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Abu Dhabi Investment Council HQ; Abu Dhabi Investment Council HQ;

Al Bahr Towers, Abu Dhabi

How can a unique approach to sun shading reduce energy use?

The headquarters for the expanding Abu Dhabi Investment Council occupies a prominent site on the north shore of Abu Dhabi Island, overlooking the Eastern Mangroves and out towards Sadiyaat Island and the Arabian Gulf beyond.

The 82,000m2 development comprises of two 150m tall buildings for which Arup provided a range of services, including structural, geotechnical, façade, civil, MEP, fire, and wind engineering. Both towers are primarily used as office space, but they also hold space for catering, plantrooms, auditoria, prayer rooms and a gymnasium for the buildings’ occupiers to enjoy.

Our team’s aim was to develop a building that was both efficient and iconic. Through the services we provided, we ensured that the building minimised its operational carbon to create a sustainable new hub for Abu Dhabi’s financial district.

A unique approach to sun shading

The building not only has a striking aesthetic that defines its character, but also benefits from innovative measures that improve its environmental performance and limit its energy use. The project’s key challenge was to reduce its energy consumption while still creating a comfortable internal environment. Our answer was to implement unique dynamic shading, which features a modular system that opens and closes like an umbrella to provide self-shading as the sun moves around the building. Reducing solar energy entering the building by an estimated 20%, this sun shading system helps to lessen the development’s operational carbon by decreasing its reliance on energy intensive air conditioning and artificial lighting.

Considering that the two buildings are located in one of the world’s hottest climates, coming up with a design that protects occupiers from the sun and heat was a priority. Other high-rise buildings in the Middle East use highly glazed façades with dark or reflective glass, which helps to limit high temperatures, but significantly reduces natural daylight. The intelligent façade encloses the south, west and east elevations of these buildings and allows for less dark tinted glass to be used. This enables more natural light to fill the buildings’ spaces, creating a productive environment for people to work within.

Energy saving through lighting optimisation

The two 26-storey towers were designed in accordance with the US Green Building Council LEED rating system. The building had to be as energy efficient as possible to achieve the required LEED Silver. Traditional ways of achieving this, such as water harvesting, were not an option because of restrictions in the area. Instead, we solved this by optimising other components, including low energy fans and pumps that helped stay on target and within regulations.

In addition to the energy-saving sun shading system, we thought about how we could make the indoor lighting system more efficient. We installed local lighting control systems and used low lighting to improve energy efficiency within the building. This allows everyone in the office to have their own lighting setup for their desk, resulting in the option to personalise their workspace to suit their individual preferences.

Creating resilient services systems

The reliability of the services within the building was a key consideration, particularly as the primary business functions of the Abu Dhabi Investment Council are financial transactions and brokering. We designed and integrated ICT and AV infrastructure for the site, ensuring maximum flexibility and effective use of technology and related services. Our team analysed how these services could be delivered to achieve the client’s objectives of flexibility and resilience.

We ensured that the cooling system and power supply for the data centres within each tower were designed to be highly resilient and would continue operating in the event of a primary system failure. This resilience is made possible by each component having an independent back-up in terms of both cooling and electrical supply. A reliable system such as this means that the organisation’s employees can work without interruption.