KAFD Conference Center

KAFD
KAFD
KAFD

As a centerpiece of Riyadh's King Abdullah Financial District, this cutting-edge conference center features a dramatic, faceted roof structure made possible by inventive engineering solutions.

Project Facts
  • Completion Year 2016
  • Size Site Area: 28,350 square meters Building Height: 42 meters Building Gross Area: 130,000 square meters
  • Awards
    2012, Unbuilt Projects: Honor Award, American Society of Landscape Architects - New York Chapter 2018, Honor Award, AIA – Middle East
  • Collaborators
    Shen Milsom & Wilke Van Deusen & Associates Fisher Dachs Associates Hm White C&G Partners Llc Aqua Design International Ward Williams Associates Rolf Jensen & Associates WSP Flack & Kurtz
Project Facts
  • Completion Year 2016
  • Size Site Area: 28,350 square meters Building Height: 42 meters Building Gross Area: 130,000 square meters
  • Awards
    2012, Unbuilt Projects: Honor Award, American Society of Landscape Architects - New York Chapter 2018, Honor Award, AIA – Middle East
  • Collaborators
    Shen Milsom & Wilke Van Deusen & Associates Fisher Dachs Associates Hm White C&G Partners Llc Aqua Design International Ward Williams Associates Rolf Jensen & Associates WSP Flack & Kurtz

A venue designed for the digital age

As part of the new King Abdullah Financial District (KAFD) in Riyadh, the Conference Center makes a distinct impression with its faceted geometry, evoking the landforms of the desert terrain. The master plan for the larger civic, financial, commercial, and residential development features a sunken outdoor pedestrian path as well as a monorail system that connects the district.

The Conference Center contains nearly 1,300,000 square feet of conference facilities, along with restaurants, an elevated public concourse, and a monorail station. The state-of-the-art building sets a new standard for flexible conferencing, providing a multipurpose event hall with operable walls, a 600-seat auditorium with full lecture and cinema support, and a “digital forum” approach that allows all venues to be internally and externally networked.

KAFD
© Hufton + Crow

The conference rooms are designed as immersive four-wall video environments, with walls that contain retractable projection screens allowing users to conduct virtual meetings. The conference rooms are clad in electrochromic glass that permits users to change from clear to opaque glass based on their desired levels of light and privacy. A “media cloud” in the ceiling of each conference room has the ability to communicate with mobile devices, permitting wireless sharing and projection of user content in a meeting setting. Dynamic interactive signage enables conference attendees to brand individual rooms and conference venues.


Engineering the “mega-roof”

The Conference Center is defined by its bold structural design. The building’s organic, faceted geometry responds to the district guidelines, which require all buildings to have faceted exterior enclosures.

The building is composed of three distinct structural systems. A four-story underground substructure houses parking and mechanical facilities. Above ground, the conference facilities are housed in two independent steel structures. The large, column-free spaces are spanned using a combination of steel trusses and composite columns, with a lateral system of reinforced concrete walls. An independent structural steel “mega-roof” spans over these buildings and rests directly on the concrete substructure.

KAFD
© Hufton + Crow
KAFD
© Hufton + Crow

The roof structure is composed of a uniform network of structural steel elements, with steel columns that support the roof nodes at the large spans. The geometry of the roof is reconciled at the corners of the facets in drum-shaped steel nodes. Straight primary members run along the facet edges and connect to the nodes using a standard connection. Secondary members run within the plane of each facet and connect to the midpoints of the primary members. The secondary members brace the primary ones and provide support and attachment points for the facade.

The folded geometry of the roof provides structural stiffness. Inside, the space between the angular roof and the conferencing facilities defines a network of daylit gathering spaces.

KAFD
Parametric design process. © SOM

Engineering the "mega-roof"

Inventive engineering solutions

In order to meet an expedited project design and construction schedule, the KAFD Conference Center required the complete integration of multiple disciplines—architecture, structural engineering, MEP, and sustainable design—and close coordination with the client and construction teams.

SOM’s integrated team collaborated closely to devise a rational and easily constructible system for the roof, composed of architecturally exposed structural steel (AESS). The complicated geometry of the roof was reconciled at the corners of the facets in drum-shaped steel nodes. The nodes are connected along the edges of the facets using straight identical members and standard connections. Each facet is further spanned by identical secondary members that connect to the midpoints of the primary using standard connections.

Panel

Great attention was paid to the design of the nodes at facet intersections, as they are the key to resolving the complicated geometry of the roof into a rational and easily constructible system. The main challenge was accommodating the primary members that come into each node at different angles and different offsets from the work plane. The team studied five different strategies for reconciling the geometry. The final configuration is a double steel drum, which is oriented along a vector that is the average of the normal vectors of all adjacent facets. Each drum is composed of two nested steel cylinders, with the diameters chosen to minimize the clashes of multiple beams before they intersect the drum, while also accounting for transportation limitations. A total of 104 nodes fit into ten “types,” with only eight unique nodes remaining.

Node Fabrication

In keeping with the seamless aesthetic of the structure, the connections of the structural roof members required a unique solution. Welding all of the member connections in the field would have been prohibitively costly and damaging to the AESS finish, which was a 3-hour fire-resistant painted finish. SOM designed a hidden, bolted connection for all roof members. This was achieved by welding recessed connection plates within the rectangular beams to facilitate bolting to the built-up node members in the field. A structural steel cover plate was then installed around the connection to give the appearance of a completely continuous member. This engineering detail saved the steel fabricator/installer more than 50 days on their construction schedule.

Because the roof structure did not include a traditional ceiling in which to conceal the mechanical systems, conduits, and piping for power and sprinklers, these systems could easily have cluttered the roof from the interior and detracted from the visual appeal of the building. Instead, these systems were coordinated and incorporated into the architectural and structural design of the roof. By slightly modifying the original shape of the roof members, a channel was created between the structure and roof cladding system, keeping the clear, seamless appearance of the roof intact.


An integrated approach to sustainability

The building employs innovative sustainability strategies, including an enclosure that locates areas of glazing where they are least susceptible to the harsh desert sun; a ventilation system incorporating a “solar chimney” that uses solar heat to move air through the main atrium spaces; and a roof planted with indigenous desert grasses to minimize irrigation requirements. The atria is heated and cooled via a radiant slab, thus focusing thermal comfort at a height of eight feet above walking surfaces and reducing energy consumption by 30 percent. The folded geometry of the roof creates a continuous channel to drain rainwater and sand, while also facilitating the natural flow of air, aiding the passively/actively designed MEP systems of the building.

KADF
© Hufton + Crow

These innovative sustainability features reduce pollution, energy use, and material waste, thus helping to advance key goals of Saudi Arabia’s 2030 Vision National Transformation Program.

The conference rooms are designed as immersive four-wall video environments, with walls that contain retractable projection screens allowing users to conduct virtual video meetings. The conference rooms are clad in electrochromic glass that permits users to change from clear to opaque glass based on their desired levels of light and privacy. A “media cloud” in the ceiling of each conference room will have the ability to communicate with mobile devices, permitting wireless sharing and projection of user content in a meeting setting. Dynamic interactive signage will enable conference attendees to brand individual rooms and conference venues.

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