By Mike Ebonugwo
The American University of Nigeria, AUN, Yola boasts of its fair share of architectural splendour given the many magnificent buildings that dot its expansive space.
The latest of these, an administrative building, was commissioned recently, precisely on November 14, a day the high profile institution marked its 10th Annual Founder’s Day and Commissioning Ceremonies.
Though not an imposing structure, but the building named after the Chairman AUN Board of Trustees,Mr Akin Kekere-Ekun, certainly elicited a lot of oohs and aahs from those seeing it for the first time. The interest and curiousity it aroused was not so much for its physical presence, but for its multi-purpose functionality and the fact that it was innovatively constructed using recycled materials, while the project execution relied on the most part on local labour, local vendors and local craftsmen to achieve a sustainable objective.
Indeed, at first sight, one is apt to dismiss it as an architectural oddity serving a common purpose of providing shelter. But a closer examination reveals that it is a lot more than that, perhaps approximating an architectural wonder. The project was developed and supervised by the AUN project team led by Mr Alex Cobo, who is the institution’s Executive Director, Projects. According to him, the building, which is the fifth major project completed by the AUN Project Office since 2011, is different and special for several reasons.
“This project embraces sustainability as an integral part of its design and development. It starts with the re-use of 14 shipping containers to form a complete building. Its steel roof was manufactured on site by local craftsmen; it has 52 solar skylights that bring in sunlight so efficiently that no electric lighting is required during the day. It uses ventilation and insulation to reduce AC needs by 30 percent. (Also) 100 percent of the water it uses is recovered and treated biologically for re-use in irrigation. All lighting is LED, which requires 60 percent less power to operate,” Cobo informed during the building commissioning. He did not stop there.
“The building is completely insulated against ambient heat. All bath fixtures are low consumption and faucets are timed. All windows have double-pane glass. The parking lot… will be covered by canopies that hold solar panels and will provide 100% of the building power. If located in the US or Europe it would qualify for certification as a sustainable project with high marks. Its open office design saves space, eliminates partitions, promotes collaborative work and accountability, improves operational efficiency Its landscaping is native and consumes less water.
“It is designed to capture rainwater and return it to the groundwater reservoir The acoustic panels required to control noise were made by groups of empowered local women who use tailoring scraps. Toilet partitions are made of container cutouts. Our two decorative water fountains at the entrance have been manufactured of container scraps. This building has a special skin. Its skin is made of laterite, prepared the old way, mixed with grass and natural resins, molded by local hands, preserving ancient traditions,” he said.
On the building’s functionality, he said: ‘’It will hold over 120 working stations of different type, a 100 person training facility, an open air formation area, changing rooms with showers, toilets and resting areas for staff.’’
Mr Cobo also informed that the principle behind the project was informed by the vision of former Vice President and Founder of AUN, Atiku Abubakar, to create a development university of international standard, while empowering and developing Yola, Adamawa and Nigeria. He added that ( it was also inspired and encouraged by the leadership of AUN President Margee Ensign in making the Founder’s vision a reality. According to him: “She was willing to entertain our ideas and take them to our Board of Trustees It answers the urgent need for AUN to consolidate its administration on main campus, in a modern facility, with low operating costs, and with the budget constraints of academic institutions.”