The NICCA Innovation Center is a research institute of NICCA Chemical, a global developer and manufacturer of surfactants and cosmetics for professional use. Located in a neighbourhood within the Fukui Plain, the centre is designed to be a source of innovation that attracts people from all over the world. It creates a bustling bazaar-like atmosphere, with a series of open spaces that encourage interaction.
Arup, in collaboration with Tetsuo Kobori & Associates, was responsible for the structural and environmental design. We analysed the unique climate of Fukui and helped realise an energy-efficient and comfortable workplace based on the concept of ‘harvest’, incorporating abundant well water, natural light, and prevailing winds.
In recognition of these efforts, we were selected as a leading company for the ‘CO₂ Saving Leading Project for Houses and Buildings’ sponsored by Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism.
25.6m large span
60°slit angle for concrete slit slabs
A space for collaboration
The Innovation Center has two main ‘commons’: the ‘Office Common’, an office area; and the ‘Public Common’, which includes an exhibition space, café, dining hall, and practical labs for visitors to experience NICCA's achievements up close. The two commons are seamlessly integrated into a unified space, with transparent laboratories arranged around them.
The arrangement of the two spaces reflects the ideas developed in workshops with employees: a common space for interaction with others, and a space for personal experimentation. This three-dimensional spatial configuration creates an innovative environment that can be used for multiple purposes by a wide variety of people.
Vertical connectivity is achieved through an atrium, creating an open space where users’ activities themselves form a museum-like exhibition landscape. Additionally, closed spaces are provided for the privacy of employees, allowing them to choose their preferred environment according to their individual moods and physical conditions.
4 levels connected as one
To foster interaction among researchers and stimulate creativity, a bright and comfortable environment was required for Fukui, an area with heavy snowfall and low annual sunshine rate. The centre of the building is a large space with a height difference of approximately 15m, which is connected vertically and horizontally over four levels, allowing visitors to experience the changes in nature.
At the top of this spacious area, a large roof incorporating top lights and concrete slit slabs (CSS) were installed. This design allows soft, reflected and diffused light to enter the office space through the CSS, creating a pleasant atmosphere.
Harvest of water, light and wind
Fukui has been blessed with abundant groundwater, which has played a significant role in its development throughout history. The region also benefits from precious sunlight, particularly in Hokuriku known for its heavy snowfall and frequent cloudy weather. Additionally, the prevailing winds from the north and south during mild seasons contribute to the local climate.
To ensure well-lit office spaces and effective removal of solar heat, we designed CSS with a 60° angle. This allows skylight from the north to pass through the slits, while direct sunlight is reflected, filling the office space with a pleasant glow. The CSS shape was optimised through light environment simulations and mock-ups. The slits are equipped with buried pipes that use well water heat to effectively ‘cool’ the light. In certain ceiling openings, louvers made of ‘three-dimensional light diffusion fabric’ are installed to diffuse natural light. Similarly, pipes are embedded in the wall surfaces (known as harvest walls) that receive solar radiation, using a similar system to the CSS for solar heat removal.
The well water serves multiple purposes beyond solar heat removal, including indoor radiant air conditioning, well water heat source heat pumps, research purposes, cooling water for heat pump chillers, toilet flushing water and snow melting. The absorbed heat is returned to the earth through a reduction well, maximising the environmental potential of the well water resource.
Additionally, the gabled top-lighting design enhances natural ventilation, taking advantage of the prevailing winds.
A showcase of total design excellence
Through close collaboration across disciplines, and by actively incorporating the blessings of nature based on the concept of ‘harvest’, we have successfully delivered an open, energy-saving, and comfortable place for collaboration, experimentation and innovation.
JIA Grand Prize 2018
13th Japan Structural Design Award ［Mitsutake Tanigawa (alumni)］
61th Building Contractors Society Award
50th Chubu Architecture Award
Dedalo Minosse Architecture Award ‘Special award’ 2018/2019