#smart office

A little help from Mother Nature

Bangkok-based Plan Associates is one of Thailand’s elite architectural firms. In the north of the kingdom, they have created a new office building that harnesses the forces of nature.

If you like the heat, you’ll feel right at home in Chiang Mai. But keeping a cool head at the office in a city with an average temperature of 26 degrees requires air conditioning. Or a workplace designed by the architects at Plan Associates – with smart, free assistance from a real expert: Mother Nature herself.

Aided by the wind

Constructing a new office building with a floor space of 5,300 square metres in the north of Thailand took a budget of 120 million baht, equivalent to 3.3 million euros. And a basic idea for the positioning of the building: “The space planning of the four-storey building is oriented towards wind flow to use natural ventilation for cooling the office space.”

Plan Associates

Plan Associates managed to blend pleasant benefits with useful ones in a successful architectural design: a large part of the first storey, supported by columns, remains open to allow the offices on the second floor to be cooled by the air flow from below. At the same time, a wide timber staircase also offers shady areas for spontaneous outdoor meetings or relaxing lunch breaks.

Rose of the North

Chiang Mai is the capital of the province of the same name in the northern region of Thailand and the second largest city in the Southeast Asian kingdom, after Bangkok. The city has 127,000 inhabitants, with a metropolitan region of around 1.2 million people. And it is also known as the “Rose of the North” due to its natural beauty.

The history of Chiang Mai dates back to the year 1296, when King Mangrai, who is shrouded in myths and legends, founded his kingdom Lan Na (“Kingdom of a Million Rice Fields”) and made Chiang Mai its capital. Lying at the foot of the 1,685-metre-high Doi Pui and home to some 200 Buddhist temples, over recent decades the city has increasingly lost its former tranquillity to Western hustle and bustle.

Tradition meets modern thinking

The architects from Plan Associates wanted to counter this and attempted to harmonize the traditional features of the historic city with natural and modern elements like brick and aluminium. A central, leafy inner courtyard offers a taste of the plant diversity of the jungle, and also natural light.

The space planning of the four-storey building is oriented towards wind flow to use natural ventilation for cooling the office space.

Plan Associates

In fact, natural light and its ideal use in the building were important parts of the planning process – and not only in the bright and inviting cafeteria. The second and third floors are naturally lit during the day thanks to the generous use of glass and aluminium in the design. At the same time, a clever louvre system made up of slender bricks creates an unmistakable look for the building, while offering an elegant form of protection against direct sunlight.

Working away from the sun

Space allocation followed similar natural guidelines to those that influenced positioning of the building according to wind direction. While the north, east and south sides contain offices that are used practically all day, the west side – which is exposed to the intense afternoon sun – mainly has rooms for short meetings.

The flat roof is equipped with rows of solar panels that power, for example, a lighting system operated by motion sensors to prevent unnecessary energy consumption. This will have been welcomed by the Thai Green Building Institute (TGBI) – the new Choice Headquarters has been awarded its Platinum TREES certificate.

Plan Associates – sharing ideas and knowledge

Plan Associates was founded in 1975 by a group of architects who – according to the company history – “were bound together by a passion to create innovative and socially responsible architectural designs”.

The constant flow and exchange of ideas and knowledge are the hallmarks of our team spirit.

Plan Associates

Little has changed in the firm’s basic philosophy today: “The constant flow and exchange of ideas and knowledge are the hallmarks of our team spirit. We are not only open to fresh prospects, different techniques and the wisdom of experience, we actively seek this out in each member of our team”.

Architecture as an expression of the heart

Today, the Bangkok-based company is one of Thailand’s leading architecture and planning firms – and not only since the parliament building it designed in the capital was completed in 2020. Other highlights in the company’s extensive portfolio include the headquarters of the Bank of Thailand, the headquarters of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunication Commission (NBTC) and, most recently, the mega project “One Bangkok”, with its various phases due to be completed between 2023 and 2026.

Plan Associates

“Architecture is an integral part of community life. It tells us who we are, where and how we live, and what we aspire towards,” the Plan Associates website reads. “It is a physical expression of our heart and soul. We approach architectural design with an artistic heart and a pragmatic soul.” And in Chiang Mai, we might add: with a cool head as well.

Text: Hannes Kropik
Photos: DOF Sky|Ground