Management and Information Centre, XJTLU, Suzhou

– By Su Yating –

seen from inside 2The new Management and Information Centre (MIC) at Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University has just been completed and it will be officially put into use in September 2013 when the new school year starts. Designed by Aedas, the MIC building is composed of various centres for learning and resources, administrative, training, and student activities. The building won an award as the best commercial real estate building in the Asia-pacific region as well as a Gold Award in the ‘China Habitat Model Architecture Planning and Design Competition”.

seen from inside 1The building of MIC was inspired by Taihu stone, which is an indispensable element in Chinese traditional garden and its natural form represents the Chinese scholar’s idealized explanation of nature. Aedas director, Andy Wen, the project architect of this project together with his design team, have subtly applied the hollows of Taihu rock to be the voids throughout the building. These not only promote visual interest, but also efficiently divide the interior space with different functions and satisfies the requirements of lighting, ventilation and public flows.

However, this most attractive perspective is also the most challenging part. The structure of the building is very complicated due to these series of irregular voids inside the building. These voids can have significant influence on air flow distribution: their shape coefficients of wind load cannot be confirmed by standard methods. Therefore, a wind tunnel experiment was carried out to measure the surface wind pressure of main building and podiums and to calculate both the shape of main structure design and the wind pressure of remaining/retaining structure design.

perspective analysis

sectionConsideration also had to be given to seismic design as there are some weak links in structure, giving rise to irregular torsional forces because of the concave-convex planes and the partial discontinuity of the floor. Furthermore, there is a large area of sloping cladding on the 7th and 8th floor making the stiffness irregular and complicating the stresses. Additionally, there are several corridors set between the central shafts that interlink so that the bearing components there are extremely intricate. Accordingly, as well as following the normal national seismic codes, a shaking table test was needed to understand and explore the failure mechanism and dynamic property under seism action to make sure that the anti-seismic properties and measurements were fully tested and proved

views outThe fire protection design is also challenging. Different heights within the shared spaces led to the need for fire separation to fall between different floors. Special fire curtains were adopted to enable a much more open interior space. The resulting semi-outdoor platform on the 7th and 8th floor was a controversial element that couldn’t be approved from simple coding procedures and a fire performance assessment test was devised – one that simulated a real fire scenario – to check if the fire protection design is in line with the occupancy, standards and performance requirements.

lecture room inside the buildingThe final design ambition is that of a “green” building. Energy saving has been enhanced with triple glazed low-e toughened insulating glass to make the entire curtain wall structure. Then they took advantage of bris-soleil-like exterior over-cladding (that helps form the texture of “Taihu stone”), to constitute self-adjusting shaded system. This enables heat preservation (creating a more solid heat-sink exterior) and insulation (reducing solar gain). On the other hand, it guarantees the sufficient intake of daylight, greatly reducing the indoor lighting requirements. Furthermore, the designers adopted a highly efficient water collection, cleaning heating and distribution system.

Many other technical measures like automatic monitoring systems for intelligent mechanical and electrical equipment and fresh air and heat recovery have resulted in a building with sensible energy – and money – saving design solutions. Admittedly, a number of these technical solutions have resulted in some missed opportunities for greater permeability through the interior spaces; balcony parapets designed  for health & safety rather than an ability to see over them; and cladding that actually (ironically) restricts daylighting within the central core – but it’s still a nifty building for all that.