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Architectural façade solutions for new NATO headquarters

Auteur: Philip Declercq - Bron: Dimension

The new NATO building complex in Evere needs to portray the unity and transparency of the alliance.  Eight long and four short office wings that intersect with a central atrium represent intertwined fingers; symbolic for the union of the NATO member states.  A design by TV SOM – ASSAR Architects, chosen as winner of the architectural competition.  Limeparts supplied architectural steel and aluminium façade solutions for this prestigious project.

Basic principles of the architectural competition were flexibility, functionality, expansion possibilities, military security versus fire safety, life cycle cost, and sustainability (from recycling of waste material to green roofs, slab cooling and solar panels). The design by TV SOM – ASSAR Architects has eight long and four short office wings that intersect with a central atrium on one hand, and fully glazed façades, which symbolise the transparency and openness of the alliance, on the other. The building complex accommodates embassies from 29 nations. Host country Belgium was put in charge of the building development by NATO in 2004. The finished, medium-height building complex was recently transferred to the alliance.

Scale and detail

'The special thing about this project is its combination of scale with countless technical details for the finish. All facets were extensively engineered and developed in the preliminary study phase,' says Koen Vandersmissen, CEO of Limeparts. The company from Genk was the first Belgian organisation to be awarded the Qualisteelcoat label. 'Multiple factors have contributed to the fact that we were able to win this project: our good relationships with larger architects and design agencies, our experience with large-scale long-term projects such as the AZ Jan Palfijn, Cour de Justice (LUX), Courthouse of Hasselt, our ATG certification, and our high-quality products.'

Industrial Infrastructure & Staff Centre

Limeparts implemented the project in three stages. As well as the exterior wall cladding for the HQ, Industrial Infrastructure building and Staff Centre (sports facilities), Limeparts, which is part of the Vaessen Industry Group, also took care of the façades for the HQ and the atrium. The Industrial Infrastructure and Staff Centre buildings are located at the rear of the site and are separate from the headquarters. Specifications dictated that the façades for these buildings had to be covered with galvanised lacquered steel sheeting that was 2 mm thick, in the form of long straight panels that were 3 metres wide and 0.6 metres high. A combination of non-perforated (the largest part) and perforated panels (a limited section) were used. Because all the doors and recesses (for badge readers, cameras, etc.) had to be produced from the same material, optimum coordination was extremely important, both in the pre-manufacturing stage in our premises and for the assembly on site. All panels were powder-coated in a grey colour (RAL 9006) in the Limeparts premises before being assembled on site.    

Aluminium for swimming pool facilities

Limeparts' expertise and experience ensured the company from Limburg was also able to take care of the interior cladding for the swimming pool facilities (Staff Centre). The architects and client opted for aluminium façade panels here, with a perforated finish chosen for certain sections of the interior wall for acoustic reasons.

Seamless technology integration

The side façades on the wings are fully glazed, and the roof has a zinc finish. The overarching atrium itself is 250 metres long, 40 metres high, and 30 metres wide. The assembly of this atrium's exterior wall cladding was split into three sections. As the contractor, Limeparts was involved in cladding the sides of the wings and the connecting section. 'The interior cladding in particular was quite complex because it had a very detailed finish and very intricate installation. This meant the micro-perforated acoustic panels were installed under the four stairwells in the HQ, with hidden hatches (for technology, fire hoses, extinguishers, etc.) seamlessly integrated. The panel lines are perfect. The outside and inside of the stairwells were produced using the same material, in RAL 9006 and RAL 9007 finishes,' says Vandersmissen.

A thousand and one details

Limeparts worked with over 26,000 m² of steel and aluminium façade panels in the project. 'This makes the NATO building Limeparts' largest ever exterior wall cladding project. Especially with regard to the interior finish, the quality was very high, partly because of the many details that our premises had to take into account in the pre-manufacturing stage,' explains Vandersmissen.

Planning is sacred

In a large-scale project like this, planning is key. 'I have complete confidence in our company and its employees' expertise. But not all the parameters are known in advance for the implementation of such a large-scale project, so lots of flexibility is required from the building companies involved,' continues Vandersmissen. 'Furthermore, the exterior wall cladding is mostly only installed at the end of the building process, but delays incurred by colleagues in previous phases of the schedule don't change the deadline. And the logistics planning was very strict too: each delivery had to be reported a few days in advance before being allowed on the site. To be permitted to enter the site, every single person had to be screened every day, both upon arrival and when leaving. One advantage of such a large site, however, was that we had our own storage space where we could keep products without any risk of damage.'  Editor Philip Declercq