Situated in the heart of the new King Abdullah Financial District, the SAMBA head office provides a benchmark for sustainable buildings in Riyadh. Standing 40 storeys in height, the tower comprises 30 floors of office space, 7 executive floors and 3 levels of sky gardens, all of which revolve around a stunning central atrium that stretches the full height of the building.
Central to the team’s vision of creating a low energy building is the futuristic ‘power tower’, a 70 metre spire which tops the 170 metre high main tower. The slender nature of the spire required careful consideration from the BuroHappold SMART team due to the risk of structural fatigue. We needed to deliver a design that would be architecturally striking while withstanding the effects of wind and vibration.
The tower’s photovoltaic panels also presented challenges for our team. While harnessing the ever-present Saudi sunshine to produce energy for the development, the panels were at risk of being damaged by the intense heat.
Our team was tasked with devising a plan to protect the panels from the harsh Saudi sun. Our innovative response was to cool them using water flowing over the panels.
To optimise the design of the spire, we modelled a full-scale section of the tower and subjected it to various environmental stresses. The aerodynamic properties of the spire were tested in a wind tunnel, with the results used to modify its shape to overcome possible structural fatigue issues. Our research determined the design of a tuned mass damper, which mitigates the effects of vibrations on the structure.
Adding further value, our team modelled the building as a whole to optimise the position and performance of its main facade, minimising solar gain while maximising daylight and views. This work, alongside our inclusion of an energy efficient air-cooling system, reduces the energy consumption of the headquarters by 25% compared to similar buildings.
In just 12 months our team, working in conjunction with the architect, was able to take this sustainable design in Saudi Arabia from concept to detailed design. The result is a breath taking head office for our client with LEED Gold standard energy efficient credentials.
Services and approach
When we integrate our specialist teams around an approach, the benefits to the client multiply