With the astounding acceleration of ESG investing, companies are more conscious than ever of their environmental footprint. For manufacturing facilities in particular, efforts aimed at prioritizing environmental impact over economic gain are seen as paramount to long-term success.
Following global trends, Vietnam is finally starting to see sustainable architecture being implemented in manufacturing facilities across the country. A recent example is the Jakob Factory project designed by rollimarchini architekten from Bern and Swiss-born and Vietnam-based G8A Architects for Jakob Rope Systems.
Founded in 1904, Jakob Rope Systems was originally a manufacturer of hemp ropes for Swiss farmers. Today, they are present in over 45 countries and offer an extensive line of products ranging from small-scale sports netting to custom-made steel meshing used in grand architectural projects.
The result of the rollimarchini – G8A collaboration is a highly innovative showroom and factory housing Jakob Rope Systems’ specialist steel rope manufacturing line. The 30’000m2 site area is placed in the center of an industrial park 50 kilometers north of Saigon, the economic capital of Vietnam.
From conceptualization to execution, the two practices have taken the client’s vision of environmental and social sustainability and turned it into a progressively-minded project.
Designing for the future
Jakob Rope Systems wanted to create an example of what the future of production factories could be. Currently, on the outskirts of Saigon, most of the existing factories occupy an unnecessary large ground area and have roofing that generates a violent amount of heat.
Jakob Factory proposes a unique land-saving alternative to the typical horizontal spread of manufacturing factories. G8A employed a vertical densification strategy by stacking usable zones on superimposed slats to safeguard the land. By avoiding as much unnecessary construction and ground usage as possible, while still offering the workers plenty of greenery and outdoor space, the resulting design succeeds in referencing the future of environmentally sustainable architecture.
A living organism
Taking inspiration from traditional tropical architecture of Vietnam, the L-shaped factory was developed with a porous facade that is wrapped in what almost looks like a luscious cloak of green, stretching over three kilometers. Each side of the factory is cared for differently since the plants were chosen for the way the sun rises and sets. In fact, the plants are doing so well that the factory is considering starting a vegetable garden.
The suspended structure is supported by a two-layer rope network stretching from the ground to the roof, while the horizontal geotextile planters not only filter rain and sun, but also lower atmospheric temperature through evaporation, serving as air purifiers and dust particle binders.
This pioneering model combined with the plantation facade and modular interior walls actually makes Jakob Factory the first project in Vietnam to be completely naturally ventilated. The building is a living organism in and of itself. It's breathing and it's very much alive.
Behind the green
At Jakob Factory, the manufacturing process is built around the traditional manual skills of the local craftsmen who incorporate European roping techniques into their work. As a result, although heavy machinery is present, the long halls are dominated by the beautiful lines of people hand-weaving and netting. The work doesn’t require any heavy lifting, but rather lots of precise measuring and mastery of technique.
Slowly but surely
For Vietnam, the fact that the global trend towards sustainable and environmentally-friendly architecture was a bit late to arrive, could be a blessing in disguise. It allowed local designers to learn from the past mistakes and avoid repeating them in both the planning and construction phase.
Now is the time to start laying the foundation for what could be a more sustainable future for Vietnam’s architecture. There remains a lot to be done for contemporary indigenous architecture to evolve in a holistic manner, and Vietnam is headed in the right direction. Today’s architecture majors have excellent examples in front of them and should take this opportunity to learn from the pioneering projects that are being done here. The time is ripe for a change.
Architects: rollimarchini architekten + G8A Architecture & Urban Planning
Client: Jakob Rope Systems
Lead Contractor: Trung Hau Construction Group