King Abdullah University of Science and Technology
King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) is the largest LEED Platinum project in Saudi Arabia; the campus comprises 26 separate buildings. Certified in 2010, KAUST’s sustainable development is integral to its overall mission “to nurture innovation in science and technology, and support research in areas such as energy and the environment.”
The end of 2006 saw the beginnings of KAUST, which was built from the ground up. Aramco, the largest oil company in Saudi Arabia, was tapped to manage the project because they were accustomed to working on such a large scale. In 2007, the very first person to be named a KAUST affiliate was put into position and became part of KAUST’s leadership team. The design process began in April 2007, they broke ground at the end of July 2007, and it opened in September 2009—an extremely fast trajectory from conception to completion.
The purpose of the entire facility was to move Saudi Arabia away from an oil-based economy. It was government mandated, as were a number of other similar projects. “It was intended as a means for finding a different economic future,” says Bill Odell, director of science and technology at HOK—the design firm responsible for KAUST. The project proper consists of 5.5 million square feet, 2.5 million of which is devoted to laboratories; the rest comprise support facilities. (It’s called a university but it’s a graduate level research institute.)
KAUST’s university buildings have been specifically constructed to utilize natural light and ventilation. They support a roof capable of carrying 12,000 square meters of solar thermal and photovoltaic arrays that can use the sun to produce 3,300 megawatt hours of clean energy every year.
As the building design was evolving, so too was the research direction for the institute. The government issued a “very broad mandate” from the king in 2006 to put forth a new beacon of learning—to move the country away from using oil as a fuel, and look for ways to use it as other materials by altering its chemistry (e.g., surgical instruments). “The goal is to develop high-value, non-toxic products to be used for good over and over again,” explains Odell.
“What was important to the process was also important to the success of LEED,” notes Odell. The project’s key players included: Aramco, the client (eventually became KAUST); Aramco project managers; OGER International of Paris; and their sister company, Saudi OGER, the builders. “The dynamic between all of those parties was a very, very good relationship that allowed the project to get done on time and produce the LEED Platinum project that it became,” says Odell. The decision making for everything happened very quickly. While Aramco was supportive of LEED, they didn’t know a lot about it. They put their trust in HOK, which moved things along. “It was their faith in our direction that helped a lot,” he notes.
The design was put together with input from five different institutes, each of which focused on one of the following areas: alternative energy; water and desolvation; bioremediation; sustainable agriculture; and materials and membranes. The sheer speed with which it was put together is something Odell feels distinguishes the project. “And the cost was a bargain; it was not throwing money at this problem. It cost much less than similar facilities. Part of the reason for that is because it did so well with LEED and sustainable strategies. “Because of the time restraints, suppliers gave the very best price, the very first time they bid. There was a lot of, in a sense, customization around the environmental issues that we were concerned about.”
The original site plan had the new facility sitting right on the edge of some of the world’s most pristine coral reefs—a major design consideration. So they moved the site slightly, pulling back from the edge, and built a harbor to avoid impacting the coral, as well as a waterway that constantly flushes the water to keep it clean. Also, they sought to protect the mangroves that grow along the perimeter. The bay they created was to be part of the marine biology research center. (KAUST partners with Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory to help preserve the Red Sea ecology.)
According to Odell, the campus itself has become a major recruiting tool when trying to get talent to do their research in Saudi Arabia. Most of the research being conducted there is around sustainability issues. “You have people who are predisposed to value the campus in that way,” he says. The project has raised awareness in all of Saudi Arabia. “It’s given visibility to not only the problems they face, but also the solutions that can be had out there,” notes Odell. Since the building of KAUST, many Saudi-based projects are framed in terms of it. Clients are generally well educated around its value in fostering sustainable strategies, says Odell. “They are looking to incorporate those things into their projects and take it all a step further.”
Taipei 101 is a landmark supertall skyscraper in Xinyi District, Taipei, Taiwan.Photo: Henry Tsui
Taiwan’s TAIPEI 101 is an iconic building currently pursuing LEED v4, USGBC’s latest version of the rating system. With 101 floors occupying over 2 million square feet of space, it is one of the world’s tallest buildings. “TAIPEI 101 is the first super-tall building in the world to attempt recertification while upgrading to the new LEED v4 standard,” explains Tim Shen, director of sustainability for Asia at CBRE. “In choosing to certify up to the new v4 system, not only has the team been encouraged to raise their game on several existing performance factors, but we’ve also been presented with totally new ideas to investigate and new challenges around innovation to explore. All of this emphasizes the fact that the pursuit of sustainability in commercial real estate is very much a constant journey.”
Completed in 2004, TAIPEI 101’s Shen’s team sought and earned LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance certification in hopes of demonstrating the relationships between individuals, buildings, and the environment, thereby getting people to think about those relationships. The new certification, says Shen, “provides a good opportunity for the team to refocus their green operations programs to find new efficiencies, higher levels of performance, as well as reengage with tenants, vendors, and other stakeholders on environmental issues.”
From 2008 to 2010, the team concentrated on retrofitting the building to save energy and water. Today, using Energy Management and Control Systems (EMCS), building managers are able to adjust temperatures, modify chiller plant operating schedules, as well as monitor water distribution according to tenant demand. At that time, the team also reviewed public lighting, which was ultimately converted to more energy-efficient luminaires and lighting controls. (The reduction in energy consumption is anticipated to be 33.41 million kilowatt hours per year, and they are expected to save more than 2 million dollars in operating expenses per year.) Furthermore, low-mercury and no-mercury lamp fixtures were installed throughout the building to reduce exposure levels and potential pollution.
The introduction of low-flow water fixtures together with dedicated water management systems decreased potable water usage by approximately 30 percent (about 28 million liters of potable water annually)—significantly less than the average tenant high-rise building. They were able to do so without sacrificing tenant satisfaction.
TAIPEI 101 is currently working with the national utility company on becoming the first commercial building in Taiwan to sign up for a demand-response program. “This could be a potential game changer for the industry, with ramifications for the citizens of Taipei,” says Shen. If TAIPEI 101, with such a large number of the highest caliber tenants, can make a demand-response program work, it opens the way for a great many other office buildings to do the same.”
As a result of these efforts and based on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s ENERGY STAR system, TAIPEI 101 ranks in the top 30 percent of high-rise office buildings.
Of special note is the way in which the team approached the landscape. In response to limited onsite green space, they implemented sustainable landscaping practices in the city—the idea being that by doing so, they would achieve the overall sustainability goal of the project, as well as highlight their efforts citywide. As part of its building management initiatives, it adopted part of the Zhong Qiang Park to restore and protect habitats that support native flora and fauna. “The land trust has gained a lot of publicity, which has helped to raise the trust’s profile in Taiwan, and that of preserving natural habitats in general,” says Shen.