Maintenance-free timber façade for a car and cycle park for commuters

Next to Aalst railway station in Belgium is a covered parking facility with spaces for 900 cars and 750 bicycles. This car and cycle park is a good example of timber-frame façade construction: the façade elements are finished to the last detail in the production facility before being transported to the station site and fit seamlessly into the metal suspension system on the concrete basic structure. Machiels Building Solutions was commissioned by Jan De Nul to install the façade on a site with little room for manoeuvre, without disrupting rail services and before the concrete structure was fully completed. Add those time savings to the creative finishing possibilities and the maintenance-friendly nature of timber-frame construction, and you can see why the Belgian railway company SNCB opted for this solution.

Timber-frame façade construction ideal for sites in tight spaces

The SNCB commuters' parking facility is of course as close as possible to the station, and therefore also near the railway tracks. This means that there is little room for manoeuvre. Fortunately, thanks to MBS's scaffold-free installation, only minimal space is needed. In this way – in consultation with the SNCB and contractor Jan De Nul – we ensured that there was no disruption to rail services during the installation work. This started with putting in place the anchoring in the load-bearing concrete structure, on which the panels of the timber-frame façade construction were then hung. This allowed installation to start immediately even when the underlying concrete structure was not complete. Obviously, this sped up the project considerably.

Timber-frame façade construction: a three-step process

To make the construction process as quick and easy as possible, each timber-frame façade construction project consists of three steps:

  1. At the Machiels Building Solutions production facility, MBS employees make moulds to ensure quick and appropriate installation of the wooden uprights, which are interconnected by aluminium anchors and threaded rods.
     
  2. The prefabricated elements are stackable. This keeps the number of trips to the site to a minimum.
     
  3. At the site, the MBS installers place the carrying hooks on the concrete structure. The panels with the timber cladding are then hung on these hooks as soon as they arrive on site.

A visual surprise

As well as the advantage that timber-frame construction is a quick process, wood offers many creative and aesthetic possibilities. The Dutch architectural office cepezed chose an 'open' façade with wooden uprights of a certain depth. This solution using timber-frame façade construction optimises ventilation in the parking facility. And there is a visual extra: the façade looks closed as you approach and look diagonally at it. Only when viewing the building head on from behind the uprights can you see through them. The drivers/riders and their passengers get a wide view of the surroundings – a panorama that is well worth a look because around the parking facility, by the river banks the KAAI District is taking shape and its neighbourhood is being redeveloped.

Maintenance-free and environmentally friendly thanks to heat treatment

As part of the KAAI District project, the parking facility for commuters should fit harmoniously into the general surroundings. That is why the uprights characteristic of timber-frame façade construction are made of Thermo pine. This coniferous wood is subjected to a heat treatment, making it maintenance-free afterwards, as the heat changes the chemical structure of the wood. This improves its resistance to wood rot or fungi. The fact that no chemicals and no follow-up treatment are needed makes this a sustainable solution. On the end-grained top side, an aluminium plate stops moisture seeping in. The only influence that the weather has is the ageing of the wood. This natural process makes the building look very special, because every façade ages in its own way – and pre-ageing gives you a uniform result. Therefore, timber-frame façade construction is an ideal way to integrate natural materials into the cityscape in an aesthetically pleasing way.

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