The solar shading of the Siemens Middle East HQ building in Abu Dhabi (part of Masdar City) uses computerized parametric software to mimic evolutionary selection of the “fittest” to find the most efficient design solution possible.
The building, awarded LEED Platinum, does not rely on “bolting on” eco-gadgets like PV panels to achieve the highest sustainable performance in the region; instead “green” thinking dictates the shapes, size and materials of the structure itself. This is perhaps most evident in the design of the building’s façades, which is made up of aluminum fins that are positioned very precisely so no direct sunlight hits the windows of the building but still allows the maximum amount of daylight into the building and also protects the structure against sandstorms.
The inspiration came from looking at the way leafs on trees respond to their surrounding environment and climate to maximize the efficiency and performance of catching light. The component of the façades - if tailored to their surrounding - could be used in the same way to harness the intense light of Abu Dhabi’s climate and also protect the building against it. The shapes and sizes of leafs have evolved over thousands of years to perform their current function; so how would an architect designing a façade use the same evolutionary “survival of the fittest” approach to ensure every component of a façade was perfectly synchronized with its environment?
The answer involved parametric design principles. This involved writing an algorithm that could be used to answer fundamental questions about each component of the design: for example, the architects could ask the software; if I needed to shade this part of the façade which faces North West in these climatic conditions, what would be the best solution? The parametric process is an automated tool so it runs these tests itself, constantly improving the performance every time by tuning the solution based upon what it learned from the previous test. This process can test thousands of options, some only small tweaks of an existing iteration, mimicking an evolutionary process, which would normally take thousands of years, in a few minutes. It’s a process of comparison where only the “fittest” options are considered.
Rather than start the design of the building with a predetermined aesthetic, the architects relied on this parametric process to lead the design of the building. This sophisticated approach relied on computers at the design stage to create a clear, simple architectural idea that could be built very inexpensively and constructed by a local workforce, placing no cost premium on sustainable architecture.
Location: Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Gross Floor Area: 22.800 m2
Architects: Sheppard Robson
Project Manager: Morganti
Main Contractor: Al Fara'a General Contracting Company
Structural, M&E: Aecom
Photography: 1-7-10 © Nicole Luettecke, 2-3-14 © Paul McMullin, 4/6-8-9-11/13 © Hufton+Crow