Riyadh's Most Fascinating Green Buildings

By Haneen Al Ghamdi

The buzzword circulating around the world of design, succeeding other trends in the past three decades, is green design.

“Green” is no longer just a color when we speak of it in relation with design. Just like how green technology does not imply green colored iPads, green architecture does mean more grass and more trees.

1. Diplomatic Quarter

Believe it or not, the Diplomatic Quarter (DQ) built during the 1980s is considered as one of the earliest accomplishments of green architecture. It was designed to appear like an oasis amid an empty desert.

In oases, trees grow naturally without the need of maintenance. They grow because they are familiar with the soil and climate conditions that they become native plants to that site. Architects worked on this rationale and observed the natural plants that grew on the DQ site after a rainfall. From there, they nurtured these plants and planted more indigenous seeds from the neighboring desert on the site.

With this, they’ve paid less for regular watering of foreign plants and maintenance and dealt with plants that require minimal watering.

In addition, if you’ve observed the buildings at DQ, there’s common exterior feature between them: they are made out of clay and Adobe. Adobe is taken from the Arabic word طوب†, which is a native material from our land to withstand the dry, hot climate with its thermal features.

Historically, adobe was used because it slowly absorbed the heat of the day, and slowly radiated it to the opposite side at night when the weather is colder, a feature that is called Thermal Mass.


Photo Credit: truth-and-beauty.org

2. King Fahd National Library

The new design allows for light to enter all day long through the glass and steel façade. The Arabesque fabric leaf exterior acts as a barrier from the hot sun, a light diffusor to reduce glare and a provider of a unified daylighting into the interiors. As a result, the energy consumption for lighting is reduced drastically during the day.


Photo Credit: domusweb.it


Saudi Aramco’s take on the green matter is quite significant. They’ve managed to obtain the very first LEED Home certification outside the US. This is for the housing complex designed by HOK in King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center (KEPSARC). The complex is comprised of 191 LEED certified residential and communal units. In addition, the site also hosts the largest solar energy field to power the huge project.


Finally, coming to the most anticipated project in Riyadh, King Abdullah Financial District (KAFD). The architects behind the master plan design, Henning Larsen Architects, designed the urban district to be a sustainable urban development role model by providing more public and private spaces with the lowest costs and best possible microclimates.

This is achieved by carefully designing the building materials and proportions to decrease the weather temperature by 2 degrees. How you may ask? Through light-façade materials containing humidity, green landscapes and water elements. Architects also employed shading devices to facades to decrease the cooling loads on the buildings, intelligent lighting to decrease energy consumption and solar panels.


Photo Credit: henninglarsen.com

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