Is the future of building egg-shaped?

With environmental design slowly moving up the agenda of the UAE construction industry, there are some projects that are well positioned to set ‘green’ benchmarks. Christopher Sell profiles the Atkins-designed Iris Bay, which is set to grace Dubai’s Business Bay.

  • E-Mail
By  Christopher Sell Published  December 16, 2006

|~|150proj200.gif|~|The egg-shaped Iris Bay is due to be completed by the end of 2008.|~|As was highlighted in a recent issue of Construction Week, sustainability and a greater awareness of environmental design is slowly, inexorably taking hold within the Emirates. But while it will take time to register a change in perception, a number of architects are beginning to design buildings that could augment a shift in thinking of what can and cannot be built in the country. Within the commercial cluster of Business Bay, the 600ha area envisioned as Dubai’s answer to London’s ‘square mile’, one such building, currently undergoing shoring work, bears all the hallmarks of a new mode of thinking in building design. Iris Bay, a 170m-high office tower will go some way to shifting the goal posts for the emirate’s designers and developers, with an emphasis on active and passive sustainable design that enhances both the microclimate and total aesthetic. A futuristic tower that infuses culture, commerce and technology, the 32-storey tower will be located in the southwest of Business Bay adjacent to Sheikh Zayed Road. Richard Hay, concept designer and lead project architect is pragmatic when discussing the challenges facing designers to adopt a ‘greener’ mindset. “Energy’s cheap here in comparison to the rest of the world, so there is that initial inertia to drive towards conserving energy,” he says. “But we do live on a global planet; Dubai is taking its place in environmental issues – the greenhouse issues – and I think we are going to see an exponential leap with regards to Dubai picking up its own responsibilities with regards to sustainable issues.” While not so much as a catalyst, but more a natural progression in peoples’ awareness and urgency, buildings such as Iris Bay are hugely important in the emirate’s cityscape as they present a watershed in design and build methodology. As Hay says: “It takes time because some of the issues are technological and political; you have to get the two to be in sync with each other to be able to appreciate sustainable issues. It has to be more than a wish, it has to be a physical action. That takes time, resources and technology.” Iris Bay features a host of innovative features; its ovoid (egg-shaped) design ‘challenges and transforms’ the idea of what shape a tower should take. Comprising two identical double-curved pixelated shells, which are rotated and cantilevered over the podium, the rear elevation is a continuous vertical curve punctuated by balconies, whilst the front elevation consists of seven zones of rotated glass. In itself this design offers environmental benefits. “Whilst affording some shading, the shells have edges which act as supply and return air vents to the plant rooms, allowing the tower façade to be louvre-free,” says Hay. Complementing the design is the innovative panelling, which will integrate photovoltaic mesh into the glass to harness the sun’s energy and provide shade to the façade. This will also reduce solar glare, which in turn reduces the building’s cooling-load requirement. But Hay says that this feature is subject to further work by Atkins, and importantly, that local authorities must also be involved as it deals with electricity requirements. Design sensibilities have been shown in other aspects of the tower as well. The plant room and services are located in the middle of the tower for a more efficient distribution, while minimised windows in the side façade allow for reduced heat absorption, and natural ventilation through the building façade helps the cooling of the tower. Furthermore, carbon monoxide level-controlled jet fans aid basement ventilation, while there is a concealed air intake to the lower level plant room together with a concealed mechanical car park exhaust. “The features of the project that seem unique, I would consider a natural requirement of the times; for example the car park is naturally ventilated,” says Hay. “So you can create a beautiful façade, which isn’t hugely expensive, and still have it naturally ventilated. There are a few buildings that do that but it’s something we have tried to integrate into the façade as a pattern. Instead of just leaving it open, we have got a stone façade that is perforated, which allows air through and contributes to the overall architectural aesthetic.” Further examples of passive design – which was conceived from an internal competition for the client Sheth Estate International – can be seen through the microclimate created through the landscaped podium, which features a swimming pool on top, coupled with shaded pergolas that reduce wind resistance, together with a smattering of trees. “This water, coupled with water at grade level, provides great ambience and because the podium façade has a double-height arcade set back, it introduces shading, which is passive design,” says Hay. Furthermore, at the front of the building are six low-level waterfalls; a landscaping water feature that is low maintenance but which drives air from the car park as well. The interface between the tower and the podium features prayer rooms, a gym and outdoor pool, while building services have been designed to allow for single or multiple tenancies on each floor. It isn’t just the sustainability through passive design that this building achieves it unique bearing. Its overall concept of a structure that tilts back, opening up the whole cityscape, affording more sky to the ground and relief to the high-rise corridor, represents a new mode of thought for Dubai. “From the balcony you have a vantage point across the city and it gives you views across Business Bay – an immediate contact with the city which, from an environmental point of view is more to do with people and a sense of place,” says Hay. Passive design can also be seen through the varying façade design. The three different facades contribute to the building’s distinctive overall impression, providing the user with different interactive experiences. “Floor-to-ceiling glazing offers views to both the ascending floors and skywards; shaded balconies protect the rear elevation, and linear windows provide seating against the curved shell, which shields the building interiors.” With construction due to begin early next year and an estimated completion date of December 2008, Iris Bay is proof that environmental awareness is not absent in the minds of developers, and is testament to a willing designer and open-minded client. And it shouldn’t be too optimistic to hope that this will pioneer a new wave of building design in the region. Hay concludes: “If you design something which has good form, good integrity and is visually appealing, you actually find that the sustainable issues are already there to be peeled back and revealed, or, if necessary, easily integrated.”||**||

Add a Comment

Your display name This field is mandatory

Your e-mail address This field is mandatory (Your e-mail address won't be published)

Security code