The former compression building has been converted into a cultural center that can accommodate up to 2,400 people. Because the Kokerei Zollverein is a UNESCO World Heritage site, conversion work had to comply with strict rules. We talked to Managing Director Tom Koperek about safety and partnership.
Energy and Building Solutions for Zeche Zollverein
Tom Koperek, CEO of the Grand Hall Zollverein®, talks about the cooperation with Bosch.
What makes the Grand Hall ZOLLVEREIN® such a special place for events?
Its size and its relationship with industrial culture. The Grand Hall ZOLLVEREIN® is by far the largest event space on the grounds of the Kokerei Zollverein in Essen. This former coal mine is a UNESCO World Heritage site. It symbolizes the transformation that has taken place in the Ruhr District, and the changing attitudes to the way former industrial sites are used. As late as the 1990s, the first thing people thought about doing with abandoned collieries was to tear them down and build something else in their place. It took a new mentality to preserve these places and to give them new meaning. The Kokerei Zollverein, which is put to diverse cultural use, is the perfect example of this. And the Grand Hall ZOLLVEREIN® has now made the facility another attraction richer.
Tom Koperek (49), Managing Director of the Grand Hall ZOLLVEREIN®
We meet Tom Koperek at his office in Essen. He founded an agency for event and brand marketing in 1989, and is also a member of its board. His current flagship project is the Grand Hall ZOLLVEREIN®, where his dual role as head of the Grand Hall’s investment and operating company clearly gives him a great deal of pleasure. Not that he’s an expert in safety systems, he says. But it turns out he knows quite a lot about them.
What is a special-event location?
In live event management, we distinguish between different types of event locations. A special-event location is either related to a particular topic, or, as in our case, relates to industrial culture. A major shift has taken place, especially in the Ruhr District, from heavy industry to a service-based industry. We do marketing for live events at the Grand Hall ZOLLVEREIN®, which can accommodate as many as 2,400 guests. We offer a full range of services, from organizing to use the space, along with the facilities and technical systems required, to planning and running the event. We got off to a great start in January with a two-day conference on “Digital Transformation”, which was attended by 500 delegates from the EU Commission in Brussels.
How do you make sure everyone stays safe?
Tom Koperek, the operator of a special-event location, places a premium on safety. Five questions and answers.
We have to comply with all the regulations applicable for public venues. As the operators of the Grand Hall ZOLLVEREIN®, we run a risk analysis for every event, which details potential hazards. The decisive question is usually: How do I get everyone out of the building quickly in an emergency? In german there’s a wonderful technical term for this, which is Entfluchtung.
German regulations specify how much of the available space has to be set aside for escape routes. If you’re holding a gala dinner for 500 guests who will be dancing to music played by an orchestra afterwards, you have to make different plans than you would for a rock concert, for example. For each event, you discuss things like whether the stage can be in a particular spot. Or whether the escape routes are wide enough. Or whether the tables are too close together. Or whether you can get from eve
In a word, they’re essential. You have to submit a fire protection appraisal just to get a building permit in the first place. The subject is so complex that you don’t always have a full picture of the details you’re agreeing to. As the contractor, I need experts and people I can rely on one hundred percent.
The good news is that heritage directives generally have to yield to technical safety systems. In all other areas of construction, though, they significantly limit your options. For example, I would have liked to have an awning on the hall. But it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it never had an awning in the past, and so it will never have one in the future either. And when you convert the interior from the reconstruction of old machinery up to the installation of new machinery, you end up d
There’s a limited amount of usable space in the hall. The more that’s available for the events themselves, the more cost-effective it is to run the hall. So the general rule for technical systems is: As much as necessary and as little as possible.
What systems have you commissioned Bosch to install?
A complete fire and voice alarm system, as is required for public venues by the state of North Rhine-Westphalia. The numbers alone will give you an idea of the project’s dimensions: 26 manual fire alarms, 121 loudspeakers, 203 fire alarms, 575 meters of smoke aspiration pipes, and 13,100 meters of cables. Moreover, there are various control units for elevators, lighting, and smoke extraction. Ideally, you’ll never have to use any of these elements. But in an emergency, all of them have to work perfectly. This is why I’m so happy that Bosch is also responsible for the whole works. After all, they are the experts, and they allow me to concentrate on my work as contractor and operator of the Grand Hall.
The Grand Hall is the new location for live events at the Kokerei Zollverein in Essen. General Manager Tom Koperek tells us about the idea to turn a former compression building into a public venue. Bosch participated in this process.
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