King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) is a new international graduate-level research university and amazing desert campus located in Thuwal, Saudi Arabia. Designed and built by HOK in less than three years the campus was designed for maximum sustainability and minimum energy use while incorporating traditional Arabic architecture and modern technology. At the heart of the campus is the KAUST Academic Library, which serves as a dynamic student commons bringing people together both socially and academically.
To date, KAUST is the largest LEED NC-Platinum project ever built and was done so at a rapid pace. The design team was tasked with building a contemporary work of architecture that would resonate with the global scientific community while being firmly rooted in local Saudi culture as well as using minimal energy and being highly sustainable. To combat the hot, desert climate, HOK incorporated a number of traditional architectural techniques.
First the campus is compressed like older Arabic cities to minimize the amount of exterior envelope exposed to the sun and reduce outdoor walking distances. Then a large roof spans across the entire block providing shade to the buildings and pedestrian spaces below, while still allowing in natural daylight and encouraging ventilation. The roof is covered in photovoltaic panels for energy generation and large solar-powered wind towers harness energy from the sun and wind to passively create air flow in pedestrian walkways. Lastly, mashrabiya screens shade windows to reduce heat loads.
The Academic Library is located at the center of the compact campus and serves as a student commons and meeting space as well as a traditional library. Dramatic yet welcoming, the library’s interior is built out in a rich palette of materials and provides varied spaces for students and academics to collaborate, including cafes, casual lounges and more formal meeting rooms.
The exterior enclosure of the building is a double wall of glass and laminated stone to temper the sunlight. Flexible spaces ensure that the library can remain modern as the demands of the digital information age change in the future. The majority of books are housed on the first floor and are available for immediate retrieval, but an on demand print shop can print any book within the library’s online resources. At night, the building’s transparent nature transforms it into a beacon of light. The entire campus has received a number of awards including the 2011 Laboratory of the Year by R&D Magazine as well as one of the 2010 “Top Ten Green Projects” by AIA’s Committee on the Environment.
Images ©HOK and Sam Fentress