With the distinctive quartet of Lusail Towers now rising from the ground in Qatar ahead of the 2022 Football World Cup, architecture firm Foster + Partners has revealed how it used an integrated and technology-driven approach to designing the complex project on a demandingly fast schedule.
The four towers frame a new central business district in Lusail City. The 1.1 million-square-metre development will host the headquarters for the Qatar National Bank, Qatar Central Bank and Qatar Investment Authority alongside several other global organisations including Qatari Diar.
The project is part of a larger masterplan also designed by Foster + Partners, which carried out the architectural and environmental design, plus structural and MEP engineering for the entire project.
Luke Fox, Head of Studio, Foster + Partners, said: "The complexity of the project and the compressed timescales meant that the exchange of information between architects, engineers and other consultants needed to be almost instantaneous. From the outset, we established an innovative approach by creating a single platform that communicated design changes in real-time, enabling our integrated team work cohesively and at speed."
The team deployed an in-house software system called Hermes that coordinates design data for the project and facilitates sharing of this data in real time across different applications, disciplines, organisations and locations around the world.
Using specially created plugins for the different software applications used by architects, engineers and other consultants, design changes made by one group would instantly be available to the digital models being used by others.
Clad in marine-grade aluminium
Located at the end of the grand boulevard that links the new football stadium to the corniche, the two taller towers stand at 70 storeys, while the other two are 50-storeys-high, all arranged around a plaza.
The tower faÃ§ades – clad in marine-grade aluminium – are designed in response to the sun with projecting profiles that wrap around the building, shading the glazing from the harsh sun, while preserving views out and daylight.
The active systems design proposals include centralised thermal storage using innovative phase change materials to reduce cooling energy, high pressure hydronic systems to reduce pumping energy, demand controlled ventilation to reduce fan energy, efficient LED lighting and advanced automation controls which contribute to reducing the site energy demand by 35% when compared to a baseline building.
In response to the increasing water scarcity in the region, grey water, rainwater and even condensate is recycled and reused on-site for irrigation and toilet flushing. The towers are aiming for four stars in the regional Global Sustainability Assessment System (GSAS).
At the base, several podium buildings surround each tower, with shops, cafes and restaurants that help animate the public realm. These buildings feature moulded concrete panels, giving the buildings a high thermal mass, with minimal punched windows that reduce the amount of solar heat to the interior spaces.
20% of the site is covered with lush but drought-tolerant landscape, where more than 70% of the species are native. Inspired by traditional city layouts in the region, the narrow streets and shaded terraces create an inviting public realm at ground level, with the building blocks arranged around courtyards that capture cooling breezes.
Piers Heath, Head of Environmental Engineering, Foster + Partners, commented: "Environmental design was a key driver in the design. The morphing form was based on numerous studies and options with the aim of limiting solar exposure. The twisting shading fins were then developed to offer an optimal outer solar shade, along with an inherent reduction in exposed glazing. Coupled with carefully configured systems design, the project has lower energy use and carbon emissions when compared to similar scale projects in the region."
Image: Foster + Partners’ render of the Lusail Towers and plaza