Open to change
With its new head office, Tata International was keen to promote its green credentials.
For its new head offices, Tata International, India’s leading exporter of leather and leather goods, wanted an interior that was contemporary, classy and, most importantly, green.
Tata International, which is a member of India’s best-known industrial group, wanted a space that would project the company as professional — but, at the same time, fun. “The company wanted an office next to the shop floor to serve all of its top-of-the-line buyers with world-class amenities.
“The space had to be refreshingly different from the boring image of a manufacturing set-up, but had to be classy at the same time,” says Prasoon Shrivastava, project manager and LEED AP at Arkiplan, the Dubai-based consulting architecture and engineering firm appointed on the project.
The aim was to appeal to a younger generation of company employees, with selected features of the space making an obvious detour from the established ‘manufacturing-sector’ office interior. “
For example, the table in the conference room was a mammoth 30ft long and we did a completely organic pattern on top, breaking away from corporate sensibilities of seriousness,” Shrivastava says.
“Part of the process of making a great office space is having the right client brief; the projects department at Tata International was spot on with its quantifiable and non-quantifiable requirements. A change of image was important, so a number of top executives devoted a lot of time to provide their input,” he adds.
Also particularly high on the agenda for Tata was having a space that was warm and relaxed. “The idea was to make clients, as well as staff, feel comfortable and welcome. They wanted an office which looked relaxed,” says Srivastava.
In keeping with this, the office was flooded with natural light – and a feng shui expert was consulted to ensure that all staff were facing in the right direction. In order to further reiterate the open, welcoming feel of the place, Arkiplan favoured glass wherever possible.
“Maximum glass was used to give a very accessible and open feeling, as opposed to closed cabins for privacy, which are still common in most manufacturing sectors. Even the conference room has a 50ft-long and 14ft-high clear glass façade,” Shrivastava explains.
The new office covers an area of 15,000ft²; when combined with the shop floor, the total built-up space is 200,000ft². In terms of materials, veneer was favoured for its warmth and glass was used for transparency; laminated wooden flooring was selected because of its durability, along with PVC strip flooring, vitrified tile flooring and closed loop carpet.
When it came to furnishings, Arkiplan selected ergonomic chairs with a suede-finish beige back, and black seats to minimise maintenance. Beige suede was also used for sofas.
A mix of mood and task lighting was called upon to create the sense of warmth that Tata was so keen to convey.
One of the key challenges that Arkiplan faced with this project was a highly compact timeframe. The entire project, covering the office and shop floor, had to be finished in eight months.
“The tough schedule meant that work was on 24 hours per day,” says Shrivastava. “And because of the timeframe, pre-engineered building was the chosen method of construction.”
There were also a series of technical obstacles to contend with. “The 36ft height on the first floor meant that the projected AC load calculated was too high, so the height had to be reduced via a false ceiling. Being a PEB structure, with no place to screw supports on the ceiling, the whole upper floor conference and display have been made like an axo skeleton where the walls support the false ceiling, not the roof,” he adds.
Adding further pressure on timeframes, the space had to be ‘green’; and in order to control this, the Tata team opted to custom-make all furniture to specification, onsite.
“Tata has always been a very responsible corporation, and it wanted to be sure that the set-up had a minimal footprint on the environment,” he says.
To this effect, 75% of the total area offers access to natural daylight and external views. High-performance glass has been used for the windows, and the building follows a no smoking policy — ensuring that indoor air quality is controlled.
More that 50% of construction waste was diverted from landfill and recovered through recycling. Energy-efficient, CFL-based light fixtures are used throughout, and water-conserving products were selected for the bathrooms.
Reconstructed veneer is used for finishing, and 50% of plywood was replaced with eco-friendly MDF board. Low VOC paint, coatings, adhesives and sealants were also used, as were recyclable materials such as steel frames, glass, aluminium and gypsum.
All of the pine wood used for the project was sourced within a 100km radius of the office . “The idea was to make a space which doesn’t look too different or isn’t crying out for attention – but works differently,” Shrivastava concludes.
Favoured materials: glass, veneer and wooden flooring
Challenges: Time restraints – from start to finish, the project was completed in eight months
Highlights: Sustainability was a key consideration in this design. More than 50% of construction waste was diverted from landfill and recovered through recycling; energy-efficient, CFL-based light fixtures are used throughout; reconstructed veneer is used for finishing and 50% of plywood was replaced with eco-friendly MDF board.