Project: New Administration Building
Location: Cape Coast, Central Region – Ghana
Client: University of Cape Coast [UCC]
Firm: Environmental Design Concepts Limited
Architect: Prof. George W. K. Intsiful
Date of completion: April 2021
Structural Engineers: Strescon Engineering Limited
Mechanical and Electrical Engineers: Impact Technologies Limited
Construction Company: Geofra Construction Works Limited
Photographs: from the architect
project narration from the architect …
In 2004, the then Vice-Chancellor of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology [KNUST], the late Prof. Kwesi A. Andam, was the Chairperson of the Vice-Chancellors of Ghana group (VCG). A meeting of the VCG was held in Kumasi on the KNUST campus and members had lunch at the Engineering Guest House. Later in the evening, I was at the Kumasi Golf Club when I received a telephone call from Prof. Andam that I should see him in the office the next day. When I did, he gave me a couple of telephone numbers to call. The first respondent to the first number I called happened to be the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cape Coast. The second respondent happened to be Prof. J. Anamuah-Mensah of the University of Education, Winneba.
I was invited to the UCC where the VC, the Pro VC, the Registrar, and the Finance Officer had a meeting with me and discussed whether I would be willing to design a new Administration Building for the UCC. They added that I had been recommended by Prof. Andam after they had inquired about who had designed the Engineering Guest House. I was pleasantly surprised since I knew the UCC had a Development Office with architects but they narrated the problems at the Development Office and wanted me to design the new building. The four leading officers of the UCC later visited the KNUST where they inspected the Engineering Guest House and the Engineering Auditorium and formally wrote to confirm me as the Consultant to design their new Administration Building. I was later invited to the UCC campus where I was shown the proposed site for the project. I requested spot levels that were provided and started the initial sketches for the project. A few trips to the UCC were made to discuss the initial sketches and the clients eventually approved the final sketches. The final drawings were then completed and the tendering process was done for the project to commence.
I drove around the UCC campus a few times to study the place even though I had stayed in one of the Halls of residence way back in 1977 to measure the Cape Coast Castle for my P. G. Dip. Arch design thesis project. I became convinced that all the existing buildings on the campus had been designed in the International Style or Modernism approach. Modernism has aesthetics such as clean lines, low and horizontal planes, use of modern materials, use of traditional materials in new ways, and a lot of glass for lots of natural light. It is a design language that strips away all excess ornaments from a building design and focuses on materials and the effective use of space. I, therefore, settled on this style for my design philosophy to respect the context of the campus but I was going to give the building my own interpretation of Modernism.
Virtually all the public Universities in Ghana have various offices on different parts of the campuses. My design concept, therefore, was to have a building with all the different sections of the University Administration under one roof to promote efficiency and save time and energy in the operations of the University. The site is adjacent to the University Library and since books and studies form one of the main reasons for the existence of any University, I decided to have the Vice-Chancellor’s office overlooking the Library. The accommodation schedule was also transformed into spaces around two courtyards to allow for natural ventilation and lighting.
Greenery was introduced in the first courtyard and due to the perennial water crisis in the Cape Coast Municipality, a reservoir was created in the second courtyard for harvesting of rainwater to be used in the washrooms in the building. The three-storey building (four with the basement) also has ramps and a lift (elevator) to accommodate physically challenged people. The open plan system was also used for the various spaces to allow for flexibility and changes in the needs of different offices over time.
Following the choice of the International Style or Modernism which emphasizes functionalism and new building materials, post and beam with reinforced concrete slab construction were used. Infilling on the external walls had rounded arches, the bottom portion of which in the rooms, had wooden cabinets for storage. The reinforced concrete arches also act as sun breakers. Glass sliding windows were used for the openings and the internal courtyards have aluminium balustrades on the verandahs.
As mentioned above, this Administration Building is the first of its kind in the public Universities in Ghana which has all the different sections of the University Administration under one roof. Furthermore, drainage of the staircases in the courtyard is achieved with steel chains from the roof into receptacles in the ground to avoid the spillage of water all over the ground. The reinforced concrete reservoir which harvests rainwater from the roof in the second courtyard is covered with a lawn which also makes the building sustainable. The landscaped first courtyard and the lawn planted on top of the reservoir also reduce the emission of heat from the building.
There were several challenges with the project from the very beginning. The University went to tender without the design drawings for the Electrical and Mechanical Services due to delays from the Services Engineer. Only provisional sums were used for the initial estimated cost of the Electrical and Mechanical Services for the project. Delays in the submission of such drawings led to the replacement of the Services Engineers during the construction period.
The major problem, however, was financing. This was a GETfund project and Interim Payment Certificates (IPCs) for both the Main Contractor and the Consultants were not honoured on time. Sometimes, payments were delayed for over two to three years. Instability at the UCC’s Development Office also contributed hugely to the delay in completing the project as the project saw three different Acting Director of Works. The project was even suspended for nearly four years as the Development Office decided to use funds from GETfund to complete one project at a time. The project saw five Vice-Chancellors and was completed in April 2021 only because the current Vice-Chancellor, Prof. J. Nyarko Boampong, decided to use internally generated funds to complete the building within one year.