The knowledge centre has been designed by LAVA Architects and will promote knowledge and research. Credit: LAVA.
Featuring a passive design, the elements of the building have been designed in response to the country’s climate. Credit: LAVA.
The construction of the building is scheduled to be completed in 2017. Credit: LAVA.
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The project is an important part of the King Abdul Aziz City for Science and Technology campus master plan. Credit: LAVA.

The King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST) headquarters is a tower being constructed on its campus in the northwestern Riyadh metropolitan area.

Designed by LAVA Architects, the headquarters building will be an energy-efficient, high-rise tower. An estimated SR500m ($133.09m) will be invested in the building, which has been designed with regards to the local environment, climate and culture of Saudi Arabia. The tower is expected to be completed by 2017.

The tower’s architect recently won a European Prize for Architecture due to its innovative design and green facade. The building was also nominated under the future projects category at the World Architecture Festival 2016.

The headquarters will function as a research centre fostering modern and sustainable technologies.

Structure details

Structural concrete cores are located on the building’s four corners and stretch along its two opposite elevations.

A public communications zone has been created between the inside and the tower periphery by the multi-storey atria’s structure, which connects with the outer facade. Stairs and escalators are designed to link the staggered edges of the slab along the atria.

The design builds on the vertical cores located in the east and west facades. The atrium is located towards the north-south axis, allowing sunlight from both directions to be reflected off the tower’s light shelves.

Facade of KACST headquarters

The building features a mix of glass balustrades, full-storey glass walls, and interior glass partitions that transform frequently to create a facade reinforced by concrete balustrades. A special opaque coating is applied on the atria glazing to conceal its slab edges and fixings. The atria spaces connecting to the exterior facade are fully glazed.

A unique pattern of windows and fibre-reinforced concrete elements were created for the tower’s external facade, and can be adapted based on spatial configuration and lighting requirements.

Facilities at the tower

The King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology is undergoing a transformation to host 10,000 researchers and scientists. The knowledge tower will have 75,000m² of office space to accommodate the redevelopment of the research and development campus.

The 23-storey tower has been branded as a knowledge centre housing public and semi-public spaces and a library, as well as technical, administration and special VIP floors.

The complex will accommodate 1,750 employees and abundant parking space, including four floors of dedicated parking for offices, media, public relations and communications, and two basement floors.

Sustainable design of the knowledge centre

The tower’s passive design emphasises heat load reduction and dust control management.

The knowledge centre has been designed to offer high air quality through dust and volatile organic compound (VOC) control systems. These function through the various plants located at different points, such as the basement, in the atria and on the upper floors that treat re-circulated air.

Air quality in the centre will also be improved by bio-breathing walls, which will help to remove waste created by occupants. The design includes systems to conserve the energy required for pre-treating fresh air.

Algae tubes will be used in the tower’s perimeter glazing and within the atrium to manage the temperature. The tubes offer localised cooling and shading while generating algae for bio-oil, pharmaceuticals and high-value supplements for the food industry.

Heat built up during the day escapes at night through the application of a night sky cooling strategy, which also allows sufficient daylight to enter the building during winters. Thermal coupling and mass will be used to filter air and manage heat in the car parks.

Contractors involved

ABV Rock Group has been contracted to build the tower in 27 months. Construction began in 2015.

Battle McCarthy has been selected to supply building services, environmental design and landscape architecture, while structural and facade designs for the building will be provided by Bollinger-Grohmann Engineering.

Al Omran is the design manager for the project and will act as the local representative for project meetings, requirement gathering and drawing submissions.