‘A geometrically striking industrial-chic office building employing forthrightsustainable design methodology and technology.’
In mid-2015 AOJ was commissioned to design a new office building for Caldas Engineering, a supplier of crusher parts to the mining industry. The company had acquired a 4300m² rectangular property which had more yard space than their current premises (which they sorely required) but unfortunately did not have any quality office space on it.
The starting point for the design was to locate and size the new offices to maximise the yard space, while ensuring that the new building would have optimal solar orientation. This was a challenge as the access road on the east boundary and the orientation of the site (running lengthways east to west) meant that laying the building out for optimal north/solar exposure would impede on the yard space and reduce the street exposure of the building.
After careful analysis it was decided to orientate the building lengthways in a north-south direction, to maximise the yard space, and place as much of the office space on the north side of the building and all the service spaces on the south of the building. As the length of the building would face east and west, large windows were placed on the east façade, maximising natural light and thereby reducing the electrical consumption (by reducing the need for artificial lighting). On the west façade narrow clerestory windows reduce heat gain from the afternoon sun but still provide sufficient supplemental natural light into the offices that had to be located on this side of the building.
Two of the client’s major requests were to keep the design of the building cost effective and to minimise maintenance on the façade. To achieve this the new building is essentially an efficient rectangular facebrick box, with a raw industrial interior, embellished on the exterior by an external translucent polycarbonate screen. This screen moderates solar heat gain on the façades and also provides shape and interest to the form of the building.
To take advantage of South Africa’s optimal solar conditions a photovoltaic (PV) solar plant is located on the roof of the building. PV electricity generation is ideal for offices as they are predominantly in use during the day, when electricity generation takes place.
A large mono-pitch roof harvests rainwater, stored in a sixty kilolitre tank above the ground floor boardroom. This water will be used for the flushing of toilets, irrigation of landscaping and the washing of vehicles.
The building is laid out over three levels; a ground floor housing the reception, a boardroom, a meeting pod, an open plan sales office, covered parking and a garage; a mezzanine floor housing a staff lounge with kitchen, executive offices and an indoor planted area (to incorporate greenery into the building interior); and a first floor housing the administration offices.
The design for the Rubela Park office is almost entirely informed by the site conditions and the needs of the client. The starting point for the design was the siting of the building which needed to take a number of factors into account.
The site had limited derelict office space at the back of the site, and the yard area needed to be maximised as every spare square metre of space is beneficial to the client’s business. In addition to this, as the intention was for the building to use as little energy for lighting, heating and cooling the building needed to be to be placed and shaped for optimal solar orientation.
This proved to be quite a challenge as the position for the access road on the east boundary and the orientation of the site, which runs lengthways east to west, meant that laying the building out for optimal north/solar exposure would firstly impede on the yard space and secondly reduce the street exposure of the building.
In order to deal with this AOJ used three strategies. The first being paying close attention to the town planning requirements in order to take advantage of the guidelines and get the maximum number of storeys in the building, in order to lay the square meterage out over more floors and thereby reduce the footprint of the building, which in turn increased the amount of yard area, the second being programming the floor plan to place service and lower use areas to the south of the building (where temperature moderation would be more difficult but less necessary) and the third being the careful design of each the facades of the building to ensure that dependent on their orientation they would provide the optimal performance in terms of lighting and temperature moderation.
To reduce what industrial space takes away from the environment the building was designed to harvest rainwater from the large mono pitch roof which also houses a solar electricity plant. In addition to this the landscaping on the site – although limited – is indigenous and undemanding in terms of water usage.
The materials for the building – concrete, facebrick and steel – were selected not only for the client’s requirement of having a low maintenance building but also for their extended life cycle.
The Rubela Park Officeswere really about creating something low maintenance which looks great, but which at the same time, operates on a sustainable level. Using forthright sustainable technology, AOJ have been able to get the building to perform the way they wanted it to. Where many of today’s buildings are solely designed for their looks, AOJ insisted on a different approach on Rubela Park. The building does the job it is supposed to do in terms of being eco-conscious, while at the same time offering a blueprint for commercial projects which goes against the grain – showing that a project can be budget conscious, low-maintenance, energy efficient and beautiful, all at the same time.
1. CHC-SA Concrete Floors (diamond ground concrete floors)
2. Chromadek (Klip-Lok 700 roof sheeting)
3. Wispeco Aluminium (window systems)
4. Palram (Sunpal 18 façade sheeting)
5. Corobrik (Country Meadow – Satin face bricks)
6. Derbigum (Derbigum SP4 waterproofing)
7. Mentis Africa (handrails and louvre gratings)