An American Presence Extended: Reflections on Design-Build in Dar es Salaam–the Haven of Peace
The New Embassy Compound housing the American diplomatic Community in Tanzania officially opened March 04, 2003 with memorable fanfare and approximately 700 embassy staff, friends, Government of Tanzania officials, members of the diplomatic corps, private industry, and family members. The New Embassy Compound in Dar es Salaam was the third new American Embassy facility to officially open in the East African Community-Kampala in April, 2001, Nairobi in March, 2003, and Dar es Salaam in March, 2003.
The Dar es Salaam staff moved from the Kinondoni interim facility and the Mirambo Street USAID complex during the latter part of January. Ambassador Robert V. Royall led the Mission in a flag-raising ceremony on January 27 at 09h00 with members of the staff reflecting on their experiences and careers with the embassy. Ambassador Royall used the occasion of completion of construction of the new compound again to highlight the U.S. commitment to Tanzania as well as the U.S. resolve in the fight against terrorism.
Participating in the March 04 dedication ceremony were members of a high level delegation from the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C. Along with a speech by Ambassador Royall were speeches by Walter Kansteiner (Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs), Grant S. Green (Under Secretary of State for Management), and Charles E. Williams (Director of Overseas Buildings Operations of the U.S. Department of State)
Under Secretary Greene shared the following thoughts as he dedicated the new facilities:
“From our new Embassy today, we rededicate ourselves to broadening and deepening our engagement with the 35 million citizens of Tanzania. We will use this wonderful facility, one of the highest-tech, most secure Embassies in the world, as a platform from which to strengthen even further the ties that bind the American and Tanzanian peoples together. But as we move forward in that effort, let us never forget the men and women, Tanzanian and American, who served proudly, bravely, and forthrightly, here and paid a price in blood for the ideals that both our nations hold dear. It is to them that we dedicate this building today.”
OBO Director Williams thanked the construction staff and many of the vendors, contributors, and officials of the Government of Tanzania who helped bring the Project to fruition. During his speech, he highlighted many of the salient futures of the new facilities. It is undoubtedly among the most sophisticated in Tanzania. It is, in fact, the largest diplomatic compound in Tanzania. It is a campus-style facility spread out over twenty-two acres in the municipality of Kinondoni in Dar es Salaam.
The Government of Tanzania was the primary inspiration for the site along Old Bagamoyo Road in Kinondoni at Msasani Village. After evaluating several sites in Dar es Salaam, the Government of Tanzania in conjunction with the State Department’s Overseas Buildings Operations selected the Old Drive-In Cinema site due to its size and location. Dar es Salaam city planning officials and municipal authority had visions of triggering development in other parts of the City of Dar es Salaam away from the downtown area. The desire to have the new American Embassy Compound Project serve as a catalyst was a high priority for officials from both Governments. The project has certainly spawned new construction and significant renovation in the neighborhood. One can see construction of many sorts including the new Church of the Latter Day Saints, the new Regional Office for Tanesco Electric Supply Company, the Royal Plaza Shopping Complex, the array of Total/Gap/Oil-Com fueling stations, the President’s Hotel Building, Tan-Rose Video Store, Anghiti Restaurant, and of course more tenants moving into Shoppers’ Plaza.
The twenty-two acre compound houses two main structures-the Chancery and the USAID Building-along with six other support structures. Staff members express feelings of great contentment with their move from the eight single family residential buildings at the Msese Road Compound that served as interim facilities for the chancery staff. Moving members of the USAID Mission from two floors of a commercial building on Mirambo Street in downtown Dar es Salaam to the Old Bagamoyo Road campus compound evoked equally favorable reactions. All in all, the 125,000 square feet of office space on the new compound are much more pleasant, more functional, safe, and secure.
The Architect’s guiding criteria were the need to create a facility that has no negative impact on the Msasani area environment and infrastructure while making every effort to conserve power, fuel, and water-all relatively expensive in Tanzania; the appropriateness of the compound with reference to its location on Old Bagamoyo Road; and the need to provide an inviting facility equally welcoming to both employees and users.
The masterplan certainly had growth in mind from the exterior and interior perspective. The Chancery Building and USAID Building can be expanded up to 25% of the designed gross area. The current completed buildings have unassigned space for growth of the Mission in the future-additional officers and additional agencies.
Congress now mandates that all official Americans at embassies abroad be consolidated into a single compound to the greatest extent possible. The original contract for construction of the New Embassy Compound was modified to include construction of facilities for USAID on the compound. This happened quite readily, as facilities for USAID had already been accommodated in the masterplan for the compound. The next addition to the New Embassy Compound will be construction of the Marine Security Guard Quarters scheduled to break ground in the next few months.
The site is trapezoidal and gently slopes to the north. All of the buildings on the compound are just slightly visible above the perimeter security wall. They form one of two conceptual compounds. The other compound consists of staff and visitor parking and a land “bank” area for future development.
Given the extensive thought placed on the site’s masterplan, future development and expansion is possible for both the American Embassy and the Government of Tanzania. There is sufficient setback all around the entire perimeter of the site, especially along Old Bagamoyo Road, for additional landscaping at a later date. This setback is also sufficient for infrastructure development and potential road expansion.
Complementary to the extensive service of almost 10,000 indigenous trees, shrubs, flowers, and plants is a spread of sidewalks, seating areas, and an asphalt road that encircles the entire compound. Lots of opportunities for meditative walks and outdoor seating areas. Among the 10,000 trees, plants, and vegetation are some very special trees-one of the oldest Baobob trees in Dar es Salaam, an extremely large and decorative Mango tree, and a Rain tree.
