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​​​Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy


Solar Towers and Prevailing Wind Conditions

Two iconic solar towers on the campus will create a passive pressure difference, using the sun and prevailing winds from the northwest and microclimate winds blowing in from the Red Sea, to facilitate a continuous breeze along the shaded courtyards.



The envelope of the tower consists of two glass curtain wall skins. The outer skin is fully transparent to allow as much solar energy through as possible, while the inner skin consists of a highly absorbent tinted glass that gathers solar energy to maximize the hot air within the tower. As the hot air rises up the shaft of the tower and exits the top, it is replaced with cooler air from the courtyard.

The coupled effect of these solar chimneys and local cooling from misters allows campus occupants to feel comfortable in the exterior courtyard for more than 75 percent of the year.

Sun Shading and Natural Daylight

In the Saudi Arabian climate, a delicate balance exists between controlling solar heat gain and allowing sufficient natural daylight into occupied spaces. KAUST campus buildings utilize overhangs, fixed exterior louvers, dynamic exterior louvers, atria, skylights, and mechanical shading systems to ensure that this balance is achieved.

Renewable Solar Power

The continuously sunny conditions in Saudi Arabia offer more potential for solar power utilization than in any other place in the world. The monumental roof for the KAUST campus has been designed to incorporate massive solar thermal arrays to provide domestic hot water to all campus buildings, and solar photovoltaic (PV) arrays to generate and distribute power to campus buildings based upon demand. Future arrays can be incorporated to supplement increased energy demands in the future.

The two rooftop solar plants on the North and South Laboratory buildings will occupy nearly 12,000 square meters, have a maximum output of one megawatt each, and produce up to 3,300 megawatt hours of clean energy annually. This output will save nearly 1,700 tons of annual carbon emissions and equals carbon offsets for 7.3 million miles of air travel.

Highly Efficient Mechanical Systems

Site-responsive design and renewable energy integration are coupled with highly efficient mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) systems to reduce the carbon footprint of the KAUST campus. The MEP design for the campus includes the following energy-saving strategies to help reduce the overall energy demand of the project:
  • Heat wheel energy recovery
  • Solar thermal arrays for hot water heating
  • Chilled beams for thermally dominant areas
  • Under-floor air distribution systems where appropriate (office and administration areas)
  • Direct-drive fans and pumps
  • Variable frequency drives (VFDs) on all variable flow air and water systems
  • NEMA premium efficiency motors
  • High-efficiency lighting with daylight and occupancy sensors
  • Demand-based dedicated outdoor air systems with carbon dioxide monitoring and control in high occupancy spaces
  • Total volatile organic compound (TVOC) monitoring and demand-based control of lab areas
  • Variable air volume (VAV) exhaust systems
  • Fume hoods with automatic-sash closers or face-velocity rest when unoccupied
  • Air handling units (AHUs) with low face-velocity components
  • High-capacity, low pressure-drop cartridge filters
  • Low pressure loss duct design
  • Low pressure loss piping design
  • Manifold duct arrangement and systems
  • Manifold piping arrangements
  • Pressure reset control routines
  • Heat-of-compression air dryers