Sanwell’s new headquarters in Welshpool, Perth is quite clearly a modern workspace; it is also a wonderful amalgamation of aesthetic design, natural form and function and has a substantially low ecological footprint.
Located in the thick of the industrial precinct of the inner eastern suburb of Perth the brand new headquarters of Sanwell, a company that is engaged in commercial and industrial hydraulic services, beautifully blend form, function and sustainability.
However, the challenge at hand for the architectural firm of Braham Architects was to help fit in this commercial building in a typical industrial zone. They succeeded with aplomb and the result is a complex yet fluid structure; a product of a radical spin on a conventional tilt-up industrial building.
A project of Australia-based Braham Architects (winners of the Architecture Award for Sustainable Architecture at the WA Architecture Awards, 2015), the Sanwell Headquarters building was a product of a bare-bones project scope that evolved over time to cater to the diverse and highly developed needs of the ultimate users.
“In all the projects we do, we have a strong focus toward an environmentally sustainable design. Our client didn’t request it, in actual fact, it never came up, but it’s always one of our primary considerations along with fulfilling our client brief,” says Ben Braham from the Practice Team at Braham Architects.
“Seeing that the building performs efficiently with a full consideration for the environment allows the structure to even better support its occupants. From the ground up, sustainability was addressed through, construction, future proofing, material selection, daily energy use through to end of life cycle dismantling and recycling.”
Another major achievement is the drastic increase in the lifespan, flexibility and adaptability of the building achieved by its intelligent design. Clever use of space that allows for interchangeability, expansion and easy plug and play is another prominent feature at the Sanwell Headquarters.
Large breakout areas, and a fluidity between the formal/informal spaces were established; this fact invites the occupants to freely float in and out of them. Future extensions have also been facilitated by a steel structure that sits on the perimeter of the building, with the exception of two columns.
Flexible planning of interior spaces has meant that several large spaces inside can potentially accommodate increased numbers of staff when future growth plans are rolled out.
“We had to respond to an existing building on the adjacent site, a 5 to 10 year strategy for business growth, a long term consideration of 30 to 40 years of allowing the building to adapt through various iterations of developments, changing strategies and a potential for an unknown user. These challenges allowed us to strengthen the design,” says Ben. This has ensured that the building will remain relevant, valuable and functional for an extensive span of time.
One of the pivotal features of the sustainable design was the use of an aluminium brise-soleil. This corrugated, perforated, anodised metal façade, hugely cuts solar gain and also provides visual connectivity.
Ben explains the choice was an environmental one as well, “We really wanted to use a refined but industrial inspired brise-soleil to deal with the harsh environment in Welshpool. This allowed both views out and a huge increase in ambient natural light, but reduced the heat into the building and onto the building envelope by over 70%.” It is permeable, lightweight and low maintenance – all important sustainability factors.
Awning windows, louvres and other high-level openings help channel the cooling south-westerly breezes. The building therefore has enhanced natural ventilation. Combined with the decrease in solar gain, and a permeable facade, the building’s consumption of power was also reduced. Other lighting requirements were met using low-energy LEDs that are liberally used throughout the project.
A 150mm thick insulated sandwich panel ensured insulation throughout the building and over the entire roof. A keen focus not just on sustainable energy sources like solar power, but on an intelligent design that worked with the environment rather than against it ensured that the net power used to heat, cool and maintain temperatures within the structure was drastically minimised.
“Our material palette was selected for environmental credentials along with a potential to dismantle and recycle upon end of use and reduced resource demand during construction,” says Braham.
The Sanwell Headquarters, in addition to all of the above, also features on-site leach draining systems that not only manage all waste disposals on-site, but additionally save water thanks to the low-water trees and planting. Additional sustainable measures were: fully recyclable carpets, low odour, low VOC paints used throughout and the use of over 100 solar panels that deliver 30kw of power.
That’s not all; end-of-trip facilities like an extensive bicycle parking facility encourages guests and clients to adopt healthier, sustainable means of transport to even get to the office. Tell me, if this is not taking sustainability a step further.
Text By Revati Upadhya
Photographs Courtesy Braham Architects And Robert Frith (ACORN)