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Zaha Hadid Architects’ New Net-Zero Project Took Nine Years to Complete—But It Was Worth the Wait

Located in the UAE, BEEAH Group’s headquarters fuses technology and sustainability with inimitable design

By Architectural Digest US | May 5, 2022 | Architecture

Even those who don’t consider themselves architecture buffs can easily recognize the impressive collection of Zaha Hadid buildings. Their iconic futuristic look stands out in ways that so many buildings don’t. They’re also quite environmentally conscious, which was non-negotiable to the late Hadid. Though some of the world’s most eye-catching buildings are more famous for their unique aesthetic than their commitment to the environment, some recently-debuted architectural masterpieces are turning heads for their impressive sustainability. In Australia, for instance, Kerstin Thompson Architects recently debuted a climate-first development at Bundanon, the 2,470-acre arts destination, that responds and adapts to potential climate disasters.

Thompson’s firm isn’t the only one with an eye on the changing environment. Zaha Hadid Architects’ most recent project—Beeah Group’s nearly 30,000-square-foot brand-new headquarters in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates—is a net-zero marvel that makes a serious case for sustainable design.

The Beeah headquarters was designed to look like the surrounding dunes in the desert. Photo: Hufton+Crow / Zaha Hadid Architects

BEEAH Group, the local public-private partnership company whose primary focus is environmental conditions and waste management, enlisted the famed London-based firm to design their new headquarters. Zara Hadid Architects was tasked with creating a massive space that reflected the group’s ideals, and, nearly a decade after the firm signed onto the project, it has finally opened its doors. “Our design mirrors BEEAH Group’s focus on sustainability and technology, which has informed every aspect of the building, from the user experience to its efficient performance and conservation of resources, landscaping, and lighting design,” says Sara Sheikh Akbari, Zaha Hadid Architects’ project director of the Beeah headquarters. “We often explore the logic and coherence within the natural world when we are working to build new environments.”

And that inspiration is abundantly clear after just one glance at the new building, which looks like a man-made collection of interconnected dunes. That, of course, was the point. Akbari explains, “Prevailing winds have naturally shaped and carved the dunes of the surrounding desert landscape into concave surfaces and left ridges at their junctions with others that are convex.” And the Beeah headquarters echo the naturally occurring dunes that are scattered throughout the surrounding deserts. The unique ZHA design not only mimics the dunes in its look but also optimizes the area’s environmental conditions.

The smart building can determine the occupancy and self-regulate the temperature accordingly to save energy. Photo: Hufton+Crow

It doesn’t just respond to the changing climate, though—it’s doing what it can to offset the negative human-caused impact. For starters, the building’s photovoltaic system generates power to meet the building’s peak summer demand, “thus producing excess electricity during off-peak months which is then fed back to the grid,” Akbari says. The headquarters is also comprised of locally-sourced and recycled construction materials, with an external glass-fiber reinforced concrete-cladding system (also locally produced) that increases the building’s thermal mass and dissipates heat away from the interiors, which is key in a place like Sharjah that can easily surpass 100 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer. There’s also an on-site water treatment system that filtrates wastewater to minimize consumption.

The firm’s goal was to marry technology and sustainably-minded elements in a way that hasn’t really been done before. The smart building boasts self-learning and self-healing capabilities that can predict occupancy to automatically adjust light and temperature settings, optimizing energy efficiency in a big way. The drastic measures make sense for a firm like ZHA, which is constantly looking toward the future in both the aesthetic and the potential abilities of their work, and the Beeah headquarters is hardly an exception.

The two main dune-like departments are connected by way of a courtyard flooded with natural light, creating an oasis within the headquarters. Photo: Hufton+Crow / Zaha Hadid Architects

Akbari says, “The new headquarters is a climate-conscious building that constantly modulates itself, becoming smarter and more efficient, drawing on data within its living laboratory.” And that is just the beginning. Hopefully, new offices worldwide will take a page from ZHA’s environmentally conscious book and deliver on a more sustainable way to both live and work. For now, though, the Zaha Hadid buildings scattered across the world will do just fine.

Words by Jessica Cherner

This article originally appeared on Architectural Digest