At the Kolvestraat in Bruges, the finishing touches are being made to the expansion of a branch of Baronie Group, a European producer of chocolate and confectionery products. The new production building is connected to a heat network and sets the tone for the project in terms of sustainability.
A few decades after the first assignment, Baronie - then still Kathy Chocolaterie - approached VK Architects & Engineers again to design a state-of-the-art production facility. VK's preliminary design convinced the client by focusing on the integration of a new office area, staff rooms and visitor facilities, combined with a well-conceived internal circulation and logistic flow. The existing volume has been incorporated into the new entity, by upgrading the building envelope and the creation of a single stylish new identity. Thus making the building a showpiece for Baronie.
VK Architects & Engineers took care of the total assignment: architecture, structural engineering, M&E engineering and infrastructure. The preparatory works started in December 2017, construction one month later and production started in February 2019. In addition to the renovation of its production halls and an increase in capacity, improving the production flow was also an absolute requirement for Baronie. Due to the gradual growth of the company, not all departments were connected logically, from the office to storage, production and packaging. With the new production facility, the departments are optimally organized.
From raw material to praline
The first part of the new construction, the link between all the other parts, houses a landscape office, staff rooms and a visitor centre. Behind it lies a completely new production department, where all production lines are housed in three production zones. This latter part forms the core of the building and is located between the old building and a new logistics zone. In this way, the existing volume can be fully used as a warehouse for packaging and finished products via a lock system.
On the other side of the production building there are new loading docks, chocolate tanks and storage areas for the supply of raw materials. Trucks use a newly constructed ring road around the factory. As such, a linear logical production flow is created, from the supply of raw materials through storage and production to packaging and export.
A striking feature of this project is the circular, sustainable approach of the designers and engineers. The existing building at the front has a connection to the heat network of the nearby incinerator: a steam pipe heats the factory. The boiler room, in the production area, serves only as a back-up. The existing volumes are extra insulated. The fire resistant partitions in the new factory also contribute to a minimum of energy consumption due to their high insulation value. They also delimit different temperature zones. LED lighting is also available everywhere.
All building techniques and chocolate pipes are perfectly concealed in a fully accessible false ceiling above the ventilated and air-conditioned production areas. In this way, they comply with the strictest requirements in terms of food safety.
The intentionally understated façades refer of course to a block of chocolate because of their uniformity and colour, and fully integrate the former façade of the building. The curtain wall of the new office section focuses on the transverse Peraltastraat; with a play of open and closed surfaces, it forms the new public face of the site. A playful inlet with golden inlay breaks up the linear facade. This reference to a chocolate wrap marks the entrance for visitors and staff.
From the entrance, the circulation of staff and visitors is separated. An experience trail leads to the first floor, where visitors get a view of the lab, the production hall and the packaging area. The route also includes a video room, which can also be used by Baronie's customers if so required.
Many years after the first assignment, Baronie is once again ready for a few decades of successful chocolate production.