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Northern finishes.

Embassy preserves exotic finishes and history.

When originally constructed in 1962, the Royal Netherlands Embassy Chancery Office Building, located in Washington, D.C., was a modern building with elegant lines that complemented the slope upon which it sat. At 77,000 square feet, the facility is the largest Netherlands' chancery in the world.

Although it was an efficient building in its earlier days, the needs of the embassy changed dramatically through the years. In 1989, the Royal Netherlands Embassy conducted a maintenance investigation through which they determined a dramatic modernization of the building's interior was needed - a plan that resulted in the ministry's largest renovation to-date.

To meet current-day needs of the embassy, the facility's interior was completely demolished and rebuilt. However, maintaining the building's contemporary Northern European look was very important to embassy officials; therefore, many special materials were used during the reconstruction of this prestigious facility.

For example, French-imported, acoustic ceiling panels made of white metal and featuring a decorative, perforated pattern were installed throughout the facility. Some of these panels within the facility's corridors are operable, and are constructed with concealed hinges to allow access to communication systems and other mechanical and electrical systems overhead.

Because many of the new materials used during the renovation of the chancery office building were imported from overseas, careful control of lead times and material delivery was critical in maintaining the project's tight schedule. Additionally, Bethesda, MD-based Clark Construction, which served as the project's general contractor, had to carefully coordinate its work with several other subcontractors who were operating under separate contracts with the Royal Netherlands Embassy.

Some of the chancery office building's existing finishes were quite beautiful, and therefore many of the materials used to construct the original building - including brick, concrete columns, buxy gris stone, maple ceilings, and terrazzo and hard-stone floors - were salvaged and reinstalled, or protected and refinished.

Some of the materials were imported from the Netherlands over 30 years ago, and had a special significance to embassy officials, who wanted to retain as much of the building's original facade and finishes as possible.

Some of the chancery office building's interior millwork was painstakingly preserved, including the wood ceilings within the facility's Great Hall reception room and floors made of wood from the former Belgian Congo. Today, light maple wall paneling brightens the interior space and provides a striking contrast to the black hard-stone flooring in the chancery office building's executive areas. Restored brick and buxy gris also adorn several of the building's interior walls.

Featuring specialized finishes and materials, the Royal Netherlands Embassy Chancery Office Building, post-modernization, illustrates the seamless integration of ideas and innovative technologies.

Embassy Upgrades

The upgraded security access control system chosen for the facility is a distributed processing, multi-tasking/multi-terminal control system that ensures the highest level of building security. With 256 access levels and 64 time zones, the system grants virtually unlimited operational flexibility. The mouse-driven screen-prompt control offers user-friendly system administration, and the latest in security cards and card readers provide reliable security door operation. Intelligent terminal controllers process all transaction data locally and then send the data upstream for archiving and retrieval. In addition, distributed processing allows the control system to remain intact even if the master command center goes down or off-line.

An enlarged lobby area and a redesigned entry courtyard, with new terraced planters and retaining walls, welcome visitors. Additionally, a greenhouse that supplies the embassy with hundreds of flowers year-round - including Dutch tulips - was constructed. Upgraded utilities, lighting, and storm-water systems, including a storm-water retention system, were installed on the site, and a snow-melting system, controlled by heated wires, was incorporated into both the facility's driveway and roof.

M.P. Mizell is vice president of The Clark Construction Group Inc., Bethesda, MD, a national general contractor. Mizell specializes in difficult renovation and restoration projects.
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Title Annotation:Royal Netherland Embassy Chancery Office Building preserves exotic finishes and history
Author:Mizell, M.P.
Date:Nov 1, 1997
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