smart office


YEAR: 2017-2018



An IoT and IT services company, Volteo, required an office space for its growing team of engineers. The brief called for a state-of-the-art contemporary and fun office space with workstations, informal and formal gathering spaces as well as break-out zones and other facilities for the employees as there was frequent coordination between the company’s branches in India and Mexico with its USA head office, and the office would function round the clock. An important aspect of the brief was to integrate Volteo’s IoT products into the building itself. A “smart building” was envisioned via data-driven design. The IoT products developed by Volteo include light sensors, heat sensors, measurement devices and building automation devices that can be controlled via the Internet and provide feedback in the form of physical output such as control of lighting through the windows, temperature control and digital media. The office was to serve as a walk-through portfolio showcasing the company’s products and services to clients and visitors.

The site is located in a commercial building in Jubilee Hills, a upmarket area of Hyderabad and the office was to be an extension on the top floor. Due to building byelaws restricting the height of the building, the extension was proposed in steel, which would be considered a temporary structure.

The heart of the office is an open-to-sky courtyard with a plumeria or temple tree inside it, enveloped with glass. This provides the feel of a ground floor space to this office on the sixth floor in an urban jungle, right next to the metro line, with trains passing by at regular intervals. This lung space counters the concrete and noise of the city around, and negates the stiffness and artificial construct of a regular office by bringing nature indoors. Another green space is the elevator wall that becomes a green wall stretching from the lower level up to the mezzanine. Further green spaces are created on the terrace by the entrance which can be seen from within the glass enclosure of the office.

The floor has been divided into various zones as per use: work, meet, eat, play, relax and gather. Each of these have been color-coded, and a network of lines on the floor starting at the reception lead visitors to different zones. The furniture and accents in each space embody the color theme of the zone.

In order to respect different working styles, the workspaces were further sectioned into an open-plan workspace for teamwork, individual workstations and passive, silent pods for those who find it difficult to work in an active, communal space. The stacked pods serve multiple functions: individual workstations, insulated cubicles for taking phone calls, and private meeting rooms for up to four people. These pods have been based on the design of a honeycomb, which allows optimal usage of space by staggering of units so that six hexapods can fit in the space of four regular pods. The tapers sides of the pods serve as backs of the booth-style seating, affording more space. These pods poke into the green courtyard, and provide a unique view of the green space on one side and the metro on the other. Passing trains are at eye-level with the office, and the inner configuration of the spaces is visible to passengers. A large conference room and informal meeting space are provided on the mezzanine level above the reception.

One challenge to be worked around was the existing water tank which could not be relocated. This was raised 8’ above the slab and could only accommodate spaces that did not require height, and so toilets were placed in this space. The large walls of the water tank were turned into a giant interactive screen or smart wall that is directly connected to the IoT systems of the office space: monitoring the water level in the tank, water consumption in the toilet, energy-consumption in the office, the weather outside, occupancy, and providing information in the form of animated infographics on the 3D smart wall. IoT integration was one of the key requirements for the office. The smart wall syncs with sensors gathering data from the environment inside and outside the office space, representing it graphically as well as providing real-time response in the form of actions such as temperature control, daylighting filtration and regulation of artificial lighting temperatures and other automated feedback to create the optimum interior workspace that adapts to its users. It can also be used to connect with Volteo’s overseas branches for a virtual company-wide meet. The office further serves as a walk-in portfolio of Volteo’s products for visiting clientele.

Beyond the courtyard is a gym for employees with a glass wall whose opacity can be regulated. Next to this is a small pantry and a large arena seating with much-needed storage space built into the steps. This space also had multiple functionalities: seating during lunchtime, a space for all team members to gather for an informal meet, or a formal presentation or seminar hall. The tinted glass between this theater and the gym can be used as a projector wall for presentations.

Adjacent to this space is the CEO’s office, which is enclosed yet has a view of the arena seating. A private toilet inside has a bed built into the top, which can be used for the CEO or traveling executives who may work overnight.

The shell of the extension is completely in steel. The façade has also been designed as a steel-framed honeycomb with hexagonal packing. Instead of a complete glass façade, which increases energy-consumption, the parametric hexagonal façade shields the interior from heat and direct sunlight, forming a sort of lattice or jali suitable to the climate in the Deccan Plateau. The façade itself reflects the inner workings of the office, and varies in depth as needed. Deeper sections become seating areas and storage, and provide shade from the harsh sun. The glass of the façade further regulates daylight by varying its opacity based on environmental information, making it an adaptive smart façade. The roof is an extrusion of the hexagonal façade, which alternately slants from end to end, creating an interesting tapered trussed roof which allows for large-span column-free spaces within. The sloped roof also facilitates the collection of rainwater runoff for harvesting and reuse in the gardens and as grey water in the toilets. As the office is at the same level as the passing metro, the geometric color-coded roof can also be seen from the trains.