A construction materials recycling and logistics hub at the Vergotedok in the heart of Brussels has been completed. The LafargeHolcim Acknowledgment prizewinner from Belgium in 2014 by TETRA architecten was praised for applying sustainability principles to the construction of infrastructure – in a warehouse complex for the trade of building materials in the port of Brussels.
The design by TETRA architecten consists of a multifunctional and modular space in which warehouses, showrooms, and offices are combined across 25,000m². A complex steel framework is the core support structure of the two warehouses, which are connected by an outdoor area covered with a canopy. A total of 21 roof modules with a weight of 600 tons and 253 tons of columns and beams have to be supported.
Sustainability both in infrastructure and in logistics
The flexible modular system of the “construction materials village” in the port of Brussels combines infrastructure with industrial and logistics activities. The large canopy roof is fitted with solar panels and a rainwater collection system. The collected water and the energy produced by the solar panels can be put to the service of a ready-mix concrete plant on site and serve future developments in the surrounding neighborhood.
The hub maintains the industrial heritage of the site and cleverly reduces truck movements on local roads by focusing logistics on the canal – only short trips via roads are required within the neighborhood back to the hub. The intention is to organize the supply and distribution of building materials in the metropolitan region as much as possible via the waterway. By distributing construction materials to the city and collecting construction waste from the city, the building functions as an important logistics and distribution hub between port and city. To further improve the connection between the port and the city, large areas of the building are open to the canal, thus ensuring that the building creates a spatial connection of the two areas.
The Port of Brussels: Improving urban integration
The Port of Brussels is planning for an increase in waterway traffic of 210,000 tons per year, as a result of the construction of an urban building materials transhipment centre, which will complement the project. This desire to promote the use of the waterways – the most environmentally friendly mode of transport – will take care of all transport to and from the site by waterway, and is a first in the Brussels-Capital Region. The warehouses are one of the pilot projects of the Canal Plan, run by the Brussels-Capital Region in close cooperation with the Port of Brussels. The plan aims to improve the area and ensure an optimal connection of port and city.
The Canal Plan and TETRA architecten received further acclaim in the LafargeHolcim Awards in 2017. Two Gold ax aequo prizes were awarded to projects on the canal in Brussels, one of which went to TETRA architecten for their project “Adaptable structure for a garbage management company”, a facility that serves as workplace on the canal front for 500 Bruxelles Propreté employees. The second Gold award ax aequo went to BC architects and studies for their project “Urban integration of an existing concrete mixing facility”. The project offers an alternative to conventional approaches by retaining a concrete-mixing facility on site rather than relocating it to the city’s edges, while adding a range of functions – both public spaces as well as privately funded workspaces – to add urban density to the site.