Smart buildings designed to respond to their environment

Designed by famous architectural firm Zaha Hadid Architects, the King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Centre (KAPSARC) in Saudi Arabia consists of 5 buildings that each have a hexagonal prismatic honeycomb structure to decrease the amount of materials needed. Each building is designed to best respond to the environmental conditions of the surrounding desert landscape.

KAPSARC is the headquarters of the non-profit research institute with the mission to use effective energy for social good.

Because the buildings are so oriented at their environment, the architects managed a 45 per cent reduction in energy performance. They also used less construction materials because of the honeycomb structure, of which 40 per cent was sourced within 500 miles and 30 per cent is recycled. In addition, the buildings provide their own energy using solar panels, and all potable water is recycled on site.

Each of the buildings differ in size and organisation to best suit their use. They are all divided into components and are designed to be adapted if their function changes.

A strong, protective shell on the outside of the buildings shield them from the extremes of the desert weather. The inside, on the other hand, is porous, with specific hexagonal cells left open to create a series of sheltered courtyards.

The structures are oriented for sun and wind conditions. They gain height towards the south, west, and east to shield internal spaces from direct sunlight, contrary to the courtyards, which oriented to the north and northwest to bring in indirect light. ‘Wind-catchers’ are integrated within the roofs to catch winds from the north to cool the courtyards.

KAPSARC was awarded LEED Platinum certification from the United States Green Building Council and was named Saudi Arabia’s smartest building.

Photos: Hufton+Crow