Metal Structures Centre in Ghent
The aim for this new steel research centre in Belgium was to employ as many steel solutions as possible. The building is a showroom for the versatility of steel in construction, more than 300 tonnes were used and different coatings provide the required aesthetics.
Situated in a 52 hectare Technological Park just outside Ghent, Belgium, this new campus of the Metal Structure Centre was opened in September 2011. The 8.300 sqm building comprises laboratories, mechanical testing and welding halls, warehouse space, offices and meeting rooms.
The Metal Structure Centre (MSC) is a joint project of Ghent University, OCAS (a partnership between ArcelorMittal and the Flemish Region) and the Belgian Welding Institute. The MSC partners work together to coordinate research and develop competencies in the design, use and behaviour of steel structures.
The building should be conceived as a demonstration of the versatility of steel, so the project partners set strict design criteria: apart from its functionality, the new Metal Structure Centre should be characterized by a distinct architectural design, employing as many steel solutions as possible. Naturally, sustainability should also play an important role: minimum energy consumption was required; construction and maintenance cost should be low.
Archipl architecten from Ghent accepted the challenge to design this building, the engineering department of ArcelorMittal Ghent and OCAS provided technical assistance. Some steel solutions were developed specifically for this new research centre.
- Rainwater recycling
A covered walkway constitutes the entrance to the building, its roof acts as a rainwater collector. So instead of entering the sewage system, the rainwater is first diverted to a buffer tank which supplies water for the sanitation of the whole building. Once the buffer is full, the rainwater is directed to an infiltration system which allows it to percolate down to the ground water. The infiltration system minimises runoff when heavy showers occur and avoids overloading the local waste water systems.
- Heating and cooling
With its modern design calling for large open spaces and expanses of glass, maintaining a comfortable environment inside the building could adversely affect the energy consumption during the building’s service life.
Rather than installing energy intensive air conditioning and cluttering the floor space with radiators, the designers chose to install a natural heating and cooling system, based on the principle of concrete core activation (CCA). It uses the mass of the building’s steel and concrete floor as a heating or cooling bank. The floor is heated or cooled using water which circulates through the slab. This way the air is warmed or cooled by the slab and a constant temperature is attained inside the building.
Functionality & Aesthetics: Solutions Made of Steel
The entry hall shows the structural skeleton of the building, with visible H-columns and bracing (supplied by ArcelorMittal), a design principle recurring throughout floors 1 to 3, just above the entrance hall.
This central façade clad in ArcelorMittal’s weathering steel Indaten© is visible from the offices, meeting rooms and laboratories and establishes a visual connection to the material being researched in these areas.
For this façade, a unique hanging system has been developed: known as Cassettes MD (Coques MD), the system consists of a custom-made, flat Indaten© panel with an articulated joint. Each cassette is hooked onto a secondary structure and a gully is left between each of them. The rainwater falling on the panels is directed into the gully and away from the wall.
Unlike other installations, the weathering steel on this façade has not been pre-treated to advance the aging process. Instead, the steel is naturally acquiring its distinctive rusty colour. Starting from a very light colour, Indaten© is darkening over the years, as the protective oxide layer is being formed.
The other buildings (Laboratory, mechanical testing and welding halls) are fully designed in steel with Aluzinc© coated Isofran Sandwichpanels. Due to the white and silvery spangles of Aluzinc©, it glitters in the sunlight and creates a dynamic yet harmonious cladding.
For other parts of the façade steel cladding sheets and trays (Hacierba 5.200.50 and 90.500) were used. The roof consists of structural steel decking profiles, for the flooring system Cofraplus steel deck has been employed - everything provided by ArcelorMittal.
Inside the lobby, an egg-shaped reception desk is clad in xcelcolour® from ArcelorMittal’s new xcelcoat© coating range. xcelcoat© is produced by combining a specific surface roughness with a thin aesthetic and protective organic coating. In the case of xcelcolour®, the roughness is created by using the Electronic Beam Texturing (EBT) Technology. During this process, small craters are melted into the surface of the rolls used to finish the steel which results in a slightly textured surface.
xcelcolour® is also used inside the elevators. The building’s designers worked closely together with the elevator manufacturer KONE to create the lift panels. It was the first time an xcelcoat® finish was used for this type of application.
The bronze shimmer that characterizes xcelcolour® complements the redish brown of the Indaten© feature wall which can be seen from the reception area.
Generally, the concrete core activation used for heating and cooling does not allow the use of false ceilings which usually hide service installation like lighting, water and air conducts etc.
In this case however, the designers developed a feasible solution: In order to ensure correct circulation of the air as required for the CCA, an open-grid false ceiling was installed. The 60x60 cm standard panels of the grid are made with Aluzinc© coated steel. Each panel is held in place with standard T shaped supports which are suspended from the slab. Thin strips, also coated with Aluzinc©, cover the T-supports to ensure homogeneity of the ceiling.
For the first time, Aluzinc© Metal Deployé has been used, this decorative element in the entrance hall was designed by the architect Paul Van Eygen and Gert De Vos from OCAS.
Text: ArcelorMittal FCE & Constructalia