After 13 years of arguments, delays and complaints, the most contentious refurbishment project in construction history has come to an end: the European commission has moved back into the Berlaymont building.

Back in Berlaymont: At a cost of £465m
Back in Berlaymont: At a cost of £465m

Appropriately enough, the commission is coming home to another row. This week, environmental pressure group Greenpeace claimed that plywood taken from nature reserves in the Indonesian rain forests was being used for floors and walls inside the building.

Work on refurbishing the 250,000 m2 building, began in 1995 – four years after the commission’s bureaucrats had been moved to allow work to begin.

The work, which cost a total of £465m, has involved gutting the building and installing a completely new interior. In the course of the job, 1500 tonnes of asbestos was removed by workers wearing special suits, gloves and underwear, and 12 escalators, four car parks, six internal gardens, 70 interpretation booths and a 900-seat self-service restaurant were installed.

The building has also been given an external makeover. A high tech, eye-catching facade has been fitted to the steel frame using advanced solicone structural adhesives. The double-skin cladding evens out temperature within the building by retaining warmth during the winter months and protecting against solar heat during the summer.

The refurbishment was begun under the stewardship of architects Steven Beckers and Pierre Lalemand.