Hollow spherical brick façade is possible

A convex façade … fully clad with brick. It is a challenge not faced every day. A brand new product was developed for this project, with spectacular results. The very first idea was to make a spherical shaped brick façade. Then, the municipality turned it into a Design & Build job. Cost control versus became as important as creativity, but our men knew exactly how to go about it. Simply develop a unique new product, something you will experience only once in your lifetime at Vandersanden.

The new multi-purpose accommodation (MFA) De Cammeleur in Dongen, was enhanced with a spherical brick façade, starting at the 1st floor and continuing over a length of 55 metres, and interrupted by an atrium. Four parties collaborated on the development of the prefabricated elements. Watch this video in which the architect gives you a guided tour.

The round shapes are not feasible in masonry. The contractor had the idea of adorning the façade with a rounded timber cladding, and adhering brick slips to the cladding, however, that would have been a costly and labour-intensive option. So we demonstrated our E-Board® insulation panels, ready and prepared to adhere the brick slips. The EPS panels are not round, but they can be bent. We then set to work on a mock-up, with extremely promising results. However, the mock-up was too small for such huge areas.

The second plan came from a specialist company that was able to create imaginative shapes using EPS material. A 3D laser cutting machine makes anything possible; a prop, such as the big hand in The Voice or a work of art to support a viaduct. They started making giant E-Board panels in dimensions of 600 x 220 cm. A steel structure was chosen for the installation, which resulted in a new prefab structure. Someone has been drawing all summer to fit the 34 elements together.

The final product was nearing completion, one step at a time. The engineers made all the required calculations and began gathering all the materials needed for the installation. Special cradles were designed to lay down the prefabricated elements in a hall, and all the brick slips were neatly adhered to the elements, one by one. This sounds very simple, but initially a one-day workshop was organized to demonstrate the intricacies of adhering the brick slips. After that, things moved fast.

The critical moment in the summer was approaching. The construction work on the building site in Dongen was in full swing. The building is situated next to a park with beautiful, majestic trees. However, that doesn't make it easy to use a crane. The prefabricated structure with the E-Board panels was installed at the construction site using a crane that had to be able to span 40m. An ambitious project, but thanks to excellent preparation by the contractor, all the support points were in the right place. A long procession of low loaders carrying the façade elements was approaching.

Prefabricated elements

The façade was divided into 34 sections. Some sections were spherical, others concave. Each section was 6 metres high and built using a Steelframe package, which is a solid, self-supporting and insulating steel frame.  The prefabricated elements were made of an acoustic interior trim, the insulated self-supporting Steelframe package, EPS shells, and finished with ceramic brick slips. The thermal and acoustic insulation had to comply with very high standards.

Bricks all over

Architect Coen Smits has presented this case at the GEVEL 2018 trade exhibition. The exterior walls at the rear are brick, and other exterior walls are made of E-Board® panels with ceramic brick slips. The resulting impression is a uniform brick wall, regardless of the substrate. The project will be completed in mid 2018, so you can’t go and have a look just yet!

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