Text description provided by the architects. Brussels Environment is the government authority in the field of environment and habitat in the Belgian Capital Region and has recently settled in one of the capital’s largest and most important urban renewal districts, the Tour&Taxis site on the Havenlaan. Given that the organ issues ambitious guidelines for sustainability, its own quarters function as an edifying national and international example.
The building is characterized by a compact volume with stepped receding floor slabs under a rounded and largely transparent roof. A central atrium functions as a continuation of the adjacent square, which includes the large-scale historical buildings of the Royal Depot and the Sheds, which were recently renovated and now house offices, restaurants, design retail and cultural events. The two lowest storeys contain a visitors’ centre with ecological themes, an auditorium, a multimedia library, a conference centre and a restaurant. The offices are situated above the public areas from the third floor upwards and are suitable for many different types of workspace, due to the flexibility of their internal arrangement. On the third floor, there is also a laboratory in which Brussels Environment carries out trials and tests related to its work field. A prominently positioned, continuous cascade staircase dovetails with open galleries and encourages taking the stairs instead of the lift.
The new Brussels Environment is BREEAM-Excellent and Passivbau-certified. It has a relatively small façade surface and is well-insulated, in part due to the utilization of triple glazing in a thermalbreak façade system. To protect against warming up in the summer, the glass is strongly heat-resistant and is combined with external sun shades that react to the heat load. Individual ventilation facilities in the façades also prevent excessive rises in temperature in the summer. A minimum amount of mechanical ventilation and concrete core activated floors connected to a geothermal pump in the ground also contribute to the building’s compliance with the passive building criteria. The atrium plays an important role in the installation concept, partly because the heat it captures is reused. It also makes a significant contribution to the transparency of the building. A large surface of solar panels is fully integrated in the façade.