De Balk van Beel (Tweewaters - Leuven, Belgium)

The ‘Beam’ gives structure to the new ‘Tweewaters’ urban district. This 180m-long building runs alongside a cycling and pedestrian route that links the Vaartkom (Canal Basin) to the city centre. At the same time, the volume establishes a hard boundary and, with its smooth and gleaming, white-rendered skin, presents itself explicitly as a horizontal counterpart to the bare concrete grain silos.

Two transverse passageways and a projecting section at the end make sure that the area remains a single functional entity.  The ‘Beam’ is composed of five stacked horizontal slabs offset with regard to each other. This creates long canopies and terraces, which gives the whole building a nuanced outline that changes depending on the light or perspective.  The ground floor comprises small-scale commercial spaces and three entrances for the upper apartments. The four floors above the ground floor comprise 106 apartments. The access to these apartments exists of generous stairwells, that are connected to the east and west façade and therefore provides the corridors daylight and views.  The upper floor has spacious apartments each with their own patio and large sky lights so the entire upper floor is fully used. As from the first sketch, the basis was sustainability as a plural concept that requires a holistic and integrated approach so as to achieve a well-considered, future-oriented result. It was viewed not just as an ecological and low-energy building, but as part of a social and economic dimension.  The entire power supply for the site is derived from green energy produced on the spot, to which a municipal heating system is also linked so as to supplement the buildings’ limited energy requirements. By excluding fossil fuels, this district will save 9,240 tons of CO2 every year. About 70% of the area is retained as green space. All motorised transport is quickly led into underground car parks.

The residents are invited to walk and cycle. All the flats in the Beam are low-energy homes. To guarantee minimal loss of energy and maximum quality of life, the building envelope, ventilation, air density, thermal bridges, acoustic comfort and overheating, among other things, were optimised with no loss of natural light. To achieve a sustainable use of materials and the recycling of natural materials, Cradle-to-Cradle and FSC-certified products were used. The life-cycle costs were reduced by means of the supporting structure, which is composed of slabs modulated as main divisions between the flats, with light internal walls in between. This means the division of the individual spaces can easily be modified. Each resident has a bicycle rack and delivery container on the ground floor. A ‘electronic butler service’ informs the occupants of their energy use and offers tips to save energy. They can also use this intranet to send their shopping lists (the goods can then be placed in their delivery containers), book electric mopeds, make appointments with the hairdresser, etc. The result is a highly sustainable all-inclusive concept with a minimal footprint for each resident.  The ‘Beam' has received the BREEAM 'Outstanding' certificate as first residential building on the European continent and, has received the ‘BREEAM-award 2013’ and was nominated for the Mipim Awards 2014.

Stéphane Beel Architect bvba
Client: Ertzberg cvba
Location: Leuven, Belgium
Area: 14.000 m² apartments, 1.000 m² commercial space, 1.000 m² offices and 4.000 m² underground parking lot
Date: 2010-2013
Phase: Executed
Specials: International BREEAM certificate ‘Outstanding’ on sustainability / Breaam Award 2013 / Mipim Award 2014 nomination

CREDITS: 

  • Text - Stéphane Beel Architect
  • Photo - Luca Beel
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