- Environment & Infrastructure
- Strategic consulting
- Specialist consulting
- The Living City
- Happold Consulting
Back in 2005 Buro Happold principal Eddie Pugh was approached by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s Capital Market Authority (CMA) and Public Pension Agency (PPA), and asked to help create a team and the right environment to realise their vision for the new Riyadh Financial District. As ideas took shape, the Rayadah Investment Corporation was formed who, supported by Buro Happold, appointed Henning Larsen as the masterplanner and the project was underway.
In these early stages Buro Happold supported the development of the macro infrastructure concepts, alongside the masterplan, to ensure that the visions of the architect were being appropriately blended with the emerging needs of a modern, highly connected, high density urban environment.
Bringing King Abdullah Financial District to life
As the most significant commercial real estate development in Saudi Arabia King Abdullah Financial District (KAFD) will cover an area of 1.6km². Currently under construction the development is a mix of commercial office, hotels and serviced apartments sitting alongside museums, education and civic amenities which all have a connection to the vibrant financial community. The head offices of the Capital Markets Authority, the Saudi Stock Exchange (Tadawul), the World Trade Centre, the GCC Central Bank and the Saudi American Bank building are taking shape in the central area.
The scheme has to connect to the local community and so a blend of the world’s best architects have been appointed to develop designs which respect the theme of Arabian urban traditions within a modern metropolis in the high rise environment.
The site itself is bigger than Canary Wharf in London and competes in scale with the financial districts of both London and Wall Street; the master-plan has over 50 land parcels.
Successful urban communities need to be developed with a close eye on the physical, social and environmental needs of all of the development’s stakeholders, along with a strong appreciation of how the rapid pace of technological advancement must be accommodated in modern, highly organic cities. This, added to the rapid construction programme and the extremely complex logistics of delivering so much in a constrained area, has provided a significant backdrop against which Buro Happold has been able to apply its skills.
Our teams have been working with the Client from the beginning of the process. They have applied the 30 years of resident knowledge built up by Buro Happold in Saudi Arabia to ensure that the solutions they are delivering are technologically advanced as well as reflective of the developing capabilities of the construction market in Saudi Arabia, and of the District’s very specific cultural needs.
Some of the most acute technical challenges include the harsh physical environment, connectivity with the horizontal infrastructure at street level, both in terms of utilities and also in terms of vehicular connections and transport integration, as well as developing appropriate mitigation of environmental impacts through the application of the LEED process.
In order to create a successful urban environment the area will be kept traffic free through the provision of commuter car parks located outside the centrally secure area which are linked to the centre by a monorail.
The district itself will then be linked by a series of pedestrian sky bridges between the main buildings; unusually these footbridges will be air conditioned above street level to enable people to move freely in the intense Middle East heat.
Many of the sustainability challenges have been met by simple mitigation measures and by adapting building solutions to address energy saving through minimising heat gain; orientating the buildings correctly; designing building shapes based on informed climatic conditions; optimising the walls in terms of materials, such as the glass and shading elements. Secondly consideration is being given to the conservation and reuse of water through the use of water saving devices and recycled water for irrigation. Thirdly, local materials are being utilised as much as possible, in particular local stones and granites which will be used on the facades.
Buro Happold has been involved in the project since its inception with inputs to the master-plan macro-engineering, design of the sky bridges and engineering designs for nearly half the buildings on the site, working with ten of the world’s best international architectural practices. It has been a huge logistical challenge and one which would not have been possible without our deep local knowledge, strong relationships and absolute commitment to a successful outcome.
As we approach the end of 2011 the development is significantly under construction. The majority of the engineering design is complete and our teams are supporting the construction from our offices in Riyadh, aided by our international teams in New York, Los Angeles, Dubai, London, Bath, Glasgow, Manchester and Berlin. 2012 will see significant progress and we look forward to continuing to support the Client and his teams in the successful delivery of one of the world’s most challenging commercial developments.