Flemish headquarters Ethias

Projecting the past into the future

The Flemish headquarters of insurer Ethias on the Prins-Bisschopssingel in Hasselt has had a striking, futuristic appearance for 40 years. But three years ago, Ethias decided to give the building a new future. After a major and versatile renovation project, the iconic building has been surprising its users once again since December 2023. Moreover, the office design qualifies as a “master” for future Ethias workplace projects.


The original design of the building was carried out by architectural firm Jean-Michel Jaspers and John Eyers, now known as Jaspers-Eyers Architects. And the same architectural firm was engaged to take care of the major renovation project “Change Over”, with which Ethias aims to become carbon neutral by 2030. 


The iconic glass façade was completely renovated with super insulating glass, which not only offers much better thermal insulation, it also improves acoustic comfort. From now on, the heating requires no fossil fuels at all thanks to the use of geothermal energy. And the installation of solar panels will complete the transformation. The building will ultimately meet high-quality and strict technical criteria, equivalent to a “Very Good” certification from BREEAM.


Master for new working environment

In addition to the climate objectives, the “Change Over” project also included a new working environment for the approximately 500 employees in Hasselt who have divided their working time 70/30 between the office and home since the corona crisis.


 Employees were closely involved in the preliminary phase to define the needs and expectations, and this input was presented in a mood board. This gave the interior architect basic directions for developing the interior concept. “Natural elements, in combination with tranquil colours such as beige and terra, were used throughout.”, says Carmencita Peeters, Project Manager Design & Build Ethias. 


The interior concept we developed focused mainly on the layout and did not provide any concrete details for office furniture. “Ethias approached four potential partners.”, explains Carmencita Peeters. “And the competition was actually quite intense. Each of the parties was asked to develop their own interpretation of the concept: an initial proposal that was fully in line with the brief; a second with complete freedom of design, and a third with a rather restrained design approach.” 


The underlying idea of the competition was not only to determine the layout for the Hasselt head office, but to simultaneously establish a “master” on a larger scale for the Walloon head office in Liège, to accommodate 800 employees, as well as various local projects in the pipeline. Carmencita Peeters: “All the designs and quotations were judged on quality, price and delivery time. In addition, potential suppliers were assessed according to the strict ESG and sustainability criteria in our purchasing policy. We expect our partners to sign a human rights and environment charter, among other things. Pami’s many years of focus on corporate social responsibility, sustainability and circularity, plus the fact they are based locally, certainly contributed to the final selection."


New home

“We put the total office furnishings package together by combining our own sustainable product range with about 20 trusty partners/suppliers.”, says Astrid Hamblok, Senior Account Manager for Pami. “We have been able to fully exploit our identity as ‘Workspace Designer’. Our flexible production process in Belgium meant we were able to design and produce unique custom furniture for Ethias. The management workplaces are a good example of this.”


Based on their circular and sustainability vision, Ethias and Pami chose to recover many workplaces from the former office design and, for example, supplement them with new acoustic panels. This provided a functional upgrade and seamless integration into the design concept. 


“Using the hybrid office design from the Flemish headquarters, Ethias created various types of workplaces or zones where people can work depending on the task or time. This ranges from workstations with sit-stand functionality to concentration workplaces and meeting and conference zones. The “desk sharing” principle was generalised for the new office. As a result, Ethias was able to reduce the surface area per workplace by 40%.", explains Astrid Hamblok. 


The opening of the new office was celebrated during a family day at the end of 2023. “After such an intensive process, it was nice to hear so many positive reactions.”, concludes Carmencita Peeters.


Source: Eduard Coddé, FM Magazine

Project photos