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GREEN BUILDING: SOPREMA LEADS THE WAY WITH NEW XPS PLANT IN BELGIUM

GREEN BUILDING: SOPREMA LEADS THE WAY WITH NEW XPS PLANT IN BELGIUM
13/12/2021

Technology and ecology go hand in hand at the new SOPREMA XPS plant in Tongeren, Belgium, which stands out in terms of both design and carbon footprint.

For their new plant in Tongeren, Belgium, SOPREMA presented architectural firm WIL-MA Wastiau with a well-defined task: to design a highly functional production and distribution centre that puts ecology first. The collaboration resulted in a fossil-free, nearly zero-energy industrial building with Corten steel accents and green roofs that effortlessly blend into the landscape.

SUSTAINABLE PRODUCT, SUSTAINABLE BUILDING For SOPREMA, taking the green road for its new XPS production plant and distribution centre in Tongeren was a logical thing to do. Sustainable building practices are not only the sole futureproof option available; they also tie in neatly with the sustainable character of SOPREMA’s XPS range itself, which is 100% recyclable and produced by climate-friendly CO2 technology – with Green Guide Ratings A for SOPRA XPS SL and XPS 500 as a result. For the new Tongeren building, SOPREMA ambitiously and successfully opted for circular construction, with the help of WIL-MA Wastiau and construction firm Cordeel.

GREEN ROOFING AS ‘FIFTH FAÇADE’ “Integrating a functional logistical complex into its surroundings was the first challenge we faced”, W. Allen Zimmerman (Chief Architect at WIL-MA Wastiau) explains. “We were inspired by the rectangular farmhouses typical of the region. To make the building blend into the landscape, we experimented with green roofing, which is quite unique for industrial construction projects.” Because the SOPREMA plant is situated lower than the adjacent highway, the green roofs form a fifth façade, blending into the environment thanks to their green and earthy colours. As a living material, the Corten steel of the office buildings even strengthens the connection to the complex’s surroundings. Finally, by having the curves of the design refer to the trunk of the mammouth in the SOPREMA logo, the overall look underlines SOPREMA’s brand identity.

COMPLETELY CIRCULAR BUILDING “We went to great lengths to create a completely circular concept that aligns the flow of the products with the flow of the people working in the building”, Zimmerman continues. “On the one hand, there is the production site, where used XPS and EPS are recycled into new products. And on the other, you have the distribution centre, featuring a warehouse that ships other SOPREMA products to locations all over Europe. We also split the offices of both business units. A covered walkway in Corten steel connects the buildings, simultaneously creating a visual barrier that hides the XPS stored in the courtyard from view”, Zimmerman adds. “In this phase, the walkway also ‘completes’ the project, even though the building will only assume its final ‘rectangular farmhouse’ shape at a later stage”, says Kristien Olaerts, Commercial Director at Cordeel.

SOPREMA’S INSULATION AND WATERPROOFING SOLUTIONS The SOPREMA building covers an area of 23,000 m2. “To implement the design, we of course relied on SOPREMA’s insulation and waterproofing solutions whenever possible, for the roofs, walls and floors”, Zimmerman explains. “One of the things I like most about working with SOPREMA is that they are so closely involved in the selection of the materials. Thanks to the flexibility and resourcefulness of the SOPREMA team, we ended up with quite the unusual flooring choice for a large part of the 23,000 m2 offices, namely beautiful black polyurethane from the ALSAN liquid waterproofing range.” Olaerts adds that the floor of the 7,500 m2 production hall was insulated with SOPRA XPS, and that Cordeel used the same insulation material between the concrete panels of their own building at the Cordeel production site.

VARIOUS ROOFING SHAPES AND BUILD-UPS The design of the building is highly complex, with a wide range of roofing shapes and build-ups on various substrates, from steel deck to concrete. On the buildings along the highway, an intensive green roof with a substantial layer of substrate and thick vegetation (on the roofs of the office buildings) merges into an extensive green roof with more thinly planted vegetation (for the roof of the production site). The fire compartmentation is nearly invisible. IBIC, a sister company of Cordeel, took care of the green roofing and all the roof safety solutions.

“We are very proud to have been a part of this unique, complex project, which was quite challenging both in terms of engineering and technique.” Kristien Olaerts, Commercial Director at Cordeel

TIGHT SCHEDULE FOR THE (GREEN) ROOFS “The tight schedule we were on, combined with the high level of finishing that was required, did not make for the easiest working conditions”, Olaerts admits. “In April 2019, we were asked to have the production part of the building ready by September, so that the machinery could be installed. Fortunately (and for obvious reasons), we had swift access to the materials we needed. In addition, the thorough 3D planning, the prefabricated character of the building and the excellent collaborations (with all the parties involved in the construction process as well as with the authorities) ensured that we were completely prepared for the job.”

“We created a kind of ‘factory campus’ – a beautiful place to work that makes people feel right at home. That human touch was an important part of the ecological concept, too.” Allen Zimmerman, Chief Architect at WIL-MA Wastiau

DURABLE, SUSTAINABLE, FOSSIL-FREE AND NEARLY ZERO-ENERGY “At SOPREMA’s explicit request, the construction site was low-energy and fossil-free”, Olaerts explains. The use of heat pumps and heat recuperation has resulted in a nearly zero-energy warehouse and zero-energy offices. The green roofs not only create a stunning look but also act as a buffer and allow excess water to drain away. On some of the other roofs, in turn, solar panels were installed. Zimmerman clarifies that second life-principles were rigorously applied as well: “Though the building was designed specifically for SOPREMA, it is perfectly suited for a second life, too. Thanks to its durable materials and robust and functional character, the plant would make a great home for any company. We purposely created an industrial work environment with a human feel – a ‘factory campus’, if you will, that people love to spend time in and work in.”

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