The building is the result of a public "Design and Build" tender procedure initiated by the Province of Namur. The purpose of this procedure was to bring together in one place almost all the workplaces of the Province. It was won by Jan de Nul nv, general contractor, and Philippe SAMYN and PARTNERS srl, architects & engineers, based on a detailed preliminary design and a firm offer. The environmental objectives were set very high in the tender specifications, well above the regulatory EPB (Energy Performance of Buildings) and environmental rules. A BREEAM certification was included in the brief but it is the "Design and Build" team's decision to obtain the "Outstanding" level. We won Regional Western Europe BREEAM Award 2022. The location of the building on the banks of the Sambre required special consideration of the risk of flooding. The site's enclosed location also required in-depth and comprehensive consideration of mobility. Although green, the site did not initially have any specific biological value and it did offer a major opportunity to improve biodiversity. Inspired by the Province's remarkably ambitious brief, the intention to achieve an environmentally exemplary project guided the entire design and construction. Particular emphasis is placed on energy (NZEB), circularity, low environmental footprint materials, short-, medium- and long-term flexibility of use, and natural lighting. In order to eliminate any risk of flooding from the nearby river Sambre, the building is built on a set of galvanised steel piles. Due to the fact, that the land had not been previously developed, the "Design and Build" team appointed a suitably qualified ecologists and respected maximum possible of the ecological recommendations. The use of C2C materials, durability and resilience measures, modularity, material efficiency strategy, responsible sourcing as well as sustainable procurement all those aspects has been considered since the brief concept design. • The decision to build the entire structure in locally sourced wood (Belgian Epicea) is the result of a desire to promote local processing. The 12.05 m span beams are made up of caissons. These are made up of small triangular elements in solid wood assembled by "skins" in OSB panels fixed to the solid elements by robotic screwing. The cohesion of the whole is such that the panels are sufficient to take up all the forces at the nodes of the beams, without bolted joints. • The design of the facade cladding follows the same logic: the torrefaction treatment makes it possible to enhance the value of a species, the poplar, usually used for very unimportant purposes (boxing, paper, etc.). • The treatment of interior comfort via natural ventilation is particularly innovative. The design, construction, and commissioning of the natural ventilation system in a building with low inertia require particularly detailed studies. The air pressure difference required to set it in motion is generated by 74 insulated 5 m high chimneys, distributed around the perimeter of the roof. A small number of active elements (window ventilators, floor convectors, control dampers at the base of the chimneys, room sensors, etc.) regulate the flows, with the active participation of the occupants who have control over the opening of the windows. • Modularity of the building ensures material circularity, minimising waste and future adaptation to climate and functional changes. • Moreover, the general contractor has been very responsible in the management and monitoring of the construction waste where more than 95% of the waste is diverted from landfill. • The building is fully demountable, both in its timber structure (columns, beams and floors), and in its bolted galvanised steel pilings and insulated facade caissons. • The timber structure includes 12.05m span beams in the form of caissons. These are composed of small triangular solid wood elements assembled by "skins" of osb panels fixed to the solid elements by robotic screwing. The cohesion of the whole is such that the panels are sufficient to take up all the forces at the nodes of the beams, without bolted joints. • Only the foundation piles are made of concrete. • The absence of a basement and the maintenance of the natural ground level reduces the volume of earthworks to a very low value. • The extreme standardisation of the construction (assembly of macro-elements built in the workshop) further accentuates this characteristic. On-site activities are reduced to assembly, without earthworks and without waste production. • The high floor height (3.60 m) allows the building to be converted to a wide variety of functions in the future. • The high floor height houses all the technical ducts and these remain easily accessible and convertible in the short and long term. • The widespread natural ventilation makes the usual cumbersome, expensive to install and maintain, and obsolescent mechanical ventilation systems virtually unnecessary. They are reserved for densely occupied rooms (meeting rooms) and sanitary facilities. • The primary thermal energy consumption is reduced (Ew = 40 kWh/m².an) thanks to a very well insulated shell (K 26). Calculated primary energy consumption: 170 kWh/m².an. • The abundant natural lighting on the floors (DLF = Daylight Factor = 5% on average) provides quality light while significantly reducing electricity consumption. • Despite its many innovations and unusual construction methods, the cost of the building has remained within the very competitive limits set out in the competition specifications (around € 1,600/m² excluding VAT). • From an organisational point of view, the advantage of the building for the user of the building is obvious, as it brings together in one place activities that are distributed in some twenty locations in the city of Namur.
Philippe SAMYN and PARTNERS, founded in 1980, is a private company owned by its partners and led by its two administrators and partners, Arch. Ghislain André and Arch. Åsa Decorte. With its affiliated companies FTI (founded in 1985), DAE (founded in 1994) and AirSR (founded in 2003), it is active in all fields of architecture and building engineering.
Philippe Samyn’s architectural and engineering design approach is based on questioning, which can be summarised as a “why” methodology inspired by the client aspiration and the genius loci. The firm approaches projects openly to all sorts of possibilities whilst listening closely to its client demands.