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A-Zero Architects were part of the international competition winning team, led by renowned Irish architects O’Donnell + Tuomey to redesign the Central European University campus in Budapest, Hungary. The design incorporates a number of historic and new buildings and seeks to create a route through the city block. The first phase was completed in 2016.

A-Zero Architects worked with the design team to develop and validate key passive strategies including daylighting, natural ventilation and mixed mode cooling strategies. A series of interconnected semi-conditioned courtyard spaces to bring light and air to the heart of this high-density campus. This approach has manifold benefits over the building’s lifecycle in the climate of Budapest, improved visual and thermal comfort for staff and students, and energy / carbon savings through optimized building services.




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Architect : O'Donnell + Tuomey Architects

Execution Architect : Teampannon

Environmental Design - A-Zero Architects

Giles Bruce, Phillip Toyin

Photographs © Tamás Bujnovszky




Embed Passive Performance

The design of the courtyards, roofed through a series of inclined glazed roofs was a key part of the passive strategy of this complex building. Working with the architects and engineers to evaluate the performance of different roof geometries, we provided input at both master-planning and detailed design stage. The courtyards, provide a tempered environment during the winter months, reducing heating energy consumption, and facilitating the campus interconnection that underpins the architectural strategy. Solar control is achieve through a variety of techniques from high performance Microshade glazing to the orientation and tilt of north facing glazed elevations to externally mounted solar control. These combine to maximise the period during which natural ventilation can be used as a passive strategy, and minimise the energy demand for peak summer active cooling.

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Budapest has a tight urban grain in which the local typology has developed as a series of inward looking courtyards, providing an important access to natural light and fresh air to the buildings. The competition approach of enclosing and interconnecting both original and new courtyards served both social and environmental functions. From a social point of view, the full height courtyards open up the opportunity for communication and encounter between staff, students and the public. From an environmental point of view the courtyards form buffer zones between internal spaces and the external climatic dynamic of Budapest. In order to minimise solar gains, all courtyard glazing was angled steeply to the north, maximising the daylighting levels, but minimising the incident solar gains within the spaces.  

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Height, Light and vertical connections