Al Bahr Towers revolutionises sustainable design

The award winning Al Bahr Towers in Abu Dhabi – created by British architectural practice, Aedas – have pioneered a new technique that could revolutionise the approach to building in extreme climates.

The project – voted Commercial Project of the Year and Best Overall Project in the Middle East at the Middle East Architect Awards 2013 – saw the first large-scale commercial project in the world to feature a dynamic, intelligent façade that cools or insulates the interior in response to the sun’s movement.

For the initial project a brief from Abu Dhabi Investment Council required an environmentally-friendly and sustainable solution to a large scale commercial project in one of the world’s hottest climates.

Aedas’ design team conceived a responsive façade reminiscent of the “mashrabiya”, a traditional lattice screen found in older Islamic architecture.

The end result is a dynamic outer screen 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 – an effect compared to 2,000 umbrellas opening and closing in response to the sun’s rays.

The idea of the moving façade was first attempted at the Instituit du Monde Arabe in Paris, but Al Bahr Towers represents the first time it has been successfully used on a large scale.

Aedas said 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, the 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, said: “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.

“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 Aedas’ thinking on how to balance an increasingly globalised way of life with a sense of local and regional identity.”

The 25-storey twin towers reach a height of 150m and the council itself has taken occupation of one for its new headquarters, accommodating around 1,000 employees.

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 the  Tall Building Innovation Award by the Council of Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat 2013.