New open workspace a paragon of peacefulness for Dutch defence staff

Hunter Douglas and Amsterdam’s Sander Architects have developed a new type of Techstyle ceiling panel for the recently renovated Netherlands’ Defence Ministry building. The flat, lightweight Techstyle panels with a plaster-like surface have a clean-cut, attractive look. Their cellular structure and non-woven material means they absorb both high and low frequencies, providing highly effective sound absorption. Project architect Jeroen Steenvoorden of Sander Architects was involved in this unusual office makeover. “The government has fairly strict acoustic and comfort requirements for its buildings”, says Steenvoorden. “After comparing several ceiling systems, we opted for Techstyle. We then joined forces with Hunter Douglas to develop a ceiling panel that would fit into this monumental building as perfectly and subtly as possible.” Mariëtte Poll, the Defence Ministry’s project leader renovation, adds: “Our staff were used to working in small, closed workspaces with a lot of corridors. The switch to 40% open workspaces was quite a change. The first thing they noticed after the renovation was the quiet, soundproof environment.”

Jeroen van Steenvoorden said the Defence Ministry originally had beautiful stucco ceilings, but they were lost and replaced by a ceiling system in a previous renovation.

“We wanted to return to that stucco style,”

he explained.

“Technically, it is very difficult to mount flexible modern lighting and installation systems in a stucco ceiling, while still complying with the requirements for office spaces in terms of building physics. But it works with Techstyle panels. On top of that, they have a pleasant, clean-cut appeal without the usual ugly ceiling grid. The subtle lining of the ceiling components makes them resemble monolith stucco ceilings.”

Hunter Douglas adapted the Techstyle panels specifically for this application. The result is a system that allows a workspace to be made larger or smaller without too much trouble. Thanks to an invisible click-fastening mechanism, the panels can easily be replaced to instal partitions. A partition can be attached to an extra profile, which can be clicked in to the ceiling’s narrow seam. “The partitions connect seamlessly with the ceiling panels, without affecting acoustic quality. The Techstyle panels’ soft material considerably dampens sound – far more so than a conventional stucco ceiling”, explains Steenvoorden.

Mariëtte Poll, project leader renovation at the Ministry of Defence, spent six years supervising the makeover.

“Supervising a major and complex renovation project like this one was a special experience,”

says Poll.

“The operating phase centred on an integrated approach. The goal was to achieve a sober look, without it being drab. Functional effectiveness was another key issue. This building has to be kept in good shape for another thirty years at minimal cost.”

Poll explains that good acoustics and flexibility are vital to the new work spaces. “Our organisation was used to working in small, closed workspaces with a lot of corridors. The switch to 40% open workspaces was quite a change for our staff.” She says that working for a large organisation is not something static.

“It’s crucial to be able to redesign office spaces quickly, at low cost and without loss of acoustic value.”

The Techstyle panels match these needs perfectly. Prior to the renovation, acoustics were poor due to the presence of hard materials. After the job was done, the first thing many staff members noticed was how quiet and soundproof their working environment had become.

“I heard people saying there is an atmosphere of pleasant peacefulness. Which is pretty remarkable for a heavily staffed office”

, says Poll.

Hunter Douglas is market leader both globally and in the Netherlands for innovative, aesthetic, high-quality window coverings, sun control systems and architectural ceiling and façade panels. For almost 50 years, Hunter Douglas products have contributed to the sustainable thermal, acoustic and visual appeal of buildings across a wide range of branches and sectors, from trade to industry and from the catering business to government. These products consistently meet the needs of architects, designers and contractors, thanks to Hunter Douglas’ intensive collaboration with these parties. Minimising environmental impact and waste flows is a vital part of the development, production, distribution, servicing and reuse of each product. The main office of the Hunter Douglas Group is in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. Local units on every continent include over 60 factories, 100 assembly plants and marketing offices in over 100 countries. Over 16,500 staff members around the world invest their talents and skills in Hunter Douglas.