fuel is required during transport. Furthermore, the brand acrylic glass from Röhm is also weather and UV-resistant. This means it has a long lifespan, making it the perfect material for an illuminated landmark.

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