Building an academic facility is not often a complicated task. But when the requirements are doubled with suiting executive corporate spaces in a training environment, the design emerges with its own set of challenges. On top of having to meet the enhanced requirements for an environmentally friendly building, there were also concerns with the time within which the building had to be ready. So when Toyota Inc. sought to build an institutional facility that would benchmark that of their host for executive trainings, SBS, they knew best that only a design and construction team that had experience developing a similar kind of design would deliver to their need with specific requirements.
Lexicon + Ion were approached by Toyota Kenya Ltd, a group company of the global Toyota Tshusho Corporation, late in 2012 for design of an automotive and human resources training center relative to SBS in terms of looks, feel, interior finishes and functionality. The client also wanted a facility that inculcates the Toyota Way and Spirit.
The building would comprise of lecture and practical rooms (each with a capacity of 24-30), practical vehicle stalls, waiting lounge, self study room and paint booth among others. It was also required that the building be spacious, open and transparent to elevate thinking in line with the Toyota philosophy that ‘Good thoughts Brings up Good ideas’. They believed that with a good building, the staff and the students would be more inspired.
Initial Site Features
Motivated by the need to fill the technological change deficit in the local motor industry, the new facility was a critical addition to the Toyota Business Park.
There are three basic units in all Toyota facilities globally including sales, service and spares hence these units were already operational in different entities within the Park. There was the HINO Trucks Depot which is Toyota brand for trucks, Toyotsu Auto Mart which is the sales unit for used Toyota cars, Toyota Parts Center where all Toyota parts are received and either assembled or distributed and the Vehicle Licensing & Logistics Centre (this unit accommodates KRA office for inspection, licensing and issuing of number plates).
The only space left was a narrow piece of land on the extreme end of Toyota Business Park where the academy was to be constructed.
Site constraints in terms of size and orientation were a major challenge. The facility was being developed on a narrow site with existing buildings and hence it was going to face east west. This meant that the sun would directly fall on the main façade all day. Creating the look of a school more than a car garage was another challenge since the client wanted access to the service bay on the front. In terms of technology, the challenge was ensuring stability on the huge spans across the building to allow flexibility in use of the spaces. Uniting the concrete forming the slab at the top of the main façade with the narrow steel columns to create a light impression was quite a task too. In addition, creating balance for the mixed use requirements as well as improving and maximizing on the image from the existing facilities was also a challenge.
The architects strived to achieve the desired ‘cathedral of learning’ in a simple but interesting design that promotes Toyota’s corporate philosophy of living and prospering with people, society and the globe with an aim to generate value and contribute to the creation of a prosperous society.
In order to exclusively accommodate the various functions altogether, there was a need to define and separate areas that will be accessible to the public and those restricted to staff only hence the design had to have two levels. The ground floor training area is only open to staff members. The upper level on first floor is open to the public. It comprises of lecture rooms and offices where executive trainings for regional professionals can be conducted. The design on this level also allows flexible use of spaces.
The main academy for all the technical training is conducted on the ground floor. This level is fully installed with simulators, in ground vehicle lifts, alignment racks, service bays and support services (rest rooms and storage). There are four roll up doors for vehicle accessibility to the service bay. The architects ensured maximum flexibility on this level in the sense that the spaces can be adjusted depending on the training. To create appeal and project an academic theme, the architect switched the access to service bay to the rear façade so that the classrooms faced the business center and the landscape.
The facility is designed to maximize on natural daylight but at the same time mitigating the direct sun due to the orientation of the building. At the entry point of the building, thin steel columns are carefully placed in uniform intervals to support the glass walling and the heavy beam on the roof. The complete glass walling allows sufficient light into the building.
As an override, all rooms have manual switch to control lighting. Further, building management system (BMS) switches off lighting outside of normal hours of operation with permitted overrides for unusual after hours use. All work stations also have task lighting under control of an individual workstation user.
The massive glass work on all the openings ensures maximum transparency and an extroverted inspiration for the users. From different levels on the main facade, one is able to enjoy a great view of the bonded parking.
There is a vertical connection in the design achieved with the use of internal staircase with a lift to allow for handicapped access to the upper floor. Facility cleaning and maintenance areas with isolated car exhaust systems are also designed within the building.
Designed to reduce heating, the building uses the evaporative cooling system; Evaporative coolers lower indoor temperatures by combining the natural cooling properties of evaporating water with an efficient air moving system. This combination of moisture and a steady breeze can lower indoor temperatures by as much as 30°F. Airflow is controlled by opening windows to allow the unit to push warm air outside. Evaporative coolers also add moisture, which helps keep fabrics and wood from drying out, and the water-filled pads act as a type of filter, removing dust and allergens from the air.
Improving standardized work is a never-ending process in the culture of the corporation. In the same spirit, the facility is also designed based on the specific program configuration that includes a Kazien Dojo – a Japanese term that refers to a brainstorming room that is basic for all Toyota facilities around the world with a focus on developing human resources. In this room cum, workshop, members take time to learn key concepts through instruction, discussion, simulation and small-group exercise. This element, that is frequently neglected but essential for learning to take root in both academic and corporate environments promotes problem solving and helps team members in developing individual and team capacity.
Lexicon+Ion ensured that the facility is well ventilated by use of large windows to allow in sufficient natural air flow into the building. There are underground water tanks into which rainwater is harvested to maximize water efficiency within the facility. Landscaping in the academy also allows for a seamless transition between the indoors and the outdoors. Tree clusters create a cool shaded landscape and softens the effect of the concrete jungle.
The architects created a good balance aesthetically with a combination of the timeless natural blue stone, bright colors plus light glass for a modern look and feel. The exterior finish on the cantilever and the plastered stonework is Epoxy coating which has a white glitter that has an interesting shimmer from the sun rays. There is also a balanced use of steel columns on the walls and the roof. The floor and the sanitary areas are made of tiles. All the internal doors are made of timber.
The two level complete facility comprises of a reception, a lounge, an instructors room, six classrooms, self study room, meeting room, principals office, kaizen dojo, paint booth, cafeteria, storage rooms, seven service bays(1 for trucks and 6 for cars), washrooms and a deck on the roof top.
Toyota Training Centre & Academy Kenya is a fresh kind of learning and training school in the region. The project, which was required to be complete within one year kicked off on the first quarter of 2013 and was complete by mid 2014. Located 3kms southeast of Nairobi, along Popo road off Mombasa road, Toyota Business Park serves as the satellite location for Toyota East African region that provides professional training and services for advanced technology. The entire facility sits on a total area of 2280sqm.
Structural Engineer: Apex System Consulting Group
M E E: Gill Consult
QS: Mark & Ashton
Main Contractor: DManji Construction Ltd