Sustainable oases

26 Feb 2010

New architectual identity for Sabah Al-Salem University

The University’s goals for the Sabah Al-Salem University City College of Education project included the creation of a strong, individual identity for the College within a larger university; a student-centred learning environment that would foster a community of learning; plans that met a high level of sustainable design with daylight to all classrooms, offices and primary circulation spaces.

Kuwait’s large swings in temperature (from 5ºC to 60ºC) and relative humidity (from 5% to 85%) challenged the design team to find innovative ways to balance community and comfort with low energy use and environmental sensitivity.The design solution creates two five-story rectangular buildings containing modular, repetitive ‘a priori’ learning spaces that are juxtaposed against a free-form, undulating ‘boardwalk’ enclosing a variety of ‘a posteriori’ learning support spaces (e.g. lounges, group study niches and computer stations) that are carved through the length and height of the structures, connecting all floors and functions. The interplay of solid and void between the mass of the buildings and the meandering of The Boardwalk define the architectural identity of the College, and the belief that classroom-based learning must, in the 21st Century, be complemented by an equally vital informal learning environment in which learning continues beyond the doors of the classroom.Accessed from The Boardwalk, a series of large internal garden courtyards — 'Oases' — function as major amenity nodes (cafeteria, library, lobby, and auditorium) for the college, filled with daylight and sheathed in greenery, all highly visible from the learning spaces that surround and overlook them.

The building’s self-shading skin has been calibrated to its specific solar exposure in order to maximise daylight penetration but minimise both solar heat gain and glare. The addition of a ground glass diffusing fin at each window captures and disperses daylight deep into each learning space, while contributing to the solar protection.The project is expected to earn a LEED-NC Gold rating when complete in 2014.

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