Sean Quinn, Head of Sustainability at 10 DESIGN, sheds some light on how they approach the UAE’s extreme climatic conditions to deliver sustainable multicultural designs with architectural, economic, environmental and social integrity. lO is a leading international Partnership of Architectural, Urban, Landscape and Interior Designers and Animators operating out of Hong Kong, Shanghai, Edinburgh & Dubai.
- What drives sustainability in the region?
For our projects in the Middle-East, the demand for sustainability is two-fold. The governments of Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Doha are all implementing Green Building Regulations. In addition, we have been fortunate enough to have clients that are championing such principles and we have been hard at work designing innovative ways to integrate those solutions.
- Are certain aspects of sustainability & high performance design more important in the UAE?
The top challenge facing the Middle East is the extreme climate: high temperature, high humidity (or low depending on region), minimal potable water resources, and risk of glare. Designing dynamic comfortable places that achieve energy, daylighting performance and manage water resources on site are our top priority.
- How do construction stakeholders approach sustainability?
Seventh Heaven Residences and Ashjar at Al Barari are designed to create a sustainable community ensuring preservation and longevity of natural resources. The project responds to the distinct climate of Dubai, and strives to elongate the comfortable conditions of the year. The residences are positioned along an east-west axis, maximizing southern exposure for even natural light reducing lighting loads and avoiding glare from the east and west and framing desirable northern views. In addition to this, this orientation takes full advantage of the predominant WNW midday breeze, balancing off very high temperatures during the day.
Seventh Heaven at Al Barari
Placement on site and an undulating façade will ensure exposure to cooling night time breezes and landscaping will help mitigate the impact of sandstorms. The units themselves feature high ceilings and shallow floor plates allowing rich cross ventilation and daylight, further enhanced through a customized system of balconies and shading structures. All these strategies reduce cooling loads even during the hottest periods of summer and artificial light loads year round.
Comfort Analysis in Masterplan for Al Barari (output not generated using Sefaira software)
- Is there a benchmark building that exemplifies sustainable architecture in the region? Are there notable architects that drive sustainability?
Masdar City has set an extreme precedent in the Middle East, adapting vernacular solutions in contemporary forms and creating a research institute developing innovative sustainable technologies. The key is to build upon the most successful and replicable strategies and systems, and to integrate them into the existing urban infrastructure or expanding edges of Middle-Eastern cities.
Masdar City; Photo by Foster & Partners
- What strategies most interest designers in this region?
Dubai developed rapidly in the 2000s, and there is a huge opportunity now to address some of the broader elements of place making in the urban sphere. The waterfront and Dubai Creek are areas where public interaction and community can be engaged. From the performance side, district energy and cooling supported by a renewable energy portfolio poses the best solution to manage the distribution of efficient energy. For our architectural teams, the building envelope is becoming more dynamic. We are investigating a broader selection of materials as we minimize glazing, and approach new means to enhance daylight, ventilation, and embrace the passive opportunities in the region.
Conceptual Sketch, Seventh Heaven at Al Barari
- What aspects of building design do you tend to focus on in practice?
Our firm operates at all scales and all aspects of projects, from masterplanning, to building, landscaping and environmental design. With each project, we attempt to holistically integrate the most effective strategies in response to climate and place. We then focus on a few core elements that can be weaved through the entire project to enhance the aesthetic, programming, performance, economics, and overall sustainability of the project.
Energy Analysis of Ashjar at Al Barari (output generated using Sefaira software)
We use Sefaira extensively to test and integrate sustainable strategies such as the right massing, orientation, shading depths, etc.
Daylight Design for Ashjar at Al Barari (output not generated using Sefaira software)
- What challenges do you face in designing sustainable buildings?
The misconception of cost: “Green = Money.” We work with our clients to demonstrate the effectiveness of every strategy we implement and this is where Sefaira has been such an asset in goal setting. We tend to break down strategies through three tiers of design interventions:
i. Zero Cost Design Options; a holistic implementation of natural and passive strategies creates a solid foundation.
ii. Strategies that add up-front cost are evaluated for their synergistic benefit and short-term operational savings are identified.
iii. Elements that increase cost but also substantial value, a broader benefit to the development. This may be a technology that enhances residential living, creates brand value for a commercial tower, increases rental or lease value, or provides opportunity for research in campus planning.
The key is to demonstrate how sustainable design enhances the experience of occupants, saves or even profits the client, all while preserving the natural environment.