ACC India: A Green Building for a Green Company.

ACC India: A Green Building for a Green Company

After its careful renovation in 2008, Indian ACC Limited's headquarters is a showpiece for an office building that complies with highest energy efficiency standards while preserving the building's historical appearance.

ACC Limited is India's foremost manufacturer of cement and concrete. Formerly called "The Associated Cement Companies Limited", its operations are spread throughout the country with nearly 10000 employees, 14 modern cement factories, 20 sales offices, and a countrywide distribution network of dealers.

Among the first companies in India to include commitment to environment protection as a corporate objective, ACC has been a trend-setter in sustainable development. It has won several accolades for environment friendly measures taken at its plants and mines and for its acts of good corporate citizenship.

ACC's newly renovated headquarters now aptly showcases its core ethos of pursuing a people and planet-friendly agenda.

ACC was formed in 1936 when ten existing cement manufacturers came together under one umbrella - the country's first notable merger. When ACC was incorporated, its registered office was housed in Esplanade House located in Fort, then Mumbai's main business district. Additional space was taken in the nearby Forbes and Rallis office buildings. The company decided to build its own head office and acquired a plot of land.

An all-India competition in 1938 had invited leading architects of the time to send in their designs of which the design submitted by Ballardie Thompson & Mathews was chosen as the winning entry. Work on its construction began in 1939 and was completed in 1943 during the War period. The new building was requisitioned for use of the Royal Air Force and vacated only in 1946 when the company finally shifted to its own premises. The address of this stately building was then Number 1, Queen's Road, Churchgate.

Cement House has stood proudly adorning this stretch of the road. It had a boundary wall on all four sides with two lamp-adorned front gates and a driveway that led into the compound, passing through its elegant porch. In the late 1960's, the front wall was surrendered when the main road was set back eastwards to accommodate the expansion of the Western suburban railway lines. The porch then became part of public thouroughfare with a sidewalk passing through it. Later the road was renamed and the building acquired its current address of 121, Maharshi Karve Road.

Outside view of Cement House

Cement House was taken up for renovation in 2008, with Knight Frank India, as project management consultants and Niteen Parulekar Associates Limited as the architects. The complex assignment of renovating and refurbishing an old building into a structure worthy of housing the headquarters of one of India's respected companies was aptly titled Project Orchid. The aim was to retain the stately façade but transform the interiors into a contemporary workplace that is energy-efficient and able to exemplify the values of the organization. The 70-year old building has now become a well equipped and ultra modern office. This work involved modernization of all the elements of this structure with added features of intelligent lighting, climate and access control, state-of-the-art office equipment and utilities, modular furniture, workstations and well equipped conference rooms.

Unfolding Space
The highlight of the refurbishment is an open office plan with no cabins or cubicles. A central shaft in the core of the building has been redesigned to serve as a ready-made grand atrium around which offices on each floor are laid out. All employees from the junior most to the managing director of the company now sit in open spaces. Storage and utility areas on each floor are aggregated and located as a common facility. All these leave substantial space for use as open corridors, lounges and just open spaces. The ample use of glass further accentuates the sense of space. Three unused terraces in the building have been converted into green roof gardens complete with thick grass, cobble-stones, pathways, flowers and even palm trees. Sturdy native plant species have been chosen that conserve water.

Open discussion room

The interior décor maximizes the use of daylight rarely seen in large buildings of this kind. The absence of partitions, the wide windows and the huge central atrium have together flooded the office interiors with natural daylight that make electric lights redundant for most of the day. Optical and motion sensors provide automatically controlled lighting to workspaces based on occupancy. Similarly, the new air-conditioning systems regulate the flow of cool air depending on ambient temperature and occupancy in different sections of the office. The use of solar water heaters together with daylight harvesting, intelligent lighting and cooling systems help reduce overall energy consumption by 25 per cent.

A central atrium opens up offices in all floors

The materials selected for use in flooring, ceiling, furniture, wall coverings, carpets, partitions and various housekeeping items are non-toxic and mostly high in their recycled content or amenable to future recycling. Only low Volatile Organic Compound paints, adhesives and sealants have been used to safeguard the indoor environment.

The façade has been refurbished to enhance the building's heritage appeal. The rich legacy of ACC lives on in the Nani Palkhivala Hall that was the board room of the organization. Adequate care has been taken to preserve and embellish the room, its large oval table and leather-upholstered chairs that still echoes with the memories of its founding fathers, whose portraits adorn the room's veneered walls.

The Nani Palkhivala Hall retains its heritage

Project Orchid has been registered under LEED New Construction & Major Renovation rating of the Indian Green Building Council. Cement House is the first project in the country to be registered under the criteria of major renovation of an existing building. Project Orchid not only transforms Cement House but has a visible impact on ACC itself of visibly demonstrating its culture of being a planet-friendly organisation without boundaries which fosters teamwork and effective communication.