NATO’s new headquarters

  • Last updated: 26 May. 2017 13:04

The design of the new NATO Headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, reflects the unity and adaptability of the Alliance. State-of-the-art facilities will enable the building to respond to the Alliance’s evolving needs long into the future, while its forward-looking design delivers a sustainable building that significantly reduces the Organization’s environmental footprint.

A 21st century headquarters for a 21st century alliance

The world has changed a great deal since NATO’s current headquarters was built back in 1967. Since then, the number of NATO members has almost doubled, from 15 to 28 – soon to be 29, with the accession of Montenegro. At the same time, a large number of partner countries have opened diplomatic representations at NATO Headquarters. As a result, the current headquarters building has become seriously overcrowded, with almost one-fifth (17%) of the office space now located in temporary structures. Moreover, the current building requires constant and costly maintenance.

Construction of a new headquarters building began with a ground-breaking ceremony in December 2010, and the official handover from host country Belgium to NATO will take place on 25 May 2017.

Part of the continuity between the old and new headquarters, which stand opposite each other on either side of Boulevard Léopold III in north-east Brussels, comes from the design. Aerial views of the buildings clearly show that the concept of interlocking fingers – symbolising Allied unity and cooperation – inspired the architects back in 1967, just as it did for the new building. The resemblances, however, stop there.

Flexibility and adaptability

The state-of-the-art new building will be able to accommodate NATO's changing requirements long into the future, with the design allowing for a configurable use of the building. With over 250,000 m2 –– the new building will provide Allies with all the space they need for years to come. Should more be required at some point in the future, the design is deliberately conceived to allow for further expansion.

The new headquarters will provide space for:

  • 1,500 personnel from national delegations
  • 1,700 international military and civilian staff
  • 600 staff from NATO agencies
  • frequent visitors, currently some 500 per day

The offices of NATO’s partners will be located in a separate building on the NATO campus, with equally flexible premises.

The building design incorporates cutting-edge information and communications technologies. For instance, the conference facilities include 18 conference rooms with simultaneous interpretation facilities and video teleconferencing (VTC) capabilities to link up meeting rooms on site or abroad. Seven of the building’s 34 meeting rooms will have virtual meeting facilities.

Sustainability: a driving factor behind the design

Jo Palma, the project’s lead architect, has said that the environment and sustainability were among the most important considerations in the design of the building.

The window surfaces comprise 72,000m2 of glass. This glass is highly insulated and has protective shading, keeping the heat out in the summer and inside during the winter. The extensive use of glass increases natural light and saves energy on heating, air-conditioning and interior lighting.

The sloped wings of the building are designed to collect rain water, and will provide 90 per cent of the water used for landscaping, cleaning and toilet flushing. Energy consumption will be reduced thanks to the use of geothermal heating in the winter and cooling in the summer, and the use of advanced lighting systems.

These initiatives, together with the recycling of demolition materials, easy access to public transport and reduced travel due to the use of video teleconferencing, will enable NATO to significantly reduce its headquarters' environmental impact.