The Client

The European Commission, Brussels

The Opportunity

The Berlaymont building in Brussels was completed in 1969 and is the headquarters of the European Commission. By the 1990's the building was in need of renovation to remove asbestos, to modernise the facilities and to limit solar heat gain. Demolition was not an option as the foundations anchored the local road and metro networks, which would be put in danger if the Berlaymont were to be destroyed.

The Solution

After delays to secure funding and reach agreement, the renovations were compeleted in 2004. The building structure was not changed except for a press extension, but there have been a number of internal and landscape changes. However, the building was updated to meet the strictest environmental standards, reusing light, power and heat throughout the building.

The façade was replaced with a curtain wall with mobile glass screens that adapt to weather conditions and reduce glare while still allowing light in. They also act as a sound barrier, reducing noise from the rue de la Loi. A Contra Vision® Printed Interlayer™ was laminated between 20,000m2 glass used in the motorised louvres. This consisted of a pattern of dots which are white on the outside but appear black when viewed from inside. The white helps to reflect solar energy on the outside and provide privacy. From the inside the black dots absorb rather than reflect light and allow an excellent view outside.

The louvres are controlled by a computer and weather station on the roof of the building, which orients the louvres according to the degree and direction of the sunlight. It blocks over 50% of solar heat gain compared with a similar building and continues to provide an enhanced working environment for the staff and visitors inside.