Energy efficient

Comfort - Building well-being

In the field of energy efficient buildings, experimentation and research into materials, construction techniques and HVAC go hand in hand with efforts to safeguard the planet and study impacts on the ecosystem surrounding us. Excitement is being generated by the revolutionary new Solar Roof that integrates photovoltaic panels into its design, which Elon Musk, the producer of Tesla electric cars, is about to market.

In the visionary businessman’s innovative approach, bulky solar panels will no longer be laid over an existing roof, often compromising the design and architectural composition of buildings as they do today, but the tiles themselves will incorporate the solar panels, resembling a traditional roof. This translates into smart roofs capable of converting sunlight into clean, renewable energy that will then be channelled into storage systems like the Powerwall battery, and used to meet the home’s energy needs.

The rooftop, spacious terraces and outdoor teaching facilities are designed as a natural extension of the surrounding cityscape and feature playgrounds as well as seating and furnishings suitable for holding workshops, relaxing and being used by the public outside of school opening hours. The school thus acts as a gathering point for the social fabric of the entire neighbourhood. As further evidence of the school’s relationship with the city, the façade of the building is largely made out of recycled bricks from old buildings in the area, thus emphasising the concept of environmental and economic sustainability.

In such a scenario, context-sensitive roofs become a crucial design solution in the pursuit of optimal comfort, making buildings just as responsive to changing external conditions as living organisms.

The Al Bahar Towers, designed by the international architecture office AHR Architects, employ an advanced shading system. The 25-storey towers, built to host the Abu Dhabi Investment Council Headquarters, feature a façade of perforated hexagons that act like a second skin. The triangular fibreglass elements are programmed to open or close in  response to the movement of the sun, thanks to the integration of form-finding software that operates the cladding completely automatically.

As the sun goes down and its glare diminishes, the triangles turn away from the sun’s path and the sun sensor automatically controls their movement and the façade goes into “sun-set” mode. These giant shading devices drastically reduce the building’s reliance on air conditioners and minimises the use of artificial light, effectively exploiting the abundance of natural light also as a result of the complex cylindrical shape of the towers and the translucent glass façade that offers 360 degree views.


The origami-like screens positioned two metres outside the buildings’ exterior represent a high-tech version of the classic Islamic lattice shading motif called the “mashrabiya”. This nod to tradition reduces heat absorption by 50% and, together with the photovoltaic panels placed on the roofs, reduces CO2 emissions by 1,750 tonnes a year. The design was recognised as the Chicago Council On Tall Buildings and Urban Habitats Award Winner, a prestigious prize given for sustainability in tall buildings.


An array of solar panels on the south side and a green roof are another strategy for lowering indoor temperatures naturally. Entrambi i tetti generano, infine, circa il 5% del fabbisogno energetico totale.


Technical details
Contract Name: Al Bahr Towers, Abu Dhabi UAE
Client: Abu Dhabi Investment Council
Main Contractor: Al-Futtaim Carillion, Abu Dhabi
Sub Contractor: Al Tayer Stocks and Royal Mega Interiors (RMI)
Contract Period: 2010 - 2012
Plot Area: 11,500 sq. m
Building Footprint: 1,960 sq. m
Gross Floor Area: 32,000 sq. m
Height: 150 m
Cost: US$ 245,000,000
Lifts: 25


But to remain somewhat closer to home, also financially, new indoor and outdoor manufacturing technologies are dramatically enhancing the performance of plasterboard panels – a hygroscopic material – in terms of improved sound-proofing, heat insulation, and moisture and mould resistance, all of which are often responsible for unhealthy living and working environments.


With validated and certified design solutions in terms of pure comfort, quality of living and safety, plasterboard can today deliver outstanding performance levels, including in earthquake resistance.