SPIE conducts successful black-building test at the Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg

Published on 13 February 2020

- Accompanied by DEKRA, SPIE, the independent European leader in multi-technical services in the areas of energy and communications, has conducted the first black-building test at the Elbphilharmonie during ongoing operation, since it opened three years ago. Undertaken successfully for the first time during the construction phase, the test is now being repeated every three years at the Hamburg concert hall

- A black-building test checks whether security systems will function correctly in the event of a complete power outage

- The test went smoothly for a building this complex thanks to the cooperation of all users in the different parts of the Elbphilharmonie


Hamburg, February 13, 2020 – SPIE Deutschland & Zentraleuropa is responsible for the bulk of technical building installations in the Elbphilharmonie Hamburg. With the successful black-building test conducted at the end of last year, the multi-technical service provider has the assurance that even if the external power supply goes down, all of the building’s security-related functions will continue to operate.

Testing for the worst-case scenario

In the event of a fire at the Elbphilharmonie Hamburg, the fully occupied Grand Hall has to be evacuated. This would also be the case if the building’s power supply were to go down. If the power stays off, the most important technical systems such as fire alarms and smoke extractors, fire and ventilation controls, voice alarms, emergency lighting and a number of lifts still have to work. For such an emergency scenario, SPIE has carried out a mock black-building test to examine the facilities technology in Hamburg's landmark right from scratch. To this end, the Elbphilharmonie was completely cut off from Hamburg’s electricity grid for over one hour on a weekday, at 12:01 a.m. The test was the first of its kind to be carried out since the concert hall opened three years ago. Conducted successfully for the first time during the construction phase, it will now be repeated every three years.

The inspection company DEKRA oversaw the testing, and confirmed afterwards, in the event of a power outage, the building and security systems would still work properly, powered by emergency generators. “Our engineers and service technicians have already been working with DEKRA inspectors since June 2019 to check the individual building engineering systems,” says the responsible SPIE project manager, Henri Mickan. The black-building test entailed examining how all technical systems would interact without an external electricity supply, and checking the power supply to all security systems in a simulated worst-case scenario.

Thanks to good teamwork, the test was a success

The test took place from midnight until 08:30 a.m. on the following morning. After SPIE had checked the technical systems in the two concert halls of the concert area—having first cut off power to the entire Elbphilharmonie building for one hour—the team worked in stages through the other utility areas such as the multi-storey car park, plaza, hotel, restaurants and flats. Henri Mickan is very pleased about his team’s labour-intensive night: “We were able to repair smaller elements such as adapters, controllers or fuses straight away. When it came to bigger components, we were able to restore normal operations quickly using compensatory measures. Relative to the size of the building and the high level of automation, we identified only little damage and we are very happy about that,” says Henri Mickan, summing up. So that nothing is left to chance, the SPIE team also involved the electrical engineers who planned the Elbphilharmonie. It was also thanks to the good working relationship with the users of the various parts of the Elbphilharmonie that the black-building test went off so smoothly. The test was deliberately carried out at night, to ensure minimum interruption to normal building operations.

On the spot right from the start

SPIE was already contracted as the general service provider for general building engineering services at the Elbphilharmonie during the construction phase in 2013. Since the building went operational in November 2016, the multi-technical service provider has had 20 staff on-site there, and is responsible for the building engineering systems in the public areas of the Elbphilharmonie, as well as in parts of the hotels, the multi-storey car park, the concert halls and the restaurants. SPIE’s brief includes responsibility for the building control system, the overall fire alarm and voice alarm systems, and for lift maintenance. “With the successful black-building test we have once again confirmed that we are prepared for a worst-case scenario, and that operation of the Elbphilharmonie’s security systems can also be guaranteed in an emergency,” says Björn Seifarth, SPIE Branch Manager in Hamburg.