The entire ceremonial entry drive is lined with trees-palm trees on the exterior half and flame trees on the interior half. These provide shade to visitors while serving as a dramatic accent when in bloom.
The 22-acre city site incorporates a number of sustainable design features:
- low maintenance grass at the rear of the chancery building requiring minimal mowing and irrigation.
- use of indigenous and adapted non-invasive exotic plantings to minimize irrigation.
- use of local materials when possible to limit transport impacts.
The interiors of the various buildings have many deliberate and well-conceived features. The Mazeras stone (from the East Africa Region) that one sees on the façade of the building and on the perimeter compound wall is equally as impressive on the interior. The Mninga hardwood that is neatly packaged on the exterior façade is as much a contrast against the bright interiors as it is on the exterior façade.
The occupants are pleasantly surprised by the unexpected brightness of the interior. The chancery atrium is designed to provide natural light to the building. The chancery atrium is used for ceremonies and receptions.
The compound is fully automated with a building automation system that monitors and controls the buildings’ environmental systems. The Project was designed with the U.S. Department of Energy’s energy-conscious performance standards in mind. The new facility is also designed and constructed with features to protect against chemical-biological attacks.
The compound houses its own waste water treatment plant; domestic water treatment plant (self-sufficient and not requiring connection to a sewer system); reverse osmosis system to provide potable water; fire sprinkler system to extinguish fires; fire detection system; and its own art collection. The compound’s art collection is a merger of OBO’s art consultant’s efforts to bring together works that depict similarities in American and Tanzanian cultures with a collection of artistic pieces that existed prior to construction of the New Embassy Compound. At the top of the grand stair of the Chancery Building is an elegantly carved wood door depicting the multicultural diversity of people of Tanzania.
The one element of the project that is visible throughout the compound is that of the American flag perched high atop the 25 meter flag-pole. It is a sign of the extended American presence in Tanzania and of the fight against terrorism.
Construction of the embassy had a major impact on the economy of Tanzania. Having employed some 1,100 workers over the life of the project, this was the largest construction effort in Tanzania during this period. The financial impact of the construction project is equally as important as the employment generating point-an injection of about US $10 million into the local economy. Looking back at the procurement efforts for the project, some 450 small, medium, and large Tanzanian companies benefited from the New Embassy Compound Project-either through provision of goods, services, or goods and services. Projects with US$40 million price tags are not monthly undertakings in Tanzania and to participate in a project of this magnitude is a remark that the Tanzanian site staff takes great pride in relaying to employers and colleagues inside and outside of the American Embassy project site.
The vast majority of the Tanzanian construction site crews speak very highly of the types of skills that they have gained while working on the project site. Safety ranks highest among the skills captured by Tanzanian site staff. Having proper protective equipment available to the NEC construction crews and requiring participating in weekly toolbox safety meetings were very new concepts to the Tanzanian construction world. However, the local workers were exceptionally receptive and this certainly helped to minimize the number of lost-time accidents. It certainly shows in the NEC Project statistics-two lost-time accidents in three million work-hours (over 32 months of construction). This statistic far exceeds the safety record in the industrialized and Western construction markets.
Design and construction of new embassies for American diplomats would normally take sixty months from start to finish. Executing the Dar es Salaam New Embassy Compound Project utilized a different approach. With the urgent need in 1998 for replacement facilities for the Dar es Salaam embassy staff, OBO opted to fast-track the entire project using the design-build methodology. This scenario offered the advantages of single point of contact for contractual purposes, faster delivery time, and reduced exposure to legal claims. What you see at the American Embassy Dar es Salaam at 686 Old Bagamoyo Road is a sign of what the U.S. State Department’s Overseas Buildings Operations is best known for producing-safe and secure embassy facilities worldwide.
Dar es Salaam New Embassy Compound Project Contributors
- Owner and Construction Manager: U.S. Department of State Office of Overseas Buildings Operations Construction and Commissioning Division
- Design/Builder: J.A. Jones Construction
- Design Architect-Engineer-of-Record: Hellmuth, Obata, and Kassabaum, Inc.
- Local Architects Representing U.S. Interests: Landplan-Icon Architects Ltd.
- Woodwork: Domus Woodworks Ltd.
- Cement: Twiga Cement
- Roofing: Subcon-Hydrotech
- Civil-Structural Works: Mugoya Construction Limited
- Stone Supplier: Mirtini Builders
- Stone and Tile Installation: Tan-Ame
- Waste Water Treatment Plant: Merry Water / Pollution Control Systems
- Reverse Osmosis System: Merry Water/ProMinent System
- Elevator: Schindler Tanzania/Coastal Steel Inc.
- Testing and Balancing: AJB-Hightech Limited
- Asphalt: Konoike
- Landcaping: Hedy’s Garden and Tuturo
- Wood Products: Tanzania Brush Limited, Sao Hill Timbers Ltd., Peky Entreprises and Kim General Traders
- Paints: Sadolin Paints Tanzania and Goldstar Paints Tanzania
- Termicide Control: Rentokil
- Fire Suppression System (Food Service Area): Ansul Tanzania
- Netting: Tanzania Brush Limited
- Temporary Fencing: General Services Corporation (GESCO)
- Furniture Installation: SDV-NOTCO