The King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center (KAPSARC) is a 70,000m2 energy and environmental research campus. KAPSARC is a non-profit institution for independent research focused on finding solutions for the most effective and productive use of energy. The campus includes a Research Center, Conference Center, Library, Musalla and IT Center, together with various ancillary buildings located within a 60 hectare site. From the outset KAPSARC had a clear mission statement and a desire for the campus to reflect sustainability innately within the design.
Arup worked side by side with Zaha Hadid Architects to develop the buildings’ form. The buildings have been designed to "turn their back to the sun" to minimise solar gain, and are shaped to enclose shaded courtyards cooled by the prevailing desert winds. We also envisaged a self-supporting cellular structure, providing flexible spaces that can be adapted to the multifunctional uses within the buildings. The buildings are connected by a 10,000m2 canopy, which unifies the campus and provides shading to the people moving through the external spaces.
Our engineering team provided full multidisciplinary services comprising: sustainability consulting including LEED assessment, security, building performance and systems, fire, acoustics, venue consulting, ITC and AV throughout the design and construction phases. The team's attention to detail and perseverance contributed to achieving the ambitious architectural vision.
The team took an integrated approach to sustainability from the outset, and a strategy for addressing key issues was embedded from concept design stage onwards. LEED Platinum was used as a framework to monitor and report against this strategy.
LEED Platinum Certification
45% reduction in energy performance
60 hectare site
The buildings’ massing and orientation, together with the use of self-shaded courtyards, were designed to provide natural daylight. A reflective light colour was selected for the GRC facades and roofs. We optimised the percentage of glazing to minimise solar gains, which also played an important role in inherently minimising the energy consumption of the buildings. Further measures implemented comprised a selection of systems tailored to each building use, energy efficient equipment, workstation lighting and thermal control. Renewable energy is generated on site from a photovoltaic array with a capacity of 5000MWh/year. As a precious resource, all potable water is treated, recycled and reused on site.
Reducing the embodied carbon of the project and maximising the recycled and regional content of materials used for structure, envelope and finishes was another significant driver for the project team. The initial structural models were used to identify the materials with the most impact, and this information was used to incorporate detailed sourcing requirements into the specifications, which the contractor implemented during construction.
The campus includes a Research Center, Conference Center, Library, Musalla and IT Center, together with various ancillary buildings located within a 60 hectare site.
Rapid design process
We collaborated closely with Zaha Hadid Architects and Saudi Aramco from the initial design competition through to handover by the contractor. The design programme was extremely ambitious, within a month of being appointed the design team and the client co-located in a dedicated project office in London. This approach enabled the client to see the design evolve and be involved in every step of the process. This helped nurture a culture of openness and sharing of ideas across discipline boundaries, fundamental in enabling construction to begin within nine months of our appointment.
As the specialist subcontractors were engaged we held collaborative workshops both on site in Riyadh and, in between visits, we made extensive use of digital tools to resolve design details. This approach was extremely successful; in particular, for the steel frame structure given that the parties involved in the digital collaboration workshops were based in several different countries.
Parametric design and use of 3D models
The large volume spaces were extremely complex with inclined surfaces and unique cellular elements which provided a challenge to our structural engineers. Using custom parametric scripting tools, we designed a workflow in tandem with the architect and our facade engineering team. This allowed the surfaces to be converted into a rational steelwork geometry, enabling fabrication and erection to be more straightforward and cost effective.
We used the same tools to analyse and design the steelwork ensuring optimal structural performance and also to create a 3D BIM model. We then shared the BIM model with the fabricator to allow the materials to be ordered and the connection design to proceed on day one of the contract. Despite the complex geometry, site queries were kept to a minimum and were largely addressed using digital collaboration tools to overcome the geographic separation. The frame was erected without delay allowing the construction of the facade to proceed.
The spatial coordination of the Building Services elements was also carried out in collaboration with the architect in 3D. This approach was key to achieving the integration of the services within this iconic campus. The contractor also produced installation information in 3D and the team reviewed these models rather than plan drawings to ensure compliance with the design.