In October 2013, the Embassy of The Kingdom of The Netherlands opened its newly constructed office in Canberra, Australia. The modern building replaced its 60 year old predecessor, which had become outdated and did not accord with the Embassy’s latest ambitions for a modern, energy-neutral chancellery.
The original plans involved refurbishing the old building. This idea was scrapped early in the process as estimated renovation costs proved too high. It was decided that constructing a new building would be more likely to provide the enduring sustainability benefits that The Netherlands envisioned.
Dutch architect Rudy Uytenhaak was appointed to design the new government building. Uytenhaak collaborated with Australian architectural firm Philip Leeson Architects and engineering consultants at Netherlands-based Royal HaskoningDHV, mirroring the union between the two countries that the embassy represents.
A spokesperson from Royal HaskoningDHV revealed that the new building had been designed by the contractors “according to Dutch standards.” As a result, emphasis within the design was placed on the use of energy-efficient systems, such as a heat pump. High-performance insulating materials were seen as an additional requirement.
Australia’s high-temperature heat waves posed another challenge to the designers. Uytenhaak addressed the concern through the deployment of solar-reflective glass, sun blinds, good insulating materials and a sloping roof with electricity-generating photovoltaic (PV) panels.
Elval Colour’s orofe aluminium sheets were used in the construction of a slatted timber mantle, which covered the embassy’s skin of interlocking aluminium panels. The orofe sheets were 0.9mm in thickness and pre-painted for an attractive, modern finish.
The sheets were treated with a coating system developed to offer significantly higher levels of heat reflectivity than most available panelling or roofing materials. The levels of heat transferred to the building were subsequently reduced through this innovative Elval Colour solution, maintaining a cool temperature even during sweltering Australian summers and allowing the Dutch Embassy to achieve its energy-saving goals.
Staff moved into the new building in October 2013. Since then, Uytenhaak’s carefully planned reflective design, as well as the office’s shaded location, proved incredibly efficient under the scorching conditions of a South-East Australia heat wave in January 2014, where temperatures reached higher than 40°.
In June that year, the new Dutch Embassy made the list of 20 projects recognised by the Australian Institute of Architects. It went on to win the INLITE Light in Architecture Prize and will provide Dutch diplomats in Australia with a much-needed state-of-the-art workplace for decades to come.