The Centre for Agricultural Transformation (CAT) is an initiative that aims to transform smallholder agriculture in Malawi in order to move the country away from tobacco farming and create alternative livelihoods. The pilot research and development facility is located on a 4-acre plot on the campus of the University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (NRC) and is intended to be an anchor institution.
Located on the edge of the campus, the center is shown to be accessible to a variety of parties; main entrances allow access to the building from surrounding farms/villages as well as from the campus side. The building consists of four distinct units grouped around a central, covered courtyard. The courtyard forms the core where people meet, share ideas, teach and learn. There is space here for the presentation of information and innovation.
The building, with its iconic shaped roofs, is intended to be a landmark that reflects the natural landscape of the Lilongwe Valley and its isolated mountains scattered throughout the valley. Copper cladding was used as a continuous material connecting both the façade and the roofs, creating an inviting and monolithic impression.
The roof is the most important element of the thermal envelope in a climate like Lilongwe's, with strong solar radiation. Therefore, the roof system was carefully insulated to limit heat gains. On each of the roofs there is a skylight window, which increases the supply of daylight and provides good ventilation of the rooms taking advantage of the stack effect. The building does not require additional heating or cooling.
In addition, solar gains through the windows are kept low. All west and east facing windows are equipped with fixed steel louvers. On the north and south facades, the windows are equipped with solar shading.