Akkisetti Ramprasad, managing director of one of the country’s revered architectural design firms Christopher Charles Benninger Architects (CCBA), advocates the need for emulating Indian architectural ethos while building modern offices, to be able to bring human beings close to nature for increased productivity of employees. “Offices should be able to provide free, fluid and interactive space. They should cater to silent and intellectual thinking which something does not happen in Indian offices that only focus on a lot of production, whereas it should be reflective in nature,” he tells SH. Ramprasad shares one of CCBA’s profound projects for inspiration – the Suzlon One Earth Global Corporate HQ.
Wind energy major Suzlon Energy Ltd is based in Pune, Maharashtra. With sustainability as their product, they have pledged to create the greenest office campus in the country. Living the motto of the company – powering a greener tomorrow – the design exclusively employed non-toxic and recycled materials. Water, energy, air, sewerage, and trash are all sustainably managed on site. No sewerage, wastewater or trash is removed from the site and all are recycled within it.
Covering about 1,00,000sqm of built-up area on the ground plus two levels, on a 10.4-acre urban site, the project achieved international LEED Platinum and Indian TERI GRIHA top certifications, with 8% of its annual energy generated on-site through photovoltaic panels and windmills, at an incremental cost of about 11%. At the time of completion, there were no other campuses in India with this level of certification, on-site renewable energy, at this level of cost efficiency. With an offsite wind energy farm supplying 92% of the potential 4MW energy consumption, the campus is a net zero energy project. The only instructions to the architect were to create a high technology, global campus, in which the visitors would feel they were in India. The strategy derives its inspiration from historical campuses like Fatehpur Sikri and the Meenakshi Temple complex in Madurai. The concept took the shape of a landscraper, opposing the idea of a skyscraper. It is a counterblast to ‘the glass box’.
A series of served and server spaces were conceptualised, allowing adaptability, suitable to the transformational nature of evolving business patterns. The served spaces cover a major share of the campus, where people work accommodating flexible modular walls and furniture systems. These are served by more static cores housing wet areas, vertical utility ducts, fire stairs, elevators, entry and reception areas, which will not change over time. ‘Modules’ were employed, like the silo fire stairs; the benchmark glass cylinder ventilation chimneys, and the 8.4 x 8.4-meter structural modules that could be used like a Lego set, and moved about in one’s mind to create internal and external spaces. Aluminum louvers act as a protective skin allowing daylight and cross ventilation. A generic strategy was to provide 75% of the workstations with daylight and external views, making the inhabitants sensitive to seasons, weather conditions and the time of day. All work areas have operable fenestration allowing cross ventilation when desired. Photovoltaic panels form the ceiling of the learning center atrium, sheltering a traditional reflective pool, tempering the microenvironment of the center in addition to soothing aesthetic sensibilities. Throughout the landscape, traditional channels carry water to the Crescent Reflecting Pool resting at the lower basement level, around which the curved dining area opens visually onto the cascade of waterfalls feeding the pool. A traditional stepped wall gives rhythm to the water movement. This large water body gifts evaporative cooling to the central lower court. All the external landscaped areas are visually integrated into the indoor spaces along the perimeter of the building bringing fresh air, greenery and natural light into the work areas.
The design process started with a premise of creating a central gathering space, or Brahmasthan, with the sky as its ceiling, offering visual access to extensive gardens from everywhere. The fabric of the green spaces and water elements is interwoven into the built fabric so one’s sight lines continually meet the out of doors. The anchoring visual element is the stone Deepstambh, a traditional Indian pillar of oil lamps, set in the center of the Crescent Reflecting Pool. Sightlines from all directions converge at the Deepstambh, making it the focal element of this organic composition. The central garden plaza, on a podium over parking and utilities, encourages interaction and discussion amongst the 2,300 colleagues, providing an iconic memory point for all who visit the campus. The building employs a complex building management system that monitors energy, lighting, temperatures, and occupancies of various areas and the efficient running of systems. The project strategy included a mandate for standard sizing to reduce construction wastes, achieving a ceiling of three percent wastage. Incorporating green principles in the planning and design stage of the campus, strategic investments in high-tech energy efficient technologies and overall optimisation of materials and resources have confirmed that it is possible to create green buildings in a cost-effective manner without compromising on features, finishes, or utility.