Virtual World | August 2011
Kapadia Associates have designed an energy efficient and cohesive work environment for Thermax Ltd.
Kapadia Associates is an architectural firm that has designed a variety of projects, from malls and commercial complexes to private residences. But, it is their specialisation in master-planning that really defines their style of work. So, when they were commissioned to design this stand-alone corporate building for the office of the engineering division of Thermax, they not just designed an energy-efficient building on the odd-shaped plot but also suggested a way to expand the project in the future in a phased manner. This particular project involved the designing of a new facility to house 1,000 employees and to create a cohesive work environment to respond to the changing business environment.
A natural start
The starting point of the project was the large eucalyptus trees that bordered the plot. "We not only wanted to retain these trees, but also wanted the natural landscape to flow into our design," says Sanket Jayakar, Associate, Kapadia Associates. To do so, the building was designed with three fingers instead of adopting the single-block stereotype. The entire architecture revolved around a spine that connected the three fingers and lent the building an E-shape. The fingers house the main work spaces and are oriented towards the north to maximise the intake of glare-free natural light in the office. All services and utilities are placed along the south façade to act as a buffer to reduce solar heat gain.
The fact that the project was being developed for self-use gave it an advantage over other multiple-use corporate buildings. The architects could thus design the layout in a way that the services were housed in the spine, the common areas and the meeting rooms were placed at the entrance, very close to the elevators, and the office areas were housed in the fingers, which were connected vertically to each other by staircases.
The staircases, designed in the courtyards, were in the gaps between the fingers; this open placement brought them closer to nature. "In a way, this encouraged employees to use the staircase (the elevators being far away), and the staircases offer visual respite from the confines of the closed office space. Staircase-encounters create an opportunity for interaction amongst the employees," explains Jayakar. Small break out zones have also been created in the pockets around the staircase and colour has been splashed for a break from monotony.
The façades have large glazed surfaces along the north and east, while the south and west facades have small, recessed openings. The glazing on the north façade helps to bring in as much light as possible within the working space and the south façade, being double walled, keeps out the heat. For further energy efficiency, the air conditioning has been planned in such a way that the average temperature in the office is maintained at 24 degrees; the temperature in the spine, which is used for circulation, has been kept to 27 degrees since those areas are not used frequently and continuously.
Simple and upbeat
The interiors of the office are simple and mostly modular, with subtle hints of colour. The lobby is triple height, and the elevators are very easy to locate. The triple height backdrop of the reception has been designed with white verticals and glazing in between. Seasonal colours inspired by nature have been used on the columns, and the spine has been given an outdoor feel with wooden rafters on the ceiling for a pergola effect. Lighting further accentuates the effect by giving a 'natural light' ambience.
The aim of the project was to create a vibrant and cohesive work environment that responds to the environment and is highly energy efficient, and to create spaces that embody the work culture of the company as a world leader in environmental engineering. Kapadia Associates have done complete justice to this brief.
Total area: 1,25,000 sq ft
Project Principal: Kiran Kapadia
Associate: Sanket Jayakar
Project architects: Asif Mansuri, Sumit Save
Architects: Vinitha Krishnan, Stanley Herbert, Arya Vengurlekar
Structural: Hansal Parikh & Associates
Services: Spectral Services Consultants
HVAC: Honeywell Automation India
Landscape: Ravi and Varsha Gavandi
Signage: Graphics Beyond
Text: Sumisha Arora
Photos: Sebastian Zachariah Photography
Meet the architect: Kiran Kapadia
Firm name: Kapadia Associates founded in 1991.
Firm specialisation: Large scale master plans and residential projects.
Design philosophy: Constantly evolve.
Favourite designer/architect: Steven Holl
Contact: Kapadia Associates, 112-114, Peninsula Center, Dr S S Rao Road, Off Ambedkar Road, Parel (East), Mumbai - 400 012. Tel: 022-6660 2838/39/40. Website: www.kapl.in
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