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Meticulously measuring the new Provincial House in Antwerp

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Triple checking the Xs, Ys, and Zs

A remarkable silhouette is appearing on the skyline of Antwerp, the capital of the eponymous province in Belgium.

Ever since the former Provincial House was demolished, the government of the province was in need of a new home base. Xaveer de Geyter of XDGA Architecten provided the design for the administrative center. More than 800 civil servants will be accommodated in an eye-catching building. Important characteristics are its distinctive curvature and its triangular windows – a hint to the province’s logo. The building will be surrounded by a new park accessible to everyone, a ‘green lung’ of some 22.000 square meters.

An eye on the process

The new Province House will not only be welcomed because of its aesthetics: it is also much more sustainable than the previous one. The aim is for it to obtain the BREEAM certificate of excellence, as one of only a few buildings in Belgium so far.

It has been under construction since 2014 and will be opened in late 2018. Because of the building’s intricate design, measurements have to be handled with care. Surveyor expert Rik Rieberghs, director of Landmeter Rik Rieberghs BVBA, tells us more.

“We can’t afford to make any mistakes with these concrete walls,” says Rik Rieberghs. “That’s why there is a surveyor on site all the time – when setting up the formwork, putting in the windows, etcetera – to keep an eye on the whole process and to help us accomplish maximum precision.”

“We can’t afford to make any mistakes.”

Rik Rieberghs, director at Landmeter Rik Rieberghs

Minimal tolerances

“This construction site is very compact,” Rieberghs adds. “We have to use a number of reference points outside of the site so we can perform correct measurements.”

The building’s interior will have an industrial feel to it. It will look finished and raw at the same time, with its walls and ceilings of exposed concrete. Luc Koumans, who works for Rik Riebergh’s company as a surveyor and topographer, performs check-ups on the concrete, the walls, and the windows. He also provides reference distances for the specialists who come in later to give the building its finishing touches.

Koumans says it requires a lot of attention to achieve the necessary accuracy. “The most important thing about this project is that we work with minimal tolerances. We have to be very accurate, with a maximum deviation of four millimeters. We put a lot of effort into this.”

The building’s remarkable design adds to this challenge. “If you look around this construction site, you’ll notice there’s not a thing that stands upright,” says Koumans. “All these walls are deliberately inclined. This asks for a lot of measurements. When windows are placed, we have to measure three times.”

“We have to be very accurate, with a maximum deviation of four millimeters.”

Luc Koumans, surveyor at Landmeter Rik Rieberghs

Crucial Z values

“We use the Topcon PS-101,” says Luc Koumans.

“We’ve chosen to work with this one because of its high accuracy on the X and Y values, but also on the Z values that represent height. These are extremely important in this case,” he emphasizes. “Also, it is very user-friendly. This Total Station helps us provide the precision that is required of us.”

Antwerp’s new Provincial House will feature electricity-producing panels on the roof, use rainwater in the sanitary installations, and provide air conditioning and heating by storing thermal energy in drill-holes. And so, Rieberghs, Koumans, and their colleagues will soon see all of their hard work result in a beautiful, sustainable building.