Belgian Embassy in Kinshasa, DRC

First passive house building in Africa, the embassy will also be Breeam Excellent. 

A public building, representing the official image of Belgium in a foreign capital and hosting a diverse program including public areas and areas necessitating protection. The Embassy is a complex building. In order to maintain its symbolic dimension all the whilst ensuring its functionality, we chose not to outdo this diversity, starting instead on a simple urban implantation, allowing for a clear and efficient disposition of space.

Sheltering secured spaces, the Embassy is firstly a building expressing openness, dialogue and diplomacy. The big openings clearly distinguish the different statuses of the entrances, and guide to the various departments of the Embassy. Furthermore the building is anti-seismic and designed so as to remain functional and withstand flooding of up to 2.64 feet (maximum flood levels reach 1 foot.

Through simple variations, the initial simplicity allows for the shifting of the entrance levels, the orienting of the facades of the building according to specific uses and the altering the regularity of the form by advancing and slightly lifting an angle. This allows this extraordinary building to integrate itself into the urban tissue, thus assuming its prestigious character all the whilst opening itself up to its users.

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The building envelope plays a key role. Like the project itself, it brings together very different issues. As a façade, it is the image which represents Belgium. It must meet specific technical constraints. The specific climate of Kinshasa, high temperature and humidity levels, brings with it special constraints which further highlight the importance of the envelope in the conception of the passive building itself. The prevailing rain and winds in Kinshasa, coming from all directions, makes the protection of all the facades necessary.

The façade must also incorporate security requirements. Beyond the technical requirements, the architectural style allows for a subtle standardization of the envelope thanks to the pattern generated by the sun-screens whilst still providing a variation of the rhythm through their different orientations.

First passive building in Africa, the passive standard criteria had to be adapted to Kinshasa’s tropical humid climate. Reaching the passive standard is achieved through insulation, which in the case limits the heat transfer from the exterior to interior. The high-efficiency thermal recovery ventilation system cools down of the air flow coming in and dehumidifies it, the air tightness of the building reinforcing the actions of these devices. The proposed building type is that of a “massive construction”. Similarly, air tightness is achieved through the ceiling and the treatment of the connections with the envelope (through special bands serving this purpose).

The project also respects the « BREEAM » criteria. We used this environmental certificate, which is the most internationally used to assess the sustainable construction qualities of a building, as a guiding principle from the design outset in all our architectural, constructive and technical choices. This enabled us to achieve the “Excellent” standard for all the objectives and choices implemented in the project.

With regards to the materials used, the project was specifically studied so as to find a balance between adapted technology, materials respectful of the environment (and of people), and economic impact. In order to determine the environmental impact of these materials, we used NIBE but also the BREEAM Green Guide as references, as well as various tools and databases based on Ecoinvent, the most widely used and recognized database in Europe.

Program

Belgian & Netherlands embassy

Client

Minstry of Foreign affairs of Belgium

Collaboration

Contractor Willemen groep, Dematco, Jean-Louis Paquet architect (local architecte), Stubeco, CES, Crea-Tec

Surface

5 769 m2

Performance

Passivehouse – BREEAM excellent

Situation

Kinshasa – DRC

Status

under construction

Year 2014

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