ABU DHABI – By 2025, Abu Dhabi’s Masdar City (planned by Foster and Partners) will have 50,000 inhabitants and be the world’s first zero-carbon community. Sheppard Robson’s latest addition to the plan, Siemens Middle East Headquarters, is one of the project’s most sustainable buildings to date – realised at a cost of a conventional office – and is a welcome antidote to the sprawling landscapes of glass towers that have become synonymous with the region’s development.

The optimisation of the office’s interior – being wholly column-free, divisible into 32 separate offices and punctured with shaded light-wells, as well as highly efficient use of building materials – meant that more budget could be allocated to the much-needed, high-performance envelope. Furthermore, it is hoped that the spatial flexibility of the interior will expand the building’s functional lifespan.

‘By studying local climate conditions and context, we tested designs using advanced building modelling techniques to optimise daylight, facade layering and glazing orientation to minimise solar gain and optimise shading,’ the architects explain. This results in the use of highly insulating, airtight façade and aluminium fins that block out direct sunlight.

Even though the building stands on the edge of current development, by raising the main volume, a sheltered and naturally ventilated pedestrian plaza was created underneath, linking to the existing urban tissue. ‘The plaza encourages pedestrian movement within the heart of the site. The introverted nature of the shared public realm is further enhanced by a series of external rooms, retail units and two fully glazed office receptions,’ the architects explain.

Photos Paul McMullin and Hufton + Crow (where indicated)