The thermal bath in Bad Ems is a special place. It lies directly next to the romantic Lahn and integrates the river as part of the bathing and sauna landscape. The main building was recently extended by an upper deck with roof gardens, so that visitors can now enjoy a great view of the whole impressive valley. Underfoot guests can experience a very special barefoot feeling. On a total of 250 square metres, the patio has been covered with ‚Robust’ decks from the Upper Franconian company Naturinform.
Thermal Bath Emser
ROBUST in grey as a massive deck
Rooftop terrace, Emser Therme, Viktoriaallee 25, 56130 Bad Ems
Small peaks disappear in the clouds, you can see slate roofs on the other side of the riverbank, below you can hear water gushing in the Lahn. The longstanding spa Bad Ems is surrounded by a dreamy fairytale landscape. This is where young Goethe suffered from being lovesick, this is where an older Victor Hugo found new strength. And today, visitors to the Emser thermal bath are enveloped in this surrounding, lying peacefully in a deckchair, dozing towards relaxation on the newly erected sun roof.
Material connected to the surrounding environment
“In this environment we need material that connects with the natural surroundings,” says architect Jonas Strass, “that at the same time is weatherproof. That is why we decided to use Naturinform’s decks to cover the panorama terrace.”
Strass, acting for architects „4a Architekten“ from Stuttgart, was responsible for the current extension at the thermal bath. The planners had already designed the new construction in 2011, inspired by the natural Lahn surroundings. Shape and design were based on the shape of the river‘s pebbles. In 2014, they decided to create Germany’s first river sauna on site – two saunas, a bar, and a patio, accomodated on a swimming platform and actually swimming on the Lahn when water levels are high. In 2016, the idea arose to add an upper level to the thermal bath‘s main building to create more space for relaxation and fitness. Surrounded by two patios, guests can now enjoy the Lahn valley’s environment from a raised position. A softly rounded, larch wood covered roof –also in organic pebble shape – offers several shady resting spots.
Sun and shade
The architects quickly realised what difficulties they faced with a roof garden: A surface made of wood doesn’t have much of a chance of surviving permanently because of the intense exposure to the elements. The great range of temperatures from extreme sunshine during the day to cool night air rapidly takes its toll on wood. At first it tears and then, after water has started penetrating the surface, it starts to rot if nothing is done to prevent it. “Untreated wood has a life expectancy of only around five years, at the same time requiring a huge amount of maintenance,” says Strass. Among others, the decks need to be sanded down and varnished or oiled once a year. Strass: “That means long periods in which the decks cannot be used, which is not a great solution for a thermal bath.”
Barefootfriendliness is essential
Naturinform’s decks are different: They last far longer, making them therefore extremely suitable for industrial properties with many visitors, such as a public pool. Thanks to the very clever material combination, these decks can neither tear nor splinter. The surface looks just like natural wood and is made up mainly of natural wood itself. But to make it robust, non-slippery, and durable, a thermoplastic and environmentally friendly polymer is added as a technical component during production. The resulting wood composite material looks just like wood on the outside, but its homogenous and compact interior will not allow tearing or anything like it. Its slightly brushed surface means that it is far less slippery, even when it is wet.
Naturinform decks are extremely barefoot friendly. This partly has to do with the high percentage of wood in the material (70 percent), which is, by the way, exclusively from PEFC-certified domestic forestry, and is comfortably warm, even when there is not much sun around. This natural effect is increased thanks to the polymer, yet the surface never overheats.
A further advantage of wood composite material is especially interesting for industrially used larger surfaces: Naturinform’s decks require no varnishing or oiling. The natural colours are already implemented during production. Therefore, you will not require – other than natural wood – any environmentally harming or health endangering chemicals to clean or colour the decks. And should the decks become slightly dirty, you can easily clean the surfaces with a high pressure cleaner, or even just using water and a brush.
Permanently beautiful with a warm wooden look
Here the choice was made for the solid ‚Robust’ deck in grey. Its intensive grain is very like wood. Thanks to its sturdiness and a thickness of 21 millimetres it is very suitable for frequently walked on surfaces. Furthermore, the surface has a permanently beautiful and elegant look of wood. The decks were mounted without any visible brackets. The rounded surface borders of the organically shaped patio were created by simply cutting and assembling the solid decks in the right way.