Sumit Singhal loves modern architecture. He comes from a family of builders who have built more than 20 projects in the last ten years near Delhi in India. He has recently started writing about the architectural projects that catch his imagination.
Veilige Veste in Leeuwarden, The Netherlands by KAW architecten en adviseurs
November 20th, 2012 by Sumit Singhal
Article source: KAW architecten en adviseurs
The story behind the ‘ Veilige Veste’
Wish: a new beginning
The ‘Veilige Veste’ is a sanctuary for women fleeing from maltreatment, loverboys, forced prostitution and honor-related violence. In the ‘Veilige Veste’, care organisation Fier Fryslân wants to create a place where these young women can feel safe. As a consequence of all the modern media, these women are often literally hunted. Before, the victims were hidden away anonymously; now they are in a fortress where nobody can enter that does not belong there. A building that says: ‘here we are!”.
The vision: an icon
The location, a prominent corner on the highway of Leeuwarden, as well as creating a strong vision, were the notions behind the transformation of the building into a real eye catcher. We have created an icon for Leeuwarden, which represents the buildings special group of inhabitants. With this, the women send out a powerful signal, that they will no longer be pushed in the victims’ role.
The design: cuts like a diamond
The building was originally built in a strict 12 by 12 feet grid. This repetitive square grid was used as the core concept for the new design. The architect designed a façade with diagonally angled squares, that are positioned alternately to create a diamond shaped pattern to cover the building. The façade elements are identical; every next element is turned 90 degrees to create the striking shape. To create this divergent shape that had to be light enough to mount to the existing construction, we searched for a light material that could be seamlessly constructed in the designed shape. This search quickly led to polyester/ composite which is cast in the required shape in a specially designed mould. The combination of insulation and the façade elements result in an increased façade thickness by 37 inches at the broadest points, making it a real fortress.
To invigorate the concept of the fortress, an optical illusion gives the spectator the idea that the building is ‘floating’, it stands on a natural elevation amplified by vertical plinths. The ground floor is covered with wooden panels, giving the entrance a warm appearance. The first floor patio is also finished in wood and sedum, creating a cosy and safe outdoors for the women.
The original function of the building can only be found in what is now the canteen. From the former cell complex four cells have been kept, one in its original state, and the other three are used as toilets. The heavy industrial numbered cell doors give character to the space.
The former police station has a surface of 1700 square meters. Offices, meeting rooms and treatment rooms are located on the ground floor. Both the first and the second floor house 48 women, divided over 6 living groups.
‘Veilige Veste’ – a Passivhaus example
A radical renovation transformed the previous police station in the Dutch town of Leeuwarden to a shelter home for women. According to passivhaus standards in the Netherlands, it is the first repurposing of an office in this scale. The old police station was in its essence a solid concrete building, with the support structure in the façade. That and the oversized floor height offered a multitude of possibilities to remove everything inside and build the interior up completely from scratch. The problem was in the concrete structure, that was one big thermal bridge. The substructure created a thermal bridge that works exactly like a tunnel sucking in the cold. The only solution in such a case is to wrap the building completely. Together with the client and the end user we decided that if we were going to make the building energy efficient, we were going all the way to passivhaus level. Passivhauses score energetically much better and have a more pleasant inner climate. And when taken into account from the start, it does not necessarily mean higher costs.
Constraint energy consumption
To solve the problem of the thermal bridge, the structure is wrapped to Rc values of 10,0 – three times the standard for new buildings. By using pre-fabricated façade elements, we save on building time and costs. The existing rhythm of the façade is a perfect base for these 14 inch thick timber façade elements. They are filled with cellulose: insulation granules made of recycled newspapers. This is cheap insulation material with optimal characteristics, the standard for Passivhaus in Germany, but hardly ever used in the Netherlands.
The elements are carefully masked on the concrete structure. Subsequently a retention wall for timber frames and concrete are placed along. This prevents the leaking of air when driving in screws and withdraws the taped up seams from sight. German passivhaus window frames, with triple draft proof and triple glazing, are placed in the timber frames. The floor has over 10 inches of insulation.
The building is air-tight, according to a blower test. Thermal pictures prove that the façade is very well insulated. The actual use will be checked after the building has been in use for a year, but according to calculations there is a heat demand of 15 W/m2 per year, far under the passivhaus norm of 25 W/m2.
The inner roof on the first floor is partly finished with sedum, giving a pretty view from the upper floors. At the same time, it functions as a buffer for heat and water.
Use of passive solar energy
All exterior frames on the facades that receive sun are fitted with automated solar protection. The building is also equipped with solar boilers that heat up the tap water and a heat recovery system for air ventilation.
Limited installations and well ventilated
The building is fitted with 3 small central heating boilers; one of them being responsible for the major part of the heating demand throughout the year. The other two boilers are used when demand is higher in colder periods. The ventilation is organised with heat recovery and summer night ventilation system. The existing cooling system is used for the offices ventilation. Finally, the building is equipped with energy efficient lighting with a presence detector.
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