New Solvay Headquarters
Solvay Headquarters to enable Creative Connections
Solvay has selected the project proposed by the consortium consisting of Danish firm Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects and Belgian firms MODULO architects and VK Engineering. Their design will unite Solvay employees in one building with dynamic spaces for open collaboration and co-creation and will embody Solvay’s pioneering spirit of scientific innovation and sustainability ambitions.
“Over the past six years, Solvay went through one of the most profound business transformations in its 155-year history. This project embodies the start of a new era for the Group’s long-term growth, fostering closer connections and creativity between colleagues, customers and the business,”said Jean-Pierre Clamadieu, CEO of Solvay.
Works on the new building on the Solvay Campus in Neder-Over-Heembeek, north of Brussels, are expected to begin mid 2019 and to end by 2021.
Innovations in chemistry and advanced materials
Since the beginning of the 21st century, the pace of change in the world has accelerated dramatically as new materials and technologies shift the way society operates. For Solvay, these advances in science and technology have driven the recent radical transformation of its business portfolio.
Always at the cutting edge of science, Solvay has adapted throughout its 155-year history, but it stepped up the pace of change between 2012 and 2018. Strategic transactions have shifted the Group’s focus from traditional, high-volume products towards high-growth, high-value advanced materials and specialty chemicals, tailored to the needs of specific markets and customers. This transformation is guided by a clear vision for Solvay and its role in society.
Solvay’s ambition is to bring its employees together in one modern building and to turn the site into a buzzing campus that showcases the new Solvay and expresses the Group’s humanist vision of science, fosters innovation, attracts talent and makes its people proud.
The site will be dedicated to high-technology innovations in chemistry and advanced
materials. From there, Solvay’s mission is grow its own Research & Innovation activities, as well as those with its partners, creating solutions for a rapidly advancing society, today and tomorrow.
How the architect responded to solvay's vision
Selecting the architect
To bring Solvay’s vision to life, architects were invited to take part in an international competition. Twenty-four architectural practices were pre-selected in mid-2017, subsequently narrowed down to a shortlist of five teams, comprising architects, engineering companies, landscape specialists, sustainability experts and more.
Solvay’s employees, including its youngest professionals, had the chance to consider the shortlisted entries, before a jury selected the winning consortium:
- Schmidt Hammer Lassen, a Danish-based architecture firm
- Modulo, a Belgian-based architect office
- VK Architects & Engineers, a Belgian firm
Why Schmidt Hammer Lassen
The centerpiece is the new main Solvay building, which will comprise the Group’s headquarters, business units, laboratories and related R&I workshops. This open, light-filled and welcoming structure will bring Solvay employees together in a single building with labs and offices next to one another, facilitating communication and innovation.
Meanwhile, the south-east part of the campus will include a zone to host third-party enterprises, start-ups, research centers and universities.
Here are just a few of the key reasons Solvay chose this team:
- Its vision for a vibrant green area, with the new Solvay headquarters at its heart.
- Its highly sustainable credentials in meeting the requirements for BREEAM certification (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method).
- Workspaces and common areas designed to stimulate easier communication and collaboration, facilitating Solvay’s new way of working and flexibility.
- Easier innovation, with two levels of the main building dedicated to R&I.
- A space that promotes well-being and work-life balance.
Ambitious cultural and "new" Solvay sustainable objectives
New ways of working
Solvay’s customers, in cutting-edge markets like aerospace, automotive and smart devices, require technological innovation delivered as quickly as possible, with top-tier talent and personalized service. To remain at the forefront of innovation and serve its customers best, Solvay must be agile and adaptable.
Since 2017, employees across Solvay have been involved in a project focused on making Solvay faster, with simpler, fewer processes and shorter lines of communication. This will free up and encourage employees to think externally and spend more time with clients to co-create solutions.
Solvay has ambitious sustainable development objectives, with action plans to optimize energy efficiency, consumption of raw materials and water use. Solvay is committed to minimizing its industrial waste and the impact of its manufacturing processes on air, water and soil quality.
The new smart building will be carbon neutral, using geothermal energy, solar cells (the building has enough photovoltaic cells to cover 1.5 football fields) and natural ventilation to warm or cool the building. Rainwater will be harvested and re-used as much as possible.
Extensive digital applications will contribute to the building’s smart use of energy.
Spotlight on Research & Innovation
The new building and its R&I Center will be a showcase for Solvay innovation, while the campus will facilitate internal and external approaches to R&I.
In this configuration, the Material Science Application Center, expected to open in 2020, will have pride of place and reflect its strategic importance to Solvay, and customer needs. Leading Solvay’s research into thermoplastic composite materials, the center will embody its transformation from supplier of raw materials into a supplier of leading-edge lightweighting or metal replacement materials.
It will also house an incubator unit, a brand new concept at Solvay, designed to maximise the
impact of projects with high-growth potential. Other features of Solvay’s internal approach to R&I will include three new specialist units:
- Analysis Group, focused on the science of materials and the environment, use of polymers and corrosion.
- Polymers Group acting in the area of high barrier polymers, notably used in packaging of food and medicine.
- Product Development Group acting in the areas of new materials, water and gas treatment and the production and application of hydrogen peroxide.
True innovation also needs to look outwards, thriving through collaboration. To this end, Solvay is forging closer connections with external research and innovation partners, including start-ups, research centers and universities. The ambition is to become the heart of an R&I ecosystem in the Benelux countries.
To foster this spirit of open collaboration, Solvay teams will run workshops to allow visitors and partners to get hands-on with the Group’s R&I experts, and offer tours to show some of the latest products and services developed by Solvay.
In addition, a flexible and modular Art-Tech Lab will offer information to external partners and start-ups, highlighting Solvay’s R&I know-how through visualizations of creations in progress and presentation of finished products.