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Work in progress: King Abdullah Financial Districton May 18, 2010
FXFOWLE managing director Steven Miller says work on the KAFD site is moving forward in leaps and bounds.
The King Abdullah Financial District is a major development for the Saudi capital, and a major undertaking for architects FXFOWLE, who have committed to developing the KSA’s first Leed rated building on the site.
FXFOWLE is responsible for four plots of land on what is set to be Saudi Arabia’s biggest business park, which will eventually comprise two towers, 88 metres and 133 metres respectively, a 26-storey office building, three levels of retail space and a mosque.
At an estimated cost of US $96 billion, KAFD is being developed by the government-owned Rayadah Investment Company on the outskirts of Riyadh.
It is a major project, but work on FXFOWLE’s portion of the site is well underway. The two tallest towers already stand at around seven stories, and much of the low-level space is on the verge of completion. The basements of many of the buildings are now finished, even down to the paintwork and plumbing.
Steven Miller, Dubai managing director of FXFOWLE, is upbeat about the development. While the two towers still have some 30 storeys to go, an estimated 40% of the project is being constructed below ground level, and much of this work is at an advanced stage.
“The MEP work is going amazingly well. In Riyadh the soil is very soft so you can get the material out so fast, as long as it’s not raining,” he said. “Then once you get to January you know that it’s not going to rain for another ten months.”
Not that the development has been entirely hassle free. One of the most distinctive attributes of the FXFOWLE towers is their exterior, with each tower slanting in seemingly random directions. While such a design is easy to create on paper, it is less easy to put into practice.
“The design is such that the outside walls of the towers all slope and because of this obviously the columns have to slope too. You can’t just stick the columns up and work around them; you have to align them perfectly on a level by level basis. They have been the biggest challenge so far,” Miller said.
At the same time, the reluctance of construction companies in Saudi Arabia to use structural steel has made implementing FXFOWLE’s distinctive design more difficult. “They’re not trained to use it and they don’t want any part of it,” Miller said.
And while the bones of the construction are well underway in Riyadh, the environmental initiatives will take time. FXFOWLE has designed the façades of the buildings to include energy-reducing sun shades while each of them has green roofs and additional landscaped areas. Environmental modeling software was used to develop the building forms in response to sun and shadow patterns, permitting natural lighting and views while mitigating solar gain.
There will also be significant landscaping on the site, with plans for three levels of public space separating pedestrians from vehicular traffic. Open public areas too are a prominent part of the project.
Nonetheless, Miller estimates that the two smaller residential buildings and the mosque will be completed within the next 12 to 15 months, while the rest of the development is probably around 24 months away.
“On the two tallest towers we have around 30 more lifts and then maybe 20 on the other two, then there are the three low buildings and that’s it,” he said. “It’s all gone pretty well.”
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