Architects: DP6 architectuurstudio
Project team: Chris de Weijer & Robert Alewijnse, Daan van der Vlist, Andreas Leupold, Mark van der Hoff, David Wilson, Muhsin Sagdic
Photography: Christian richters
Location: Utrecht, The Netherlands
The new Volkerak Rijkswaterstaat control building sits in a vista of grass, water, and lock gates, a cultivated landscape that stretches as far as the eye can see. The scale of the building is small relative to its surroundings. The addition of landscape elements such as paths and embankments gives it its proper place in the environment as a whole.
The paths and embankments connect the building with the surrounding functions, shape parking facilities, and form the entrance to the building. The embankments are formed by gabions and are turf-roofed to further enhance the building’s connection with the landscape. Above ground level sits the control building proper, with its characteristic angled facades. The glass east and west facades ensure the best possible view of the passing ships. The closed south wall forms a single unit with the roof to provide protection from the heat.
The functional aspects of the brief have resulted in the simple and easy to understand main layout of the building. The lower level houses all the machinery. The facades are closed and use rugged materials. The longitudinal axis of the building offers scope for future extensions
if necessary. The upper levels contain all the staff areas.
The facades are very open and focused on maintaining a clear view and daylight access. The north, east, and west facades are glazed and offer varying levels of transparency. The south facade and the roof are closed to keep out excess solar heat. In the upper levels the simple zoning scheme and the freely adaptable floor plan offer room for future developments. The first floor accommodates the main entrance, the meeting room, the canteen, and the offices and ancillary areas. The operations room is located on the second floor. A core containing a stairwell and a lift connects the floors.
The focus was on a high level of sustainable construction, using recycled and recyclable materials that match the rugged nature of the environment. The ground floor uses prefab concrete elements clad with gabions. The upper levels feature a glazed timber structure. In view of the high internal heath load, the building is primarily designed to keep cool. The roof and the south facade have been kept slightly apart from the building itself, the space in between being ventilated with ambient air. On the east and west sides the roof juts out above the building to reduce incoming solar radiation and safeguard a clear view. The heating and cooling system uses a water heat buffer. During the summer months cold is extracted from the buffer and heat released into it. In the winter the heat is extracted from the buffer. If necessary the lock water can be used as a source of heat or cold by means of a heat pump. During the winter heat is recovered from the ventilation air. The internal heat load, the high level of insulation, and the underground location of the ground level mean that heating requirements during the winter months will be slight. The soil around the building not only results in a neutral soil use, it also ensures that the climate in the plant rooms can be kept constant.
With the control building being in heavy use on a 24-hour basis, good workplace ergonomics are an essential ingredient. The building simply has to offer the best possible conditions regarding climate, acoustics, view, lighting, ventilation, and facilities. The ceilings in the upper levels will be fitted with radiation elements that can be used for both cooling and heating The ceiling features noise-absorbent material to reduce reverberation. The ceiling area will be fitted throughout with dimmable lighting fixtures that prevent reflection via the outer glazing. The ventilation air enters the levels through the floor and is extracted through the ceiling.