Text description provided by the architects. Located in the Pingtung Agricultural and Bio-technology Park (PABP) in southern Taiwan, the T-Ham PABP factory is the largest and the most advanced meatprocessing factory in the country. This LEED gold certified factory complex contains a main factory building (22,000 m²), a diner and gift shop building (650 m²), and a waste water treatment building. It produces 1,200 tons of processed meat products per month. The factory’s expansive product range covers more than 250 items,ranging from Western style hams, sausages and bacon, to artisanal wood smoked hand-tied hams, to Chinese style stewed, boiled and roasted meats, ready-to-eat meals, as well as various meat ingredients for chain restaurants and bakeries.
The client T-HAM is the oldest and the largest meat processing brand in Taiwan with over 50 years of history. The design of this new factory has been assigned with four principal goals. Firstly, it is to double the company’s production capacity in order to meet increasingdemand from the domestic market. Secondly, to upgrade theproduction facility in order to meet the export requirements of Japan and Singapore (two of the strictest standards in Asia) as it preparesfor market expansion in 2020. Thirdly, it is to deliver a statement of the company’s corporate values which are high quality products, sustainable development, and environmental friendliness. Fourthly, it is to upgrade the working environment of their factory workers and their daily working experience - as “happy employees make better products”. The conventional meat processing factory building in Taiwan is essentially an enclosed refrigerated shed for storage and production. For this project, the design team pursued a spatial solution that is neither a shed, nor a fridge-like box, in order to distinguish ourselves from other brands. We wanted to incorporate as much daylight and views of the outside as possible into the building to improve the users’ experience.
The factory’s various so called ancillary functions were identified and organised to the “front” of the building behind a curtain wall facade in order to provide plenty natural light and views for these human activities. Ancillary functions include offices for admin, R&D, quality control, a seasoning laboratory, as well as staff canteens, changing rooms and toilets. Office staff and more importantly factory workers receive plenty of sunlight and views of surrounding plains when they use the canteens on their breaks and during their visits to the lavatories by passing the light filled corridors.
The glazed front façade also gave the factory a more open identity, offering visitors and neighbours visibility of the activities taking place inside. Storage and production functions were organized to the “rear” of the factory, with highly insulated walls to help maintain internal temperatures. Most production zones are refrigerated spaces with temperatures ranging from -20 to 13 degrees. The outer skin of the factory were clad in rough textured clay tiles, a typical Taiwanese cladding material, which was chosen to effectively protectthe building from the region’s harsh southern sun and torrential rains in the rainy season.
The dark purplish-brown tiles have rough textures which mimic the fertile agricultural lands of this southern county. A touch of finesse and detail has been introduced by patterning the textures to give the skin a woven quality much like the premium hand-tied hams. The walls on the south and north façade were slightly tilted in alternating angles so that theshadows on the walls form delicate patterns that vary as the day changes.
In order to meet the strict hygiene standards for meat export purposes to major markets such as Japan and Singapore, all flows of people, goods, air and liquids in the factory had to be strictly separated between the production areas of raw meat and cooked meat. The separation of circulation started at the factory entrance. Staff working in the raw and cooked meat sections enters from different entrances. Circular skylights on the roof of the entrance tunnel give the staff glimpses of daylight as they enter and exit the factory. Within, circulation routes, changing rooms, and canteens have all been colour coded according to raw product and cooked product zones in order to prevent any cross contamination.
On the rooftop, seven elevator shafts required for the production rise prominently into the sky. Their individual heights were dictated by their functions, but their forms were given sculptural expression - referencing the rocky central mountain ranges of Taiwan visible in the far distance. These rooftop forms– an abstract mountainous landscape - give the factory a distinct and sturdy identity. Open spaces on the rooftop provide ample space necessaryto clean factory equipments, for special events and for staff to take their breaks.
Three main design factors contributed to the gold rating in LEED. Firstly, Carbon emission was minimized by using a high proportion of locally made and recycled materials, such as the tiles, concrete and glass, which reduced the carbon emission related to transportation. Secondly, energy savings came from highly efficient MEP and HVAC design which saved about 20% of electricity. Thirdly, water efficiency was improved by selecting efficient fixtures and appliances which saved about a third of the normal levels. A rain water capture and reuse system was implemented to provide water for toilets, irrigation and car washes. The planting of local species of vegetation also contributed as they do not need extra irrigation once they passed the one year nursery period.
The new factory design has been well received by the client. According to the factory manager, the new facility not only meets the export requirements in major regional markets such as Japan and Singapore, but also greatly improved the overall production efficiency. The new factory has raised the morale and pride in the work force. The design concept of introducing good views and daylight into the workers’ office and social areas has made the factory workers’ daily experience much more pleasant. This has been translated into better motivation and improved product quality. The new facility has already not only doubled the retention rate of existing workers, it has also made hiring new factory workers a much easier task. When a swine flu outbreak took place in Taiwan in the late 1990s, a twenty year embargo on Taiwanese pork export followed. Next year, in 2020, there is a good chance that the embargo would be lifted, allowing Taiwanese pork to be exported again to serve the Asian regional markets. This new factory has now strategically placed T-HAM ahead of its competitors, as the only meat factory in Taiwan that meets the highest export standards.