Zaha Hadid Architects, ‘KAPSARC (King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Centre)’, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

KAPSARC is a non-profit institution for research into the most effective use of energy for social well-being. Designed in response to the Riyadh Plateau environment to minimise energy consumption, it develops policies to reduce the environmental impact and cost of energy supply, and enables practical solutions to use energy more efficiently. KAPSARC brings together experts from around the world to tackle energy challenges; freely sharing its analytical knowledge.

The 70,000m² KAPSARC campus incorporates five buildings: the Energy Knowledge Centre; the Energy Computer Centre; a Conference Centre with exhibition hall and 300-seat auditorium; a Research Library with archives for 100,000 volumes; and the Musalla, a place for prayer and contemplation.

Hexagonal prismatic honeycomb structures use the least material to create a lattice of cells within a given volume. This principle determined KAPSARC’s composition as an amalgamation of crystalline forms that emerges from the desert landscape, evolving to best respond to the environment.

Presenting a solid, protecting shell to the harsh sunlight from the south, the campus opens to north and west; encouraging prevailing winds to cool the campus during temperate months via a series of sheltered courtyards that bring softly controlled daylight into the interior. Orientated for the solar and wind conditions, the crystalline forms of the prismatic cells gain in height towards the south, west and east to shield internal spaces from direct sunlight. ‘Wind-catchers’ integrated within the roof profile catch the prevailing winds from the north, cooling each courtyard.

KAPSARC was awarded LEED Platinum certification from the US Green Building Council (USGBC) through its application of passive and active solutions including a 45% reduction in energy performance (compared with the ASHRAE baseline standards) achieved via KAPSARC’s building massing and orientation, facade optimisation, system selection and the solar PV array located on the roof of the south-facing conference centre with a capacity of 5,000MWh/year. Also, all of KAPSARC’s potable water is recycled and reused on site, and 100% of irrigation water is from non-potable sources. 40% of KAPSARC’s construction materials were sourced from within 500 miles, and 30% of materials made with recycled content. 98% of all wood was certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), and 4,000t of waste was separated and diverted from landfill.

KAPSARC has been named Saudi Arabia’s ‘smartest’ building in the Honeywell Smart Building Awards programme. Based on criteria that include environmental sustainability, safety and productivity, KAPSARC received outstanding scores across all three categories.