The 74,322 square meter College of Life Sciences (COLS) at Sabah Al Salim Al Sabah University City is designed to integrate art, environment, and information technology into a collaborative, interactive learning setting. COLS is an exceptionally site-responsive building notable for its dramatic, angular sloped façade and its cladding of striking, desert-colored, textured material. An array of diamond-shaped perforated metal panels filters natural daylight and shades the interior from the harsh sun. The color intensity of the golden facade changes with the sun’s movement throughout the day, much like the surrounding desert. Panels are positioned specifically for each façade orientation, directing more northern light inside while blocking intense southern light. The angular geometry of the panel array is echoed in the building footprint and surrounding landscape features.
The building’s form, sculpted in response to extensive environmental analysis, adapts the ancient science and aesthetics of wind towers, screens and other vernacular forms, creating natural ventilation, high thermal mass, and self-shading courtyards. Internally, COLS is organized around vibrant, multi-level atria that provide natural ventilation and cooling by drawing warm air up to roof level through their interior, conical configurations.
Separating solar control from thermal strategies optimizes the exterior envelope of COLS. The building’s energy performance is derived from traditional vernacular responses to the intense and harsh climate. The highly defensive, layered envelope protects the interior spaces. A double-layered roof acts as a thermal heat sink during the day and a thermal radiator by night. It also shades the rooftop mechanical spaces and funnels air from the prevailing winds. Exterior walls slope outward as they rise to reduce solar exposure, thus reducing heat loads on the mechanical equipment. Additional airflow is supplemented by discharged air from the building’s mechanical systems. Digital sensors help conserve energy when rooms are not occupied.