Absa Capital Sandton CourtEdit profile
Team The developer team, Zenprop Property Holdings and Tiber Property Group, approached Paragon Architects to design the shell and core for a new office development in Sandton, Johannesburg. The architectural challenge consisted of modifying an outdated office structure with a view to delivering a 6 storey building with 3000m2 of rentable area per floor. Absa Capital (affiliated with Barclays Capital), as tenant, soon joined the professional team and pushed the project in the direction of a global best practice project, involving innovative high-technology systems to provide the best work environment for their employees. Paragon Interface (previously known as Tectoniqua) was appointed as the tenant architect for internal fit-out, service coordination, space planning, interior design and branding integration. The resulting building, with its consistent and homogeneous appearance, conceals the enormous complexity and technical ambition of its internal workings. It is a working environment of seeming simplicity with a singular focus on efficient systems and user comfort. Shell and Core Design Two floors were added onto an existing four storey building. Two existing basement levels house the advanced services and technology backbone. The new cores have been rationalised into two chunky towers attached to either side of the main building volume, maximising rentable area. New floor plates are laid out around a 3 storey atrium. The architectural project is conceived as a clean strong ‘shell’ protecting the ‘softer’ systems inside. The exterior form is a white glazed box floating above a monolithic dark base with alternating horizontal and vertical window boxes punctuating the facades. The sheer white surface of the curtain wall wraps over the top of the building, protecting the deeply recessed north and south facades. This is flanked by the dark tiled core towers. The central atrium acts as a focal point for the surrounding cellular spaces, canteen and reception area. Bridges link the across the atrium and diffused light infiltrates the space through south facing wave-form clerestory windows. Environmental Energy demand is reduced by the façade using double glazing with Low E coated glass. Ceramic frit glass minimises glare and heat gain on the east and west facades. Large sculptural louvers shade the northern face, while clear glazing to the south maximises light penetration. Automated blinds manage low winter sun angles on all sides. Energy efficient lights with presence sensors are judiciously positioned. The HVAC system is divided into ‘comfort cooling’ and ‘24 hour essential cooling’. Each floor is separated into a perimeter zone (cooling the perimeter in summer and heating it in winter) and an internal zone. Each zone uses ‘variable air volume’ units with sensors for localised air temperature control. A record 16 litres per second of outside fresh air is introduced. An ‘Outside Air Economy Cycle’ reduces chiller cooling when outside air temperatures allow. Heat is reclaimed from the ventilation system and used to preheat geyser water, supplemented by solar panels. Sensor taps and dual flush cisterns decrease water consumption and careful landscaping ensures water conservation. Absa Capital has further introduced recycling management within the building. Services resilience The building is designed with services resilience in mind. The tandem design of the mechanical, electrical, data and fire services systems ensures that if one system fails, the backup system carries the load. Paragon Interface co-ordinated the complex interface of services within the confines of the structure. The complexity of the services hidden in the floor and ceiling voids is disguised by clean and modular internal systems, providing an illusion of simplicity. Master planning and Interiors Internally, elegant and sophisticated finishes in muted tones for a contemporary look and feel have been used. This calm base palette is accented with bold graphics and softer elements of reconstituted timber, fabric and textured wallpapers. This adds depth to the sleek and professional internal environment. Glazed cellular offices are arranged around the central atrium, freeing up the external façade. The open plan desk layout and glazed demountable partitioning allows natural light to permeate the floor, and provides expansive views out. Each floor plate effortlessly accommodates churn in response to the changing requirements of the different business units in relation to the hierarchical blocking and stacking. The trading floor uses state of the art desks with inbuilt cooling systems fed off a 24 hour chilled water system within the access floor. The desks run parallel to the north façade while the custom designed ‘gull wing’ ceiling runs perpendicular to this. The shape and orientation of the ceiling relative to the desks provides optimum overhead lighting and air distribution, and emphasizes the trading floor as the focal point of the bank. Way Forward Based on a thorough briefing, and a detailed post-occupancy survey, this building is one of a chain of projects implementing aspects of global best practice design for the Barclays Capital group around the world. It has offered development opportunity for skills for the entire professional team.