Thanks to the proliferation of various BIM tools and extensive sun studies, glass architecture is proving to be a sustainable and comfortable building trend in the tropics today. When used appropriately, glass can help reduce energy used to light and heat buildings through double glazing and use of natural daylight. Such is the Sifa Towers at the junction of Lenana road and Cotton Avenue in Kilimani, Nairobi. Wrapped in LOW-E glass around a composite steel structure, Sifa Towers is a twelve storey commercial development with all glazed facades designed by A+I Design Architects. The building is among the first multi storey steel buildings to fit in the Nairobi skyline and currently the tallest in the pre-dominant residential neighborhood.
The client, Late Mr. Shabbir Hassanali of Kings Developers Ltd wanted a unique and iconic building in the area. “The most important thing while undertaking any project is to listen to the needs of the client. In addition to wanting a distinct and iconic building, the client also wanted to make maximum use of the space on site,” explains Arch. Abbas, the Principal Architect at A+I Design. “We succeeded in meeting all the requirements to make Sifa towers a unique building,” he notes.
The building is designed to follow the shape of a hyperbolic parabolic curve which enhances the shape of the building despite the use of steel as a building material. The architects wanted to construct a building that would depict the working experience of professionals working in the 21st corporate world. “Professionals in the corporate world and everyone in general seems to be under too much pressure to deliver, achieve more and make the best out of life. We therefore designed Sifa Towers to help create vision; the glass represents endless imagination of what can be achieved by those working and using the building. It also allows the user visualize an outdoor experience since there was no space for landscaping. Sifa Towers brings out the passion and warmth, as well as the accommodating and welcoming nature for everyone who enters the building.” expresses Architect Abbas, the lead project designer.
The Composite steel structure is encased with concrete. STOPSOL glass was specific and suitable for facade building as it has a reflective effect that prevents too much UV light from entering the building. This type of glass therefore regulates the amount of heat and light entering the building.
The sharp corners at the top of the building are for ventilation purposes. The corners are designed at specific points and specific angles in relation to wind directions in the area. The breeze therefore blows towards the building cutting the need to use air conditioning. Marble, granite has been used on the lobbies for aesthetics.
The ceiling has been cladded in gypsum. There are two basements providing adequate parking for the occupants.
Transportation of building materials to the site was a major challenge. “Given the tight site, pre-mixed concrete and prefabricated steel had to be transported to site which is next to two busy roads. Erecting the structure was also challenging mostly due to limited space as well as the geographical location of the construction site,” explains Arch. Moiz, the Kenya Branch Director for A+I Design Architects.
The dense site was also a major challenge. The site was next to the main road with major traffic. “Excavation and taking care of the neighbors at the same time was a major challenge,” explains Arch. Moiz.
“The fact that Sifa Towers is a steel building that in itself is a sustainable feature. Steel is a long lasting building material that can be reused incase a building is dilapidated. The glass used is low energy, specially designed to allow minimum heat into the building.
It is also twisted in one specific direction to take care of the sun orientation so that the building gets less heat and maximum cooling. Sifa Towers therefore doesn’t require the use of air conditioning on normal weather,” explains Arch. Abbas.
The relay of the structural steel framework took seven months while the erection and completion of the entire building took one and half years.