Design secrets that make SIMS stand out

SIMS has won many awards for its architecture. Find out how it created a unique identity for itself

If you happen to lose your way and land at the SIMS campus, even without any signboards you will know that this campus has something to do with shipping.
The maritime stamp is unmistakable in its design and layout. It also has an integrated campus architecture and single buildings dont stick out but form a part of a harmonious group. It all started with a good Master Plan, the framework for open spaces, circulation and appropriate building placement. Like all good Master Plans it was based on unified campus architecture where individual buildings (parts) harmonise with the underlying concept rather than stand out as single-building exhibits, regardless of when they are built. It also helped that the entire campus was created in one go.

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Stand-out-Design: Maritime theme unifies the architecture
Once the concept of developing a campus based on shipping theme was finalised the next step was to work on a unified campus design to develop clear visual and functional ties between buildings. Visual ties include materials and form where buildings conform to a certain size, style or concept. Visual ties give a sense of unity where buildings are perceived as essential components of the whole.

Two materialssteel and glass, which are also the building blocks of ships, were used to create a visual tie of a maritime ambience on the campus. When it came to form it was the ship shape of the buildings that lent a sense of unity. Built ships dotting the campus include the academic complex, the administration centre, the students hostel and the ship-in-campus practical lab.

Academic complex: A lineal atrium running through the academic building connects 14 large classrooms into one ship-like composition, culminating in pointed porches at either end. Another such ship is the administration complex. Its two walls, like a ship, fall apart in the middle and rejoin at the ends.

Students hostels: The quarter kilometre long hostel for 400 cadets and post-sea officers mimics a ship sailing on grass lawns. In spite of no dearth of space, the hostel rooms are designed like ship cabins compact, with attached toilets and made of similar furniture and materials to give students a taste of work life ahead, says Christopher Charles Benninger, Principal Architect, Christopher Charles Benninger Architects. Funnel-shaped atriums break the monotony of the length as well serve as break-out areas for students occupying the nearest stretch. The auditorium anchors the student hostel ship at the South end while the catering centre brings up its North end.
Practical lab: A unique eight-storey ship-in-campus containing a full scale engine room, deck and cabins, and equipped with essential navigation and engineering tools is set along a two-acre lake created from harvested water. This makes it possible to conduct real (as opposed to virtual) life saving drills and exercises. A nautical workshop, a large swimming pool, a football/cricket ground and other athletic facilities dot the campus as well. Pathways help build unity and relations between adjacent and aligned buildings. Aligning buildings in turn helps to clearly define open spaces. SIMS ceremonial walkway, running parallel to the hostels, links the residential and academic areas of the campus. The water tank tower forms an iconic obelisk, and framed by the mountain
ranges, anchors this walkways termination.

Green Campus: Indias largest BIPV installation meets most of the powerrequirements, recycles water and waste
Green campuses are the buzzword these days. They are less expensive to maintain,demonstrate the institutions commitment to sustainable and eco-friendly practices and teach students a valuable lesson in conservation. There are numerous features that make SIMS a green campus: solar hot water panels, two bio-sewerage treatment plants that recycle 80% of the water consumed (grey water) to gardens and water sinks, compost banks producing organic fertilizer and water harvesting via catchment canals circling the campus.

Natural air conditioning is provided by the nifty design of aluminium louvers in the long hostel and the curved academic building that act as a passive air conditioning system, allowing in natural ventilation and daylight, while keeping bright sunlight off the fenestration.

The North-facing wavy glass atrium wall lets in sunlight while the Southfacing photovoltaic faade helps generate electricity. In fact the installation of solar voltaic panels on the ninety meter long wall is the longest such installation in the world. It also happens to have Indias largest Building Integrated Photovoltaic (BIPV) Technology which helps the institute meet most of its power requirements on its own.

Best Practices: Designed to optimise costs, encourage interactions among departments include local nuances

Future ready: Best designed higher education institutions boast of thoughtful design that incorporates contemporary technologies and materials, to hold good for at least a decade without alterations, says Benninger. SIMS was designed in 2005, when Wi-Fi zones were only starting to be spoken about in the commercial context. Yet modern internet technology is woven into the structures.

Encouraging interactions: Working transparency into the design of buildings housing different centres helps increase awareness about each and creates a sense of involvement with the whole. This is especially important when designing multiple departments of a university. In practice, it requires thinking of exterior walls (especially at the ground level) not only as a means to contain and define the inner spaces but also as a means to promote unification (as opposed to emphasising separation). Glass walls or floor to ceiling fenestrations encourage the visual fusion of indoor and outdoor spaces,as can be seen in the SIMS catering centre design.

Optimising operational costs: With rising energy and water tariffs and resource scarcity prudent management at higher education institutions are looking at ways to cut energy costs. Design can help maximise energy efficiency. Cleverly placed BIPV panels on the southern walls of the SIMS maritime workshop and of the administration
building together produce 90 KW of energy for the institute. Providing for natural illumination also cuts the consumption of non-renewable energy. Including local nuances: While building to global standards, the architecture should also reflect a few local nuances. Translucent and opaque photovoltaic cells making up the 300 feet long solar
wall in the maritime workshop are patterned on the traditional Indian jaali design, allowing in natural light while blocking heat.

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