When the Middle East eco-city developers from Masdar approached David Ardill, Partner and Design Director at Sheppard Robson, to design Siemens’ new corporate headquarters at Masdar City, the architect said it was the most challenging brief he had ever encountered. Green Prophet visited the building this week for an exclusive tour.
After many months of long hours and a commitment to realizing the greenest building possible within a fixed and commercially feasible budget, the LEED Platinum building made its official debut on 22 January, 2014.
Before I get to the numbers, it’s important to convey the history of Masdar City’s latest completed building. The fin-like facade that shields the extensive glazing from solar gain, the copious daylight and cool temperatures outside, and the immense energy and material savings didn’t happen by accident.
Turning the sustainability paradigm on its head, Chris Wan, Masdar City’s Design Manager, explains to Green Prophet how Siemens, set a different tone for their new Middle Eastern headquarters, one that prioritized good business over a fancy green showpiece.
Don’t get me wrong. As Masdar City’s anchor tenant, Siemens was expected to produce a building that would harmonize with the experimental clean tech cluster’s overall green vision, which means that it had to achieve an Estidama rating of at least three pearls. (Estidama is a green rating system special to the Middle East – read here). And it certainly couldn’t be plain, situated as it is among Masdar Institute’s futuristic solar-powered and wavy terra-cotta structures.
Initially, Siemens asked for a LEED Gold building, but then they changed their mind and asked for LEED Platinum instead – without adjusting the budget. Ardill was fiercely exacting with his parametric analysis and evaluated 140 calculations to determine what materials and configurations would deliver the most efficient structure possible on that particular site. What’s more, Ardill and Wan worked together with their respective teams to deliver this incredible feat under budget.
Propped up on stilts, the boxy 22,800 m2 office complex floats above a public plaza with views of Abu Dhabi in the dusty distance. It is clad in a lightweight aluminum shading system that provides 100 per cent shading to 95 per cent of the glazed surfaces, and, along with proprietary integrated building technology designed by Siemens, contributes to energy reductions of nearly 50 percent.
This shading system is just one example of how much care went into the design. The geometry of each fin is fine tuned to maximize daylight, reduce material loads, ensure the smallest percentage of solar gain, and reflects excess heat away from the glass, which is perfectly cool to the touch.
The building’s groundbreaking structural system reduced construction material by roughly 60 percent, providing great flexibility across all four office floors, thereby allowing for future reorganization, change or growth. Currently, the building boasts capacity for approximately 800 employees, and has already received 16 awards.
It’s no light matter that Siemens, a highly successful multinational corporation, has established its Middle Eastern headquarters at Masdar City, which many critics still believe if a fantasy experiment without merit.
The blossoming relationship between Siemens and the United Arab Emirates demonstrates the former’s confidence that Abu Dhabi and other Emirates are heading in the right direction in terms of projects that emphasize energy efficiency and sustainability, while also promoting economic and social growth.
“The reception of the building, both locally and internationally, has been fantastic with many recognising the potential for applying the findings from the project to other schemes in the Middle East and beyond,” says Ardill in a press release.
“We didn’t approach the project with a predetermined aesthetic; instead, we worked from the inside-out to investigate the best way of creating a truly sustainable solution for the building. This process-driven approach has resulted in an incredibly environmentally efficient structure that is also commercially rigorous,” he added.
All images © Tafline Laylin