King Abdullah University of Science and Technology

Thuwal, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

Maximizing daylight and outdoor comfort for everyone by planning for interaction among buildings.

King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) has a large public atrium space that presents challenges in balancing daylighting, heat loads and ventilation.


  • The Challenge

    Controlling solar heat gain and allowing sufficient natural daylight into this type of space requires careful planning, especially in hot climates such as Saudi Arabia. The KAUST campus buildings use a complex combination of overhangs, fixed exterior louvers, dynamic exterior louvers, atria, skylights and mechanical shading systems to ensure a balance between daylighting and natural cooling is achieved.

  • Our Approach

    Due to the breadth of RWDI’s expertise, we were invited to participate in several areas to help ensure the ambitious design was achieved. From early conversations in the master-planning phase, through to evaluation of select post-build features, RWDI served as a collaborative partner with the design team. We conducted daylighting studies of the atria, garages and courtyards, and conducted a comprehensive investigation into the solar chimneys, using CFD modeling of proposed and as-built chimneys to assess performance.

  • The Outcome

    For the solar chimneys, we identified a practical solution that mitigated possible challenges that reduced the risk of contaminated air entering the courtyards from the rooftop laboratory exhausts and loading docks.

    Our daylighting study and analysis helped minimize overall campus energy consumption and solar heat gains, which contributed LEED points toward KAUST becoming the world’s first LEED platinum campus.