The old Douwe Egberts production tower will become a modular SME hall

For 35 years, the inhabitants of Grimbergen and Strombeek-Bever woke up every morning to the smell of freshly roasted coffee. But since 2017, it no longer smells of Douwe Egberts at the intersection between the Ringen and the A12. After all, the management decided to close the factory. The project developer Global Estate Group from Oostkamp, ​​which specializes in the conversion of industrial sites into sustainable living and working areas, bought the 6.5-hectare site a year later to transform it into a brand new business park.

Hi! consists of three main parts: Meeting center Hello! Meet, pilot and production hall Hello! Make. Global Estate Group had Douwe Egbert’s old office building converted into a large meeting center of no less than 12,000 m². The building consists of 16 meeting rooms for 4 to 100 people and smaller hubs where people can meet for (online) work, brainstorm, podcasts and have lunch together in the afternoon. 3,870 m² of office space is reserved for companies that take up permanent residence in the building. Hi! Meet opened in July this year and is run by sub-workplace operator OPCO.

In addition to the meeting center, Hello! also from a logistics room. The coffee giant’s old warehouses function as warehouses or sheds. In the meantime, meal delivery company Hello Fresh and restaurant Rose Mary moved in, but there are still more than 2,500 square meters available for rent.

In addition, Global Estate Group has just applied for permission for a unique and impressive SME hall in the former production tower: Hello! Make. In total, there will be 12 units with surfaces between 200 and 765 m² and a common loading and unloading quay with a fully extended awning where the goods can arrive.

Revaluation of heritage

The design is based on what is already there. The existing building possesses many qualities that guide the design: a distinctive facade system, a regular structure, high columned spaces and massive cassette floors. The stacked industrial program takes shape thanks to these features. Function follows form in this case. It is also an opportunity to see the special 20e-century building that must be integrated into a 21ecentury to create idea. The basic structure of tall columns with large intermediate distances (min. 6 m) between them lends itself well to dividing the existing production building into several units.

“Not only is the basic structure very modular, the facade also follows an elementary system that forms a guideline for new interventions. We remove the existing machinery and intermediate floors and close some openings in the floors to create an uncomplicated cut. The very highest roof is also (partially) opened: the underlying space is considered an outdoor space that flows into the roof terrace”, says plusoffice.

Create by level

From an old industrial giant occupying the entire building to several compactly stacked manufacturers under one roof. Apart from sharing the roof, many more benefits can be gained from co-housing: common basic facilities, more limited logistics facilities, meeting places and cross-pollination between decision-makers. Stacking must create synergy: both visitors and users, both specialists and pioneers, are invited to be part of the collective emulation that is part of the project.

Plusoffice provides a variation in the surface areas of the units, whereby the size is adapted to the location in the building. For example, the two largest units are located on the ground floor with direct access to the loading and unloading dock. The lower floor is half underground and is therefore suitable for activities that do not require sunlight (e.g. mushroom farm, data center, …). This floor is also directly accessible from the outdoor area. On the two floors above are slightly smaller but still spacious units accessible via the existing freight elevator. This division and the basic structure provide a clear transverse axis in the plan with a central corridor for horizontal circulation and a zone for vertical circulation across.

Minimal interventions

The existing construction does not need much, but a few targeted interventions can ensure that the use becomes more qualitative. It is about making new openings in the facade to capture more daylight in the right places, a new vertical, wheelchair-friendly circulation shaft next to the existing goods elevator shaft, adaptation of the narrow stairwell and a new canopy for drying and unloading. Using space differently can also add a lot of quality. In this way, the designers make the roof’s two roofs accessible: one as a roof garden, the other as a terrace. From here you have a beautiful view of the fields and the valley.

Maximum recycling

We strive for maximum recycling. For example, experiments were carried out on the recyclability of silicate bricks from previous partitions: 95% of the broken bricks can be successfully reused for the construction of the new circulation shaft. In addition, a cover is needed for the new loading and unloading quay and an existing cover will be dismantled elsewhere on the site and restored. Finally, plusoffice is looking for recyclable materials from other local yards or projects for new partitions in collaboration with Rotor DC.

The meeting center has also focused on recycling. “When Douwe Egberts left, the company left everything behind: desks, chairs, even filing cabinets. It would have been a real shame not to reuse all that quality material. For example, we used the acoustic partitions between two desks to line the walls of the podcast studios. The filing cabinets have become benches, old shelves can be found in the wardrobe. The round tube for the new passenger lift will then be rebuilt with recycled bricks from the demolished walls,” said Kathleen Dewulf, CEO of Global Estate Group.

Sustainable mobility

Sustainable mobility is also an important spearhead in the redevelopment of the site. For example, there will be a fast charging station with 14 fast charging stands for electric cars that will be publicly available. In addition, the Global Estate Group is constructing a cycle path that will connect the cycle highway along the A12 with the cycle routes to Grimbergen and Brussels. If you come by car, you can leave your four-wheeled vehicle in one of the 250 parking spaces.

Works at Hi! Start in early 2023 at the latest. It is not yet clear exactly how long they will take.

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