The Belgian Buildings Agency
The Belgian Buildings Agency - what is it?
The Belgian Buildings Agency is the property manager of the Belgian state. It ensures that some 70.000 federal officials can work in quality offices. Alongside that it keeps its federal architectural and historical patrimony preserved.
Its extensive real estate portfolio includes nearly 1,000 building complexes - accounting for some 6.8 million m² - of which two-thirds are publicly owned and one-third are leased.
This portfolio includes office and court buildings, prisons and historical heritage sites. Some well-known examples are the Africa Museum, the Egmont Palace, the Lion of Waterloo, the Antwerp Palace of Justice, the Royal Palace, the Liège Finance Tower and the Congress Column.
The Belgian Buildings Agency also implements the building infrastructure commitments that the Belgian state enters into international institutions. Some examples are the European schools or the ‘Europa’-building of the Council of the European Union.
Broadly speaking, the mission of the Agency is based on three pillars:
- real estate (purchase, sale, rental, hiring of buildings and land)
- construction and renovation of buildings
- facility management and building maintenance
As a government organization, they are committed to being at the forefront of energy efficiency and sustainable development. For example, they strive to reduce the energy consumption of government buildings and to opt for high-efficiency installations and energy sources that consume as little as possible in all their projects.
They further attach great importance to sustainability in this project - the Belgian Pavilion. For example, the used building materials may be disassembled afterwards for reuse. Such a process is unique in the construction world.
The Belgian Buildings Agency for the Belgian Pavilion - what is their role?
The Belgian Commission-General for International Exhibitions (BelExpo) is the contracting authority for the construction of the Belgian Pavilion. As a delegated client, the Belgian Buildings Agency provides technical, legal and administrative support to BelExpo. For example, in close collaboration with BelExpo, it has drawn up the public contract that includes the design, construction, scenography, maintenance and deconstruction of the pavilion.
The Belgian Buildings Agency additionally participated in the evaluation of the offers and extended legal support. The Agency monitors the works from start to finish and ensures that everything proceeds according to the provisions of the public contract.
The current progress
After awarding the contract, the execution begins. The Belgian Buildings Agency and BelExpo meet (virtually) every week with the designated company: Bemob2020. During these weekly meetings, called "Bouwteam", the progress of the project is discussed.
Throughout this period, they ensure compliance with the contract clauses;
- both from a legal point of view, (i.e. respect for the law of public contracts)
- only on the programmatic aspect, therefore respecting the program of needs
- only on the qualitative aspect, therefore verification of the materials offered
They are supported by various specialists who each verify compliance with the needs program as well as the quality of the equipment and materials offered. The different technical areas are telecommunications, special techniques, electricity, durability, stability and elevators. Over time BelExpo's concerns, sensitivities and requirements were assimilated.
“Checking the quality of the equipment is very important. This not only guarantees a high-quality building for the operator but also compliance with "general principles" of public contracts. As a reminder, the general principles are the principle of equality, non-discrimination, transparency and proportionality. For example, if in the market requirements you ask for the installation of solid parquet and in practice you accept the installation of vinyl imitation wood flooring, you are distorting the competition. Concretely, we carry out this analysis for any material and equipment installed: sockets, cables, paint, walls, lighting, doors, glass, plumbing… ”, says technical Project Leader Alba Martin Benet.
The construction of a pavilion for a World Exhibition has the particularity that it must be designed and built in a relatively short time. This involves making decisions very frequently and in an equally short period of time. The Belgian Buildings Agency, therefore, ensures that the construction company submits the questions and choices to be made to BelExpo and/or the Agency on time.
“A journey at high speed: the tight timing of the market is such that it is a real accelerated training, an intense digest in which decisions must be taken quickly and affect many trades of the Belgian Buildings Agency" says Administrative Project Leader Maxence Facon.
In principle, the Belgian Buildings Agency carries out one site visit per month, although following Covid-19, site visits have been suspended. The Agency accompanies BelExpo during these visits (or these missions). During these visits, they observe the progress on site. They check the materials installed as well as the laying techniques. They issue comments if there are any, or validate certain processes that require validation. In some cases, samples of materials or equipment are offered; such as choice of the nature of the front louvres, choice of tiles, switches, etc. When these samples are validated, the company can place the order for installation.
The Agency also checks the work log, sent by the construction company. This includes all the activities and particularities that took place on-site that day.
Impact of Covid-19
Currently, the Agency can speak of a "return to normalcy" or at least to the "new normal". Their meetings are still being held virtually. They recently visited the site in Dubai to see the progress and are planning future missions. All of this, of course, with the prerequisite PCR test, the imposed quarantines and their masks as faithful companions. Their management is certainly more restrictive, but like everyone else, they've adapted.
How do they see the future? "We think flexibility and optimism are key in moving forward. In the Agency / BelExpo team, these qualities are well represented, so we are very confident that we will carry out this project together."