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Studio Saar, Frome and Udaipur

Principal architects: Ar. Ananya Singhal and Ar. Johnny Buckland

Category: Production, Energy and Recycling

Highly Commended

Photography: Ankit Jain

The firm was commissioned to build an industrial facility for the Indian multi-national electronics manufacturer Secure Meters, in a city famed for automobile manufacturing. Intending to create a positive environment to promote staff wellbeing, the project also reduces energy consumption with a canteen and recreational centre and high-tech manufacturing facilities. An existing seasonal lake that fluctuates between one to three acres in size enables rainwater harvesting, and an additional 2000 trees are being planted on the site.

Ananya Singhal, Co-founder, Studio Saar, said: “We were keen to demonstrate to our client how factories should and can be inspiring places to work and bring joy to the people that use them. By placing the canteen at the centre of the development, we have been able to provide a place for workers to relax and unwind. This project has not been without its challenges, but through close collaboration with the project team and efficient engineering we have been able to create a series of buildings that are genuinely adaptable to meet the ever-changing needs of the teams to ensure its longevity for future years.”

Located on a 25-acre site, the project site is a former lakebed repurposed and designated for industrial development. The master plan has three distinct zones within the site: manufacturing lines, employee recreation and visitor. Four buildings comprise the scheme: a main manufacturing facility, utility bay, canteen and recreation centre and reception building. They are connected by sheltered walkways covered with white undulating fabric canopies that protect them from the weather and act as a wayfinding tool for users.

The expandable factory building was to be constructed in phases, which allowed the production to commence in record time. The client’s primary focus was on the staff’s well-being, and an inclusive environment encourages communication and collaboration with no silos that promote hierarchy.

Large open spaces are part of the main manufacturing wing, enabling additional work lines and high flexibility to meet the workforce’s ever-changing requirements. A white palette is chosen for the structure and surface finishes with grey stone cladding, and sawtooth facades resembling early industrial architecture. This allows in natural light to the working areas below and provides space for the solar panels that generate 100 per cent of the overall energy demand. Buildings are insulated to reduce heat generation indoors and an integrated floor-cooling system promotes internal cooling for a comfortable working environment.

An entrance building is situated adjacent to the manufacturing facility, covered by a tilted open canopy. It houses the meeting rooms, the APJ Abdul Kalam training room, changing and locker rooms, and a medical centre. Though only screened staff can enter the factory premises, it is open and welcome to all.

The canteen and recreation centre are at the heart of the development and counter the white functional appearance of the manufacturing and utility buildings.  Exposed concrete with a characteristic Corten Steel entrance canopy distinguishes the leisure area from the neighbouring work areas. The recreation hub has a gym, recreation area, canteen and kitchen with 300-degree views of the surrounding trees – providing a relaxing atmosphere for the staff. The air is cooled using a water source cooling and circulated throughout the building.

The canteen was repurposed for temporary staff accommodation during four months of the Covid-19 pandemic so that they continue working and provide for their households. The building’s design as a multifunctional hall allowed Secure to create single accommodation units with a bed, small storage unit and power for charging electronic devices. Air was treated with passive and active ventilation systems, meeting the highest air quality standards for employee health during the pandemic.

Due to the site’s potential flood risk, the development incorporates a seasonal lake that fluctuates between one to three acres in monsoon. This allows 100 per cent of rainwater to collect onsite and be stored in the lake for longer periods while surrounding groundwater recharge wells slowly filter the water back to designated underground reserves.

Routes are lined with 600 newly-planted trees for visual appeal to the staff travelling between work and home. Existing trees home to weaver birds are retained and protected. An additional 2000 trees are being planted in the surrounding areas, further contributing to employees’ well-being and the client’s ongoing commitment to reforestation.