Architect in the spotlight: Helsen & Van Com Architecten

Tight White Dress in Koloro Blanco for Construction Campus

Helsen & Van Com Architects Designs an Open House for the Limburg Construction Industry

At the start of 2018, the Limburg construction industry will have a permanent venue for their meetings to share knowledge at the university campus in Diepenbeek. The project was tailored to the meeting and training needs of the construction industry by Helsen & Van Com Architects. The Construction Campus is also the first where Nelissen Bricks will use the snow-white Koloro Blanco facade bricks.

The Construction Campus will be an open house where contractors, developers and students can meet. The Limburg Building Confederation launched a competition in 2015 to find a construction team that could design, build and maintain the project for this professional organisation. The construction team consisting of Helsen & Van Com Architects, contractor Mathieu Gijbels, engineering contractor AEW, Van Kreeke Road Construction and sustainability specialist Geert De Bruyn emerged as the winner. They designed a compact building with a reception area, cafeteria, changing rooms and three demo rooms on the ground floor. The classrooms and meeting rooms are located on the first floor. The top floor houses the offices of the Construction Academy and the Vocational Training Fund.
"The building is a hybrid structure in which steel and concrete are combined. That is just one of our solutions in which we also give the building showpiece functionality," states designer Rik van Com.

White Cement Coating
The compact buildings is prominent due to its white appearance and the canopy that accentuates the entrance. "The whole building is finished in white materials. This is to get a uniform colour image and to make it look bigger as it will be a beacon along University Avenue. In our search for a white-painted brick, we found the Koloro Blanco from Nelissen Bricks. We have specifically chosen N70/5 because of its distinctive character. The shallower facade brick also offers additional space for insulation and is also an ecological sound choice due to the limited use of clay," adds colleague Rob Duchateau.
The Koloro Blanco is glued in irregular bond. “The stone has a core of grey clay with a white cement coating. That is how it gets its unique white appearance. The grey clay has the advantage that small damages in the coating are not noticeable”, says sales director Stefan Timmers. The construction team also wanted to implement a low maintenance concept. "There is an advantage in that area too, because it is maintenance-friendly."

Eye-Catching Canopy
The other eye-catcher in the architectural draft is the canopy above the entrance area. "The canopy does not only add prestige to the building, it also covers the sheltered instruction space for scaffold construction training at the same time, and creates the necessary space for solar panels. This forms part of the technical concept. The degree of its slope and position of the canopy have been chosen in such way that the sun irruption on the solar panels is optimised," says Rik van Com.
Besides solar panels, the building is equipped with a range of low-energy features. These contribute to the fact that the Construction Campus is a CO2- and energy-neutral building. "The best available contemporary techniques have been applied in the energy draft", according to Rik van Com and Rob Duchateau. These techniques are also exhibited by the glass boxes in the entrance hall area to further emphasise the demonstration aspect of the building.

As One Team
One of the main considerations in the design contest was the active application of new construction methods, such as chain co-operation LEAN and BIM. "The complete project, from decision-making to planning, followed the LEAN principles. Delivering the external brickwork just in time before placement is a form of applying LEAN on the construction site. These are already in stock at the supplier," knows Rik van Com. "Using BIM happened within the chain co-operation. All partners of our construction team co-operated in one BIM model on the designs and construction process (big BIM). Nelissen Bricks did 3D-mapping of the Koloro Blanco to use in our BIM model," Rob adds. Still within the framework of the design contest, a parallel construction team was set up with various construction training students within the schools on the university campus (UHasselt, PHL and PXL).

Appreciated Partner
The Construction Campus is not the first co-operation between Helsen & Van Com Architects and Nelissen Bricks. The designers have a glance at the product range of the brick factory more often. Recently the Albert Heijn in Lokeren and the Elsendonk housing project in Keerbergen were done with external brickwork from the Nelissen offerings. For the Albert Heijn, the Grafit was chosen. In Keerbergen they designed 28 luxurious apartments finished in a combination of wood and Carma facade bricks. The bricks were processed in a thin layer of dry mortar with horizontal joints only. Claustra masonry bonds were used at the level of the staircase cores to add light to the space. The apartments are spread out over three buildings that are positioned in a U-shape at the site. The occupants have a full view on the nature reserve behind the building because of the position on top of a slope.