AHR designs world’s largest dynamic building façade

Baku, April 14, AZERTAC

British architectural practice, AHR, has pioneered a new technique that could revolutionize the approach to building in extreme climates. Al Bahr Towers in Abu Dhabi is the first large-scale commercial project in the world to feature a dynamic, intelligent façade that cools or insulates the building in direct response to the sun’s movement.

Having been commissioned by Abu Dhabi Investment Council (The Council) following an international design project, AHR’s brief required delivering an environmentally-friendly and sustainable solution to this large scale commercial project in one of the world’s hottest climates.

The 25-storey twin towers reach a height of 150m and offer some 70,000 sq m (753,000 sq ft) of office space between them. The Council has taken full occupation of one of the towers for its new headquarters, which will accommodate around 1,000 employees.

Realising that the key to success lay in managing solar gain, AHR’s design team conceived a responsive façade reminiscent of the ‘mashrabiya’, a traditional lattice screen found in traditional Islamic architecture.

The end result is a dynamic outer screen that is programmed to respond to the sun’s movement, shielding the building’s eastern side in the morning and moving round westwards with the sun throughout the day. To the onlooker, the effect can be compared to 2,000 umbrellas opening and closing in response to the sun’s rays (click for video footage

The idea of the moving façade was first attempted at the Instituit du Monde Arabe in Paris. It has since fascinated architects but has never been delivered on any large scale. Al Bahr Towers represents the first time this technology has been successfully used on this scale and opens up an exciting new direction in building design.

AHR was keen to explore the possibilities for combining a contemporary solution to the traditional philosophy of cooling buildings through screening and shading buildings.

The advantage of this approach is the avoidance of dark tinted glass which inevitably restricts incoming light all of the time rather than just problematic direct sunlight at certain times of day. Instead, these dynamic shades let daylight in for part of the day allowing the use of artificial lighting and air conditioning in the interior can be significantly reduced. The result is a 50% reduction in energy consumption within the twin towers and an 80% reduction in solar gain.

Bryan Hamilton, director at AHR, comments: “This project represents the perfect marriage of technology and design. Not only do the buildings look good, but they are entirely fit for purpose and sympathetic to their environment.”

He continues: “The desire to find solutions that bring about a holistic response to the cultural and environmental context of new buildings is at the core of AHR’s thinking on how to balance an increasingly globalized way of life with a sense of local and regional identity.”

Al Bahr Towers has received a number of accolades and awards, having recently been listed in TIME Magazine’s ‘Best Inventions of the Year 2012’ and received awards such as: 2012 Tall Building Innovation Award by the Council of Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat; Commercial Project of the Year at the Middle East Architect Awards 2013 and Best Overall Project in the Middle East at the Middle East Architect Awards 2013.

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