First public museum depot in the world relies on environmentally friendly materials for new construction

The Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen is the largest art museum in Rotterdam, Netherlands, and contains numerous paintings and sculptures. The museum’s collection, previously stored in the basement of the exhibition building, has been open to the public since the end of 2021 – and in a very spectacular way. Dutch architect Winy Maas designed the world’s first publicly accessible art depot in the museum’s park, which impresses not only architecturally but also with its sustainable construction.

After about four years of construction, visitors to the art depot can see the result of 173 years of collecting. More than 151,000 objects are housed in 14 storage compartments with five different climate zones. By comparison, the actual museum only has room for around 8 % of these works. In addition to the art, the depot also houses all the activities involved in preserving and managing a collection.

The building itself captivates with its unusual round shape and the eye-catching mirrored façade. This is almost 40 metres high and consists of 6609 m2 of glass, divided into 1664 individual mirrored surfaces. In this way, the building reflects its green surroundings in the middle of the museum park.

Green roof, solar cells and rainwater storage tank
This “green” idea of the exterior façade is also reflected on the roof: it was planted with birch trees, pines, grasses and sedum, and solar cells supply the building with electricity. The building technology also scores in terms of sustainability. The depot uses a ground-coupled heat exchanger, contains a climate control system and has a rainwater storage tank that supplies water for the roof garden and for flushing toilets. It was built to a large extent from sustainable materials, e.g. recycled concrete.

In a building as designed for sustainability as the depot, environmental considerations also played a major role in the selection of the piping systems. Therefore, the planners opted for aquatherm blue pipe made of the corrosion-resistant plastic polypropylene (PP-R) for the entire refrigeration piping.

Lower COemissions from polypropylene compared to steel
Polypropylene – a by-product of crude oil processing – is one of the two most important standard plastics. Life cycle analyses according to ISO 14040 are used to examine the impact of raw material production on the environment. Studies show significantly lower CO2 emissions from polypropylene pipes compared to other raw materials, especially steel. aquatherm, headquartered in Attendorn (Germany), has been processing this raw material, which is characterised by a long service life and very good environmental compatibility and recyclability, for about 50 years. The plastic waste resulting from the economic and production process is mostly recycled internally and processed into new products.

aquatherm blue pipe is characterised by its high temperature and pressure resistance. Added to this are the exceptionally good welding properties and the fusion into a homogeneous and materially cohesive unit, so that a maximum of safety and service life is achieved.

BAM Bouw & Techniek Netherlands was commissioned as the contractor for the depot building. The installation of aquatherm blue pipe was carried out by Wilsta Prefab BV. Wilsta had previously also equipped the adjacent Erasmus Medical Centre with aquatherm piping systems. More than two kilometres of aquatherm blue pipe with diameters from 50 to 250 mm were installed in the art depot. The product variant OT was used, an oxygen-tight pipe that is equipped with a diffusion barrier and thus complies with the requirements of DIN 4726. aquatherm blue pipe OT is therefore optimally suited for the refrigeration installation. The system was installed in the entire building, including the connection to the technical rooms and various distributors.

Challenge: Straight installation in a round building

“The biggest challenge was to lay the pipes straight in a round building,” explains Marcel Groenveld, application engineer at ERIKS, aquatherm’s official Dutch partner. “In addition, due to the use of numerous glass areas, many pipes are visible to visitors in the completed building. This called for a very accurate and visually appealing installation.”

The different temperatures that prevail in the depot also posed a challenge in the TGA planning: After all, the 14 departments with their five climate zones had to offer optimal and, above all, constant conditions in terms of temperature and humidity for the works of art. But the catering, offices and public rooms also needed suitable air conditioning. “As a supplier of aquatherm pipes and fittings, it was important for us to coordinate everything well and, above all, to ensure delivery to the right place at the right time,” says Marcel Groenveld. “As the building is located in the middle of the city, special delivery dates outside peak hours were often used.”

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