Renovated German Air Force Base Gets Facade Upgrade With Sleek Equitone Panels


Warehouses are utilitarian in design and generally do not receive architectural attention, especially those inaccessible to the public. However, the new supply hall of the German army is an exception. The carefully detailed building facade in EQUITONE [natura] combines architectural precision with the strictest technical requirements to protect the extremely sensitive assets stored there.

A military air base undergoing modernization

In 2011 it was decided to close several aging military airports in Germany to concentrate activities on a few modern facilities. Niederstetten Air Base was identified for renovation because it was located in the center of the triangle formed by Frankfurt, Stuttgart and Nuremberg, and would station the newly developed NH90 helicopters. Replacing an outdated building, Hall 01 houses spare parts and supplies for helicopters. The structure was built to provide the ideal conditions for storing these valuable assets.

Add ingenuity to simplicity

Functional requirements usually take priority over aesthetic choices in warehouse design. The specifications for the new supply hall in Niederstetten described a simple box building. When Ecker Architects in Heidelberg was chosen to design this building, they took on the challenge of adding ingenuity to this simple prismatic volume.

Cladding of the building with EQUITONE anthracite [natura] panels, cut into simple geometric shapes, the architects eliminated horizontal and vertical joints across the entire gray rainscreen facade, emphasizing its monolithic appearance. The repeating network of panel joints is reminiscent of camouflage netting used by the military.

EQUITONE [natura] panels subtly emphasize the rhythm of the raw fiber cement façade, producing an aesthetic of uniformity without monotony. Narrow diagonal joints between panels contribute to an expression of precision. As the joints deliberately continue around the corner, the lobby looks more like a minimalist sculpture than just an industrial warehouse. The monolithic block is interrupted by a solitary entrance platform, facing white EQUITONE [natura] panels. The large horizontal facade panels reflect daylight into this space, which contrasts sharply with the overall dark gray appearance of the room.

High-quality material provides optimal conditions

The goods that will be stored in Hall 01 are extremely sensitive, requiring an indoor climate with a narrow stability range. Temperatures should not vary by more than 5°C and fluctuations in relative humidity should be maintained at 5%.

The architects chose a ventilated cladding system with fiber cement panels allowing air to circulate behind the panels. This application dissipates moisture and decreases the heat load on the building facade.

To eliminate solar gain, there are no skylights or windows in the climate-controlled warehouse. To give staff an idea of ​​the time of day and weather conditions, the architects placed a row of narrow skylights along the space leading to the offices on the first floor, visible through the ribbon window along this access corridor.

Decomposable facade system with minimal waste

The rear ventilated rainscreen facade not only fulfills the climatic parameters required for this building, but it is also a conscious ecological choice.

Fiber cement facade panels are made from commonly available, low-toxic ingredients: cement, mineral raw materials (usually silica sand), a selection of natural and synthetic fibers, and water. In this case, EQUITONE durable facade panels were cut into the desired geometric shape, resulting in only 1.6% cut waste.

The durable coating protects the building structure from the elements, significantly increasing its lifespan. The panels are low maintenance and can be easily replaced if damaged. Individual panels can be removed to allow maintenance crews easy access to the underlying structure. At the end of the building’s life, the entire facade can be dismantled and reused in another building.


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