Completed in 2017, NATO’s new Brussels headquarters houses 29 embassies and brings together over 4,500 staff from allied nations military and civil service personnel. Unlike its predecessor, the new 250,000m² building was designed to meet the highly specific workplace requirements of the alliance. Communications technology was a central consideration from the very start.

NATO partnered with Arup in 2007 to design a next-generation audio visual (AV) solution that would enable thousands of critical conversations to take place flexibly and securely. At the same time, we were commissioned to design the information communication and technology (ICT) infrastructure that would power daily operations throughout the headquarters. 

Due to the critical nature of the project, Arup worked closely with the NATO HQ Project Office and the Belgian project management team to scope requirements and develop a 266-page specification, complete with 250 drawings, which became the brief for NATO’s Head of AV. The final design is an integrated AV system that serves NATO’s 18 room conference centre and main Council Chamber, video conference rooms, press theatre, HD television studio, radio studios and site broadcast infrastructure.

Delivering integrated, reliable communications

A military alliance demands the secure connection of people all over the world. Its work connects people speaking different languages and often using different technologies. The Arup-designed AV system automatically imports the agenda, attendee names and other details based on ID cards, and customises all settings to suit each delegate. To support interpreters and video stream viewers, a single live video stream offers up to 32 languages, giving the option to choose to listen or present in any one.

Given the importance of the conversations being conducted we also designed the system’s camera placement to adjust according to attendee’s height, guaranteeing a front view, near eye contact interaction with the person talking.  

Designing for efficiency

When a system is working to support such a large building, cost and efficiency savings have to be designed in from the start. Our system can power down if no events are scheduled or a room is idle for 30 minutes or remain on standby until 15 minutes prior to an event. The iBMS also includes a regular polling feedback system to prioritise performance efficiency. The system is highly resilient, automatically rebooting and switching to alternative connections in the event of a system error.