Award-winning sustainability architect Mario Cucinella and international engineering practice Politecnica are behind the first eco-friendly mixed-use development in Ghana. The pilot project is set to become one of the city’s most prominent design landmarks for its energy and construction strategies that integrate innovative concrete technologies with local culture and climate.
Developed by Laurus Development Partners, which is a joint venture between Actis and Myma Belo Osagie, a Ghanaian national and owner of the land, One Airport Square (OAS) is situated in Accra’s newest commercial district, just minutes from the Kuduka International Airport. It comprises nine floors of offices and more than 21,000 square feet of retail space that meet the high demand for upscale workspace determined by the economic growth of Accra and its new role as a center of trade in the region.
The ground floor is set up as a public square, open to the city and its community. The scale and the morphology of the square enhance its urban presence as a place for culture, meeting, and socializing. It also boasts landscaped public gardens, two basement parking levels and a spectacular roof terrace.
This world-class development is the first building in Ghana to be constructed on seismic isolators without the grid systems, the first to utilize the U-boot slab system for reduction of the superstructure, and the first to employ the halfen coupler system for rebar connections.
It is a pioneering green commercial building in West Africa and an excellent example of sustainable energy management that has earned the prestigious MIPIM Awards 2011 in the Green Building category. The goal is energy savings of 30%-40% compared to the standards of local buildings, through strategies that reduce mechanical systems and include natural lighting and ventilation, solar shadings for controlling sunlight and heat gain, rainwater harvesting, a central atrium that acts as a buffer zone to aid natural cooling, and reducing energy usage that has been awarded 4 Stars by the Green Building Council of South Africa.
“The most advanced technologies are balanced with the local tradition, aiming at the most efficient design,” says Cucinella. “All of this generates a new idea of beauty: the ecological beauty.”
Inspired by the geometry of natural elements, the architecture has a striking exoskeleton design, reminding one of the diamond-patterned bark of Ghana’s palm trees.
Design responds to local culture and climate issues in equatorial Africa to enhance indoor environmental quality. The site plan shows a compact design that revolves around a multistory central atrium that adds natural light and ventilation. The difference in floor plan depths allow a more flexible internal layout and the overhangs provide the appropriate shielding from direct sunlight.
The climate encouraged using concrete for several reasons. Concrete acts as a fundamental thermal mass but also facilitates the realization of the angled pillars that give greater rigidity to the cantilevers while giving the architecture an ultra-modern identity and a sense of place. Therefore, the concrete diagrid is the key element to convey the dialogue between the best site-specific form and structure. The building could not be broken down into add-on elements because the architecture is only expressed through the dynamic of the concrete diagrid.