VAC Leuven
Flanders Administrative Centre (FAC) Leuven The most sustainable office building in Belgium At the start of 2009 the first stone for the Flanders Administrative Centre (FAC) was laid in the shadow of the station in Leuven. Assessed against the quality handbook “Technical requirements for office buildings` published by the Flemish government, the FAC in Leuven is the first office building in Belgium to reach the maximum score of 4 stars for sustainability. Partly due to the use of trendsetting construction technology, the use of special materials and its unique location in the urban fabric, the FAC will have an exemplary function. As the first office building with “four star status` the Flemish government wants to establish a trend towards greater sustainability of office buildings and the construction sector in general. The VAC will be in use from the end of 2010 and forms the last piece of the development of the Leuven station area. During the development of the Flanders Administrative Centre (FAC), sustainability, functionality, recognisability and architectural quality were crucial criteria that the project had to meet. In addition, the FAC had to have flexible, open work areas for the various Flemish government services that are located there, a low threshold for visitors and the integration of the building into the fabric of the city had to be successfully completed. The area between Vuurkruisenlaan, Diestsepoort, Diestsestraat and the railway embankment next to Leuven station had the features needed for achieving this objective. The zoning plan for the station district enabled a building to be designed with exceptional form and architectural characteristics: on the one hand, a tower volume 60 m high at the rail crossing with a clear landscape function demarcating the inner city area, and on the other hand a horizontal base volume that creates the transition between the tower and the low-level building area around the Martelarenplein. The base volume has a height of 4 levels and the tower has 12 floors. The FAC contains a total of some 24,000 m2 of office area, 158 car park places and bicycle parking facilities for 130 bicycles. Sustainability comes first. The primary energy consumption of the FAC has been substantially reduced due to highly advanced insulation, the use of high efficiency heat pumps and super-insulating triple glazing. The technical installations are equipped for heat recuperation and all electrical appliances are a low energy consumption type. Rainwater is collected and reused for maintenance and toilet flushing. As a result of this the building achieves a K value of 21 and an E value of 49. In the development of the building, the objective was optimal functionality. The traffic patterns are simple and easily readable for staff and visitors. The indoor street, which connects the two entrances at the Diestsepoort and Martelarenplein levels, is the main traffic axis of the building. All the reception and public-oriented serves are located along this axis, as well as the services after which there is an intense amount of traffic such as the meeting rooms with conference areas and the restaurant. The base contains the external agencies of the Flemish community that generate increased numbers of visitors. The internal administrative services are housed in the tower part. In principle, all office levels are open spaces with a limited number of closed meeting rooms and offices. The arrangement of the landscape offices is modular and flexible. Due to its external design the FAC is very recognisable architecturally. With the highest towers in the city, the building completes the renovated station district on the northern side. Together with the tower of the Province building which borders the administrative zone on the south side, it forms a recognition point for all visitors thanks to its visibility from a long distance. At a shorter distance, the free volume of the base with its two entrances and the indoor square at the side of the Diestsepoort are a very recognisable whole. The projecting volume above the Diestsestraat entrance has a powerful signalling function that acts as a counterpart for the specific architecture of the nearby Line building. A sober design was chosen where the building volumes are reduced to the essentials. By giving the building a great deal of openness and using clear glass everywhere, the boundary between indoor and outdoor becomes vague and the city becomes involved in the building. The choice of materials also reflects the vision of a subtle integration into the surroundings. The facade consists of natural stone whose texture and colour fits in with the surrounding facades. Thanks to the dynamic facades and the solid walls, the noise nuisance from the trains is reduced and the acoustic comfort of the district is increased. The low threshold is implemented on 2 levels: purely technically as was an image related. The building is easily accessible for all users and visitors, both able-bodied and less able. From the station and the underground parking there is ground floor access without roads having to be crossed. Bicycles are given a place in the cycle storage. Due to their double height, the parts of the facade at ground floor level are very open and inviting, all the more so since the facade that faces onto the Martelarenplein consists almost entirely of glass sections which allow the building to communicate with its surroundings. The indoor street is accessible for visitors and outsiders as well as the ground floors from the level of the Martelarenplein and the Diestsepoort level.


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