The AHRLAC Manufacturing Facility is a specialised and unique manufacturing development. The client, Aerospace Development Corporation, in collaboration with the Paramount Group, is responsible for the design, production and support of the versatile multi-purpose AHRLAC aircraft. 

The brief and scope to architects, Riekert & Osman Studios, was to design a state-of-the-art 10 000 m2 industrial manufacturing facility whilst celebrating its African heritage in a contemporary manner. The building had to be built within a tight construction timeframe, not be costly in terms of long-term maintenance, and a modular design was favoured by the client so it can be effortlessly duplicated elsewhere once the company expands abroad.

The development, in the northern region of Pretoria, harnesses the accessibility and additional security features provided by the Wonderboom Airport with its superb access to national road networks, import and export opportunities, and the runway and air space. The programming and accommodation of an air- craft manufacturing plant required a full understanding of the aircraft, the process of the design and the production lines. Accommodation for auxiliary services is included and administrative spaces for staff and visitors exude contemporary comfort.

The machining and assembly facilities are positioned alongside one another and provide the opportunity for future expansion of both the manufacturing and assembly lines without interruption to existing activities. The factory envelope components feature translucent louvered clerestories which allow for natural light and ventilation to reduce the total cost of energy usage in the energy intensive production line.

Mezzanine offices for the technical team overlook production facilities to ensure that specialist technical staff members are in the immediate vicinity of production and assembly. The administration building was orientated in a northerly direction to allow natural light into the offices and views to the aircraft runway and visitor’s reception area. A private lounge is also located in the administration building, which serves as a waiting area for private flight charters with direct access to the apron and a visual link.

An intricate system of construction and materials ensures an advanced manufacturing facility, which comprises highly secure storage areas, specialised machining/manufacturing facilities and aircraft assembly lines, fully equipped spray booth facility, administration offices, recreation facilities, aircraft hangars, exhibition spaces and aircraft taxi-ways. The building envelope consists of structural steel elements, off-shutter concrete and insulated composite wall panels with excellent energy and structural performance and the benefit of low maintenance and fairly quick construction time. 

“In an environment like this, where almost everything is manufactured in-house, lighting was imperative,” says Riekert & Osman Studios’ Rafeeq Osman. Because of this requirement, Rawlins Wales and Partners’ lighting design specialists played an important role in the project.  Externally, because the facility is located at an operating airport where no uplighters are allowed, lighting is limited to security lighting. Internally though, it is a different story. Visitors are greeted, when they enter the reception, by a 3 m diameter, 1,5 ton suspended fitting incorporating downlights in a purpose-made reclaimed Oregon pine ‘sphere’.

“Elsewhere, what dictated most of the light fittings in the office areas was the ceiling design,” says Osman. “We tried to stay away from long fluorescent tube lights and concentrated on spot lighting, mostly with downlighters. At the work desks, we installed motion controlled lights – for energy saving – with task lighting for computer work.”

He explains that the amount of natural lighting in the offices – for instance, the technical offices have floor to ceiling windows – was driven by the client. “As the staff work under considerable pressure and stress, involving long hours, sometimes through the night and over weekends, the client wanted to make the offices as hospitable as possible for them, by maximising natural light and allowing views to the natural and landscaped gardens.”

Osman says that the way in which a factory environment is illuminated has changed drastically from the past. “Where previously one would have installed traditional lamps, such as metal halide units which suck energy, nowadays, energy costs and a better understanding of the effects of lighting have driven change.”

Natural and muted colours throughout, reclaimed timber in key areas, and a ‘traditional’ recreational boma reference the African identity of the client. Recreational outdoor spaces with generous green areas – i.e. sports field, boma, canteen garden with pool and natural veld grass – were introduced in contrast to the industrial environment to serve as a healthy retreat for staff and visitors in an otherwise fast paced and highly stressed environment.

The client’s foresight and aspiration, along with the determination of the project team, which executed the development within strict time frames, have culminated in the most modern and advanced aircraft manufacturing facility in Africa. “Despite a tight deadline for the start of production – any delay would have cost the company millions – this, our first proper job as a studio, met the client’s vision of an international-standard facility.

From a cutting edge manufacturing platform to the materials used, the design is not something you will often, if ever, see in a local factory,” concludes Osman.

Lighting for the specific areas

Machining facility:

LED lighting installed and equipped with motion sensors in ablution, office and boardroom areas to minimise energy consumption, with single- and three-phase electrical supply, including vacuum and compressed air.


Assembly workshop:

LED lighting installed and equipped with motion sensors in ablution, office and boardroom areas to minimise energy consumption, with single- and three-phase electrical supply, including vacuum and compressed air.


Administration building:

LED lighting installed and equipped with motion  sensors in ablution, office and boardroom areas to minimise energy consumption. UPS back-up power including 2 x 800 kVa generators for emergency electrical supply.



LED lighting installed and equipped with motion sensors in ablution, office and pilot briefing room areas to minimise energy consumption.



LED lighting installed and equipped with motion sensors in ablution areas to minimise energy consumption.


Guardhouse and entrance:

LED lighting installed to minimise energy consumption.


Client: Ahrlac:

Architect: Riekert & Osman Studios:

Main contractor: Archstone Construction:

Project manager: Pro Arnan (Principal Agent):

Electrical engineer: Rawlins Wales and Partners:

Photographer: Studio88 Photography:

Pin It


Gregg Cocking
Phone: +27 11 622-4770
Fax: +27 11 615-6108

Advertising Manager
Carin Hannay
Phone: +27 11 622-4770
Fax: +27 11 615-6108

More Info

crown publications logo reversed

Crown Publications, one of South Africa’s largest business-to-business publishing houses, came into existence in 1986. Since then, the company has grown from producing a single magazine, Electricity SA (renamed Electricity+Control), to publishing six monthly magazines, three quarterlies, and a number of engineering handbooks.