Daimler India Commercial Vehicles Pvt. Ltd., Oragadam

THE TRUCK and bus plant for Daimler India Commercial Vehicles is one of the most comprehensive industrial complexes designed and constructed in recent times where all facilities starting with research to manufacturing and assembly totaling to 211,800m2 were built in a single phase and the plant made operational within a short span of two and a half years. It is located at Oragadam about 60Km out of Chennai in a four hundred acre site. While developing the Master Plan a water course was planned that would take in this water and drain the site into an artificial lake (7 acres in area) from which the outflow would be regulated to ensure that up-stream and down-stream conditions remained unchanged despite this major intervention. The regulation relating to a 'no-build' area of 15 meters adjoining the forest land was strictly enforced and developed as a tree filled buffer zone to manage the transition to the built-up factory zone.

The site is broadly divided into five functional areas –
a) Test track and the R&D Facility
b) Manufacturing Facility
c) Administration and social facilities
d) Vendor Park
e) Green belts and buffer zones.

Their locations were determined by the process, man and material movement and security considerations. The movement of truck and passenger vehicles has been segregated by providing separate entries and a traffic system where the two do not intersect. A large holding area for trucks bringing materials has been provided within the site near the material entry gate to eliminate congestion on the highway and to avoid any inconvenience to other road users.

The social facilities comprising the administration building, cafeteria, change rooms, etc., are grouped together and surrounded by landscaped areas as a relief from machine dominated work zones. These facilities form a cluster with a concave facade which is fronted by a plaza through which all of them can be approached. Visually this draws one to the centre of the curve where the entrance to the administration building is positioned. The main lobby of the administration building is a large two-storey high space with a central column which divides into four at the top and meshes with the roof beams. It is a metaphor for the 'Tree of Life' which signifies the inter-connectedness of all life forms and the idea that everything evolves together.

Several passive design features have been incorporated in the design of these buildings to make them energy efficient. Longer sides of the buildings generally face north and south and the depth of the buildings is such that no area is more than 9m away from a window. This helps maximize daylight penetration. Since the shorter sides face east and west, heat absorption is also minimized. To reduce the heat load and to economize on air-conditioning costs we have developed a method called attic cooling wherein, the design incorporates an attic within which cool air, but with high humidity, is circulated bringing down the surface temperature of the roof by more than 15°C while also simultaneously serving to evacuate heat from the building shell in the process.

The training centre for both manufacturing and marketing is located in a secluded area near the lake away from all the manufacturing activities. It comprises classrooms, seminar rooms and workshop areas designed to suit their training methods.

The manufacturing buildings are steel structures based on a functional structural module adopted by Daimler in all its plants. This standardization is based on flexibility levels found to be practical by the users and the need for incremental expansions in several sections of the plant when required. The roof incorporates a monitor which houses the ventilation equipment and linear skylights for day-lighting of the factory. By pumping in the cool air into the building throughout the night it is possible to cool the building shell and machinery. This concept of night-cooling helps mitigate the effect of radiation for a good part of the day.

The spare parts warehouse is a stand-alone building of 6070m2 in area, separated from the main plant for functional reasons. It is a 'zero energy' building since it generates all the power that it needs from roof mounted solar panels. While the building is oriented at an angle of 45° to the N-S axis, its roof is not. It is a north light structure which while providing glare - free lighting for the interior has large external surfaces inclined towards the south for mounting photovoltaic panels for solar power. This resulted in an interesting architectural form quite different from the rest of the plant.

The test track for research and development work was the first facility to become operational and is located in the northern corner of the site. There are several different types of tracks which simulate Indian road conditions, the data for which was generated by Daimler who carried out extensive road tests in the country. Based on the performance specifications spelt out by clients, we carried out the physical designs, developed the geometry and specifications for the pavement construction. Daimler in their newsletter called it a combination of German DNA and Indian engineering.

Client : Daimler India Commercial Vehicles

Area : 211,800 sq m

Location : Oragadam, Tamil Nadu

Role : Architectural & Engineering Design and Project Management Support

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