Mashrabiya - inspired modules to keep Al Bahr Towers in Abu Dhabi cool.
- Mashrabiya - inspired modules to keep Al Bahr Towers in Abu Dhabi cool.
2000 automated, dynamic Umbrella-like modules inspired by an Arabic
Feature Mashrebiya, will vary the shade to keep Al Bahr Towers in Abu
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Modernizing the mashrabiya: Smart-skinned Al Bahar Towers near completion
Glass-skinned steel-frame skyscrapers have many advantages. They're
relatively quick, inexpensive and easy to build and require
comparatively few materials. But they pose problems; heat not least
among them. Buildings with fully glazed facades are essentially
greenhouses, so when the sun comes out, they can get uncomfortably
hot. The problem that is more acute in hot climates like that of the
United Arab Emirates, where, despite this fact, the appetite for
glassy high-rise continues to be voracious. For its design of Al Bahr
Towers in Abu Dhabi, Aedas has developed a unique intelligent skin,
inspired by the traditional Arabic mashrabiya, that it claims reduces
interior heat gains caused by sunlight by around 50 percent.
Any hot country that has seen more than a few centuries of
civilization tends to have already solved the problem of hot
buildings. An old Mediterranean or Arabic house, for example, will
typically be built with thick, heavy walls of adobe, clay or stone
which, having cooled overnight, draw heat from the interior over the
course of the day. Windows are few, small, and often shuttered to
minimize and control incoming heat. It's logical, then, that Aedas has
looked to the past for clues to heat management of its 145-m (475-ft)
towers. They may not be built from adobe, but an intelligent outer
skin has apparently been "informed" by a familiar feature of Islamic
architecture: the mashrabiya.
Mashrabiyas are the wooden lattice screens, carved to some geometric
design, that have filled the windows of traditional Arabic
architecture (and particularly houses) since the 14th century. Often
placed on the street-side of dwellings, mashrabiyas offered protection
from eyes as well as the sun. In his excellent essay on mashrabiyas,
freelance scribe and photographer John Feeney writes that, as well as
offering privacy and shade, mashrabiyas actually encourage the flow of
air, helping to cool water stored in clay pots thanks to their porous
"sweating surfaces." Clever things.
The outer skins of Al Bahr Towers are actually simpler than the
mashrabiyas from which they draw inspiration at least in the sense
that they serve a single purpose: shade. But whereas traditional
mashrabiyas are passive, Aedas' modern interpretation adapts according
to the sun's position. The skin is made up of 2,000 umbrella-like
modules per tower which open and close to vary the amount of shade at
that point according to the time of day. The umbrellas are automated,
controlled by the building management system something akin to a
central nervous system that allows a building's various systems to
work with each other rather than against.
The advantage of this approach, according to Aedas, is the avoidance
of dark tinted glass which inevitably restricts all incoming light all
of the time, and not merely the problematic direct sunlight at certain
times of day. Instead, these dynamic shades let daylight in for part
of the day allowing the use of artificial lighting to the interior can
be reduced. However, the energy saving from the reduced need for air
conditioning is likely to be at least as significant, if Aedas'
predicted reduction in solar gain is accurate.
What's rather nice about these modern mashrabiyas is that at various
degrees of openness, they take on different geometric patterns from
tessellating hexagons to spaced out alternately-facing three-pointed
Combined, the towers will contain about 70,000 sq m (753,000 sq ft) of
office space. The slightly bulging form of the towers is reminiscent
of London's Gherkin, albeit with the tapering pinnacle sliced off. But
the partial covering of mashrabiyas, which almost resemble barnacles,
give the towers an identity of their own. Aedas tells Gizmag that Al
Bahr Towers are now nearing completion.