AIA/COTE Top Ten Green Projects

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King Abdullah University of Science & Technology

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Photo credit: J. Picoulet


  • Location: Thuwal, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
  • Building type(s): Campus
  • New construction
  • 5,340,000 ft2 (496,000 m2)
  • Project scope: multiple buildings
  • Suburban setting
  • Completed September 2009
  • Rating: U.S. Green Building Council LEED-NC, v.2.2--Level: Platinum

King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) is a new international, graduate-level research university established to drive innovation in science and technology and to support world-class research in areas such as energy and the environment. KAUST's new campus is the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia's first LEED certified project and the world's largest LEED Platinum project.

The design team responded to a set of extraordinary challenges. In the context of an extremely hot, humid climate, they were asked to create a low-energy, highly sustainable project. The team was challenged to create a contemporary work of architecture that would resonate with the global scientific community while being firmly rooted in local Saudi culture. Finally, the team was asked to design an institution of the highest physical quality at a historically unprecedented speed—from conception to completion in just three years.

Because the research and development of renewable resources drives KAUST's research agenda, sustainable development is integral to KAUST's overall mission. By integrating sustainable measures into the site planning, the community, the building design and the campus operations, the university is demonstrating new ways to build in the region and promoting responsible stewardship of the environment.

Environmental Aspects

As multiple design teams worldwide worked in tandem at a high speed, a core group developed concepts to guide their efforts and integrate sustainability. The team employed five strategies that borrow from local culture and traditions to solve environmental issues:

1. Structured like traditional Arabic cities, the campus is compressed as much as possible to minimize the amount of exterior envelope exposed to the sun and reduce outdoor walking distances.

2. As found in a traditional souk, or Arabic market, shaded and passively cooled circulation thoroughfares are characterized by dramatic light and social spaces.

3. The Arabic Bedouin tent inspired designers to create a monumental roof system that spans across building masses to block sun on building facades and into the pedestrian spine, to facilitate natural ventilation and to filter light. Solar panels covering the surface capture the sun's energy.

4. Passive ventilation strategies of the traditional Arabic house influenced the design of iconic, solar-powered wind towers that harness energy from the sun and wind to passively create airflow in pedestrian walkways.

5. Similar to Arabic screening called 'mashrabiya,' the campus shades windows and skylights with an integral shading system that reduces heat loads while creating dramatic dappled light.


Integrated team, Design charrette, Commissioning, Performance measurement and verification, Wildlife habitat, Stormwater management, Water harvesting, Drought-tolerant landscaping, Graywater, Massing and orientation, Passive solar, Lighting control and daylight harvesting, On-site renewable electricity, Adaptable design, Certified wood, Connection to outdoors, Daylighting, Natural ventilation, Ventilation effectiveness, Thermal comfort, Low-emitting materials

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Last updated: 4/19/2010

Our thanks to the ENERGY STAR program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and to the U.S. Department of Energy, and to BuildingGreen, Inc. for hosting the submission and judging forms.

For more information about the AIA/COTE Top Ten Green Projects, contact AIA/COTE. For help on how to use this Web site, contact .

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