The Sustainability Pavilion in Dubai: A Main Attraction in Expo 2020

November 24, 2021



Catherine D. Ong

Expo 2020 is hosted by U.A,E. and held in Dubai Exhibition Center from 1 October 2021 to 31 March 2022. One of its biggest attraction is The Sustainability Pavilion that was designed by Grimshaw Architects, a firm with offices in the New York, Los Angeles, Paris, Dubai, as well as Victoria and Sydney in Australia. Dubbed as Terra, the sustainability drivers for the project were net zero energy and water. The aim was to showcase methodologies in water management and energy production for the region and to present how technology and nature can go hand in hand in bringing this to life.

The client, Emaar Properties, wanted a solid structure that will also serve as a sustainability museum in Dubai after Expo 2020. The regenerative and sustainable design process of Grimshaw Architects needed a thorough and strategic analysis, taking into account the Dubai’s harsh environment where temperatures can reach 50 degrees Celsius in the summer.

The façade of the Sustainability Pavilion is curved, adding to the complexity of the design. The architects wanted to use a tensioned cable system that would make installation uninterrupted. The company Inhabit was appointed in September 2017 to carry out the engineering and structural design of every cable façades systems used, which include the IGU glass and custom patch fittings.

“The scope included the main internal courtyard and lobby entrances where the cable façade spanned over glazed vestibules. Inhabit was later appointed to design and engineer the jacking system for tensioning the cables, and site supervision during installation and testing. Our client was very happy with the outcome of the cable façade system and especially impressed with the innovative engineering design that helped deliver the project. It was a privilege to be part of such an iconic project with extremely complex engineering problems.” – Justin Nieuwoudt, Senior Façade Consultant of Inhabit

The plan for the Sustainability Pavilion was to have a 130m wide main roof canopy and below-ground accommodation to provide shade. For the canopy’s glass panels, more than 6,000 sq. m. of monocrystalline photovoltaic cells are embedded, making them functional and aesthetic. These purpose of these cells and the glass casing was to harness solar energy, while letting natural light in and still giving comfortable shelter to its visitors. The pavilion also has a courtyard where harsh winds are blocked and it provides a sufficiently cooled area for people to relax in.

The Main Roof Canopy’s design was inspired by resilient desert trees that are able to survive through drought and severe heat: The Ghaf Tree and the Socotra drag tree. The umbrella-shaped canopy was crafted to produce extensive shade and still be able to prevent evaporation and protection from solar radiation, a delicate balance in order to adapt to the region’s grave weather conditions.

The Sustainability Pavilion is completely reliant on onsite sources for its water consumption. Reuse of waste waster and sewer mining have been placed as strategies to achieve this, through proper filtering systems to make them safe to use and through several code variance and approvals from the local government. Since water is scarce in the Middle East, the goal is to portray that water reuse is possible and to further improve water usage practices in the Middle East.

Photos from Grimshaw Architects

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