LocationCity of Brussels, Belgium
Project TeamJosé-Frederic Baeyens, Pierre Spruytte, Gabriel Mambu
PhotographsLieven Van Landschoot
From the architect. For its new infrastructure, the ECAM institute desired an iconic, modern and functional building. The technical institute trains future industrial engineers in six different fields of expertise: automation, construction, electro mechanics, computer science and surveying. This broad range of disciplines required a variety of labs and workshops. The building had to incorporate a building studio, a metal workshop, a drafting room and dedicated laboratories for mechanics, thermodynamics, electronics, computer science, chemistry and physics.
The design responds to this very complex project brief by searching for common dominators between the large varieties of functions. The different departments were linked in a very clever way. The truck entrance and the stacking crane of the construction workshop for example can also be used to supply the metal workshop. During lectures or congresses a multifunctional room and study double up as a foyer, linked to the nearby auditory by a large suspended bridge. The different auditoria are located in one wing of the building, classrooms, laboratories and offices in the other wing. The thorough rationalization of the layout yielded important organizational advantages and energy savings.
The complex demands of ECAM and especially the demand to incorporate a large number of auditoria into a small volume restricted by urban legislation demanded a rather unusual structural solution. In the entire western wing, in which most of the auditoria can be found, precast concrete treads where used instead of traditional horizontal floors. The treads eliminated the need for additional tribunes and made it possible to stack the auditoria on top of each other, an unconventional but very space efficient and characteristic solution.
Along the “Promenade de l’Alma”, the main pedestrian access to the area, a large transparent façade unveils the characteristic structure of the building, offering an interesting view on the many different activities. This transparency makes the complex building very comprehensible from the outside. The building is the result of a thorough reflection on interior climate and a quest for energy efficiency. An optimal interior climate combines a high degree of user comfort with low heating and cooling demands. An equilibrium between functionality, user comfort and energy consumption had to be found.
The orientation of the building was a very important factor in the design of the facades and the lay-out in general. Rooms which are frequently used by a small number of people are situated on the warm south side of the building, while the auditoria, where large groups of people come together are situated on the cooler north-side of the building, protected from the sun.
Brick was used for the south and west facades. The location of the small longitudinal windows, the thickness of the outside wall, the light-shelves and the solar screens fine-tune the climate control: maximum solar heat gain during the winter, optimal sun protection during the summer. The north façade is transparent. A well insulated aluminum curtain wall was installed, so an abundance of daylight can freelee enter the building, even into underground areas that otherwise would have been very dark. A large central atriums allows free cooling and brings even more natural light into the heart of the building.
The exterior parts of the building are well isolated to minimize the heating demand and to save energy. Only technical equipment with high energy efficiency was used for heating, lighting and installation management. To reduce the energy consumption even further, the ventilation system is equipped with a high efficiency heat exchanger and a cogeneration device and thermal solar panels were installed.
Further studies added even more ecological surplus value: reduction of C02 and NOx emissions, reuse of rainwater, optimization of lighting and interior climate. The building serves as a didactic example, making the students aware of energy consumption and demonstrating the possibilities and implementation of sustainable systems.