Every successfully completed glass roof or skylight project is the outcome of a whole coordinated series of thought processes: choosing the right material, calculating insulation values, drawing up detailed plans... It’s not as easy as 1-2-3. This is why Forzon relies on its own engineering services bureau, made up of a team of experts with experience in the real world. Read our blog to find out more about the areas they specialise in and the way they work.
Forzon's engineering services bureau is formed by permanent members of staff, each with their own responsibilities. The project engineers carry out all the calculations and ensure that the project meets the correct standards. Then, during the conceptual phase, the draftsmen go to work to capture the mood and style of the building. They create some drawings and determine the colour, type of protection (lacquer, galvanised roofing, etc.), the finer details, connections and the material itself. Often this is done even before the project is sold, so that right from the outset, the client has an outline idea of the final outcome. In the next phase, the engineers start preparing for production. They order the right materials and start the execution phase. The engineering services bureau also works closely with architects and the technical department, which is responsible for ensuring that the technical side is coordinated with construction. These process groups and project phases are all steered in the right direction by a coordinator, such as Aart. Aart draws up the planning, is in contact with sellers at the start and with the project manager once the project is fully underway. He is the one who answers technical questions. "Those questions can be very diverse," he explains, "because the projects in our market are unique and don't appear in a catalogue of standard solutions. So our starting point is always to find out what the options are.
Each project is unique
Forzon not only builds glass roofs, it provides all types of roof coverings. Nowadays, most projects are to do with skylights, but this was not the case more than ten years ago, before Forzon was formed. Back then, skylight projects were rare; but since Forzon's start-up, skylight sales have increased and projects are getting bigger. One of the projects that Forzon is justifiably proud of is the renovation of the roofs in the Parc du Cinquantenaire or Jubelpark in Brussels, commissioned by SIX bvba, a company located in Izegem. The project has been underway for several years and is now in its third phase. The brief was to renew the skylights, which is quite a challenge: it is a listed building, so there is only limited scope for design changes. Additionally, there are certain technical requirements that must be met. Forzon had new profiles specially developed to meet these requirements.
Another showpiece is the construction of a skylight and roof light in the Gare Maritime of Tour & Taxis in Brussels. The building is a former goods station that has now been renovated into an energy-neutral structure: natural daylight is used as much as possible and ventilation through the skylights ensures a welcome breeze in the summer. The ventilation hatches are incorporated in slim profiles in the glass roof system. The glazing also contributes to energy savings, thanks to the double glazing provided by Forzon. For ventilation, cooling and lighting, the latest state-of-the-art technical installations have been installed. One of the challenges was to preserve the historic character of the building and to achieve this, Forzon realized custom-made aluminium profile skylights. In short, this is a job our company is proud of and with good reason: it received an honourable mention in the category Circular building and won the Belgian Building Award – Utility Building.
To successfully carry out projects like these, the engineering services bureau is essential. Approval must be obtained for the drawings, which must be to the highest standard and the design must meet the static and thermal requirements. The active integration of the engineering services bureau into our processes is therefore a strength for Forzon, as this combination is rare.
Gaining knowledge is a continuous learning process
The team members of the engineering services bureau all have roughly the same level of technical knowledge. However, the specific knowledge required to successfully complete projects cannot be learned in the classroom. It takes a few years to build up experience by working at Forzon before acquiring the technical creativity to turn questions from our clients into architectural designs. The learning process is a continuous trajectory, because the process of research never stops. It’s not that there is even any training available, because knowledge depends on the unique nature of each product. However, we do have sparring afternoons and we are committed to spreading knowledge horizontally, often in cooperation with our partners. Team members do receive regular in-service training on fire safety and smoke extraction, but this is the exception to the rule, as specific training is not possible for projects.
The engineering services bureau is constantly confronted with changes in the field of safety, innovation and the market. But for every challenge, the team has a solution.
1. Stricter safety standards
Fire and insulation regulations are becoming increasingly stringent. This is particularly important when choosing materials, although most suppliers have extensive ranges of profiles that meet the new standards. When it comes to finishing works, calculating the necessary insulation values is not a job that everyone can do. Fortunately, Forzon has its own specialists who can work with specific energy software. Finally, the requirements for maintenance ladders are also becoming stricter. In this area, the experts need to look at the details on a case-by-case basis to ensure that the roofs can be maintained in a safe condition.
One of the latest innovations in glass roofs is so-called 'smart tinted glass'. This is a computer-controlled system, so the challenge here is to make sure the cables are hidden neatly from view in the profiles. This is not an easy task, but nothing that the experts can't handle. Moreover, there is increasing demand for 3D drawings, which provide a greater level of detail. Learning how to use the 3D software takes time, and currently, only a few people in the Forzon team know how to use it. The aim is for the entire team to be able to use the software by the beginning of next year.
3. The market
A final challenge for the bureau is the ever-evolving market. Firstly, customer demand has changed in recent years: there has been increasing demand for renovation projects and the construction of museums. The challenge with these projects, as with the Cinquantenaire project, is that most of the buildings are listed, thereby restricting the free choice of materials and products. Secondly, there has been an increase in projects to convert factory buildings into shopping centres or offices, which is complicated due to the age of the existing buildings. Thirdly, the composition of glazing and coatings is evolving. Even though Forzon itself is not a manufacturer, it must always have awareness of what is on the market.
In short, for every new project, the experts do everything in their power to deliver a tailor-made project, with an eye for detail and compliance with all safety regulations. Thanks to the engineering services bureau, Forzon is always one step ahead!