The new Metal Structures Centre (MSC) in Ghent utilises more than 300 tonnes of steel in its construction. Ten percent went into creating the open Aluzinc® ceiling grid which is vital for the building’s natural thermal heating and cooling system. Panels with an Aluzinc® coating were also utilised on the outside of the MSC, providing the building with its sparkling finish.
Examples of the Aluzinc® ceiling grid in the MSC. Lighting and accessories (for example, a beamer) can either be installed behind the grid (left), or suspended through (right).
The building’s thermal heating and cooling system exploits a principle known as concrete core activation (CCA). CCA uses the mass of the building’s steel and concrete floor as a heating or cooling bank. The floor is heated or cooled using water which is circulated through the slab. Air circulating inside is warmed or cooled by the slab, and a constant temperature is attained within the building.
Winter temperature curve over a 24-hour period in a building heated by air conditioning (left) and using CCA (right).
To work effectively, CCA requires as much vertical space as possible. However, in most contemporary buildings, a false ceiling is installed to hide services such as lighting, fire control systems and air conditioning. Normally the false ceiling must be omitted if CCA is to be used.
For the MSC, the designers sought a different solution and created a brand new Aluzinc® product in the process. To ensure the air could flow completely through the volume of the space, a standard 60 x 60 cm ceiling panel was created using Aluzinc®. However, instead of being closed, the panel is formed as a simple open grid.
Each panel is held in place with standard T-shaped supports which are suspended from the slab. Thin strips of Aluzinc® cover the T supports to ensure the homogeneity of the ceiling.
An advantage of the system is that new equipment, such as a projector in a meeting room, can be easily installed through the grid. It is also easy to remove one or more panels if access to the ceiling is required.
While Aluzinc® comes with a 25 year guarantee for external applications, internal applications such as the ceiling panels should remain usable and aesthetically attractive indefinitely. If a panel is damaged, it can easily be removed and replaced.
Aluzinc® coatings were also used for the external façade of the MSC building.
The result is a dynamic yet harmonious Aluzinc® façade. The combination of zinc and aluminium creates a pattern of silver and white spangles which appear to glitter in the sunlight. And the appearance will be preserved over time.