KAFD Conference Center

In Progress
Saudi Arabia
New York Chapter Honor Award

The Target

The aim of the project was to create a customized irrigation and landscape design to accommodate the structure.


Designed by firms Skidmore, Owings, & Merrill and H.M White Site Architects, the King Abdullah Financial District Conference Center is an extension of the angular Saudi Arabian desert landscape. The organic profile and faceted skin tie the building to its natural surroundings.

When H.M. White asked WC3 Design to join the team, we knew there would be a host of challenges in meeting the unique needs of this massive, state-of-the-art complex. The planting panels making up the living roof – several hundred of them – were filled with native grasses to blend in with the local landscape and minimize irrigation water requirements.

Designing the irrigation for the planted panels was the easy part; getting it to work in an environment with temperatures that would cause standard pipe to melt added some complications. Special tubing was used to withstand the heat and the entire irrigation system is designed to drain into storage tanks for reuse after each watering cycle as water left in the pipe would superheat and damage plant material.

Because every panel has a different exposure, slope, and elevation, hundreds of soil moisture sensors were installed to feed detailed information to the computerized irrigation control system. Irrigation runtime is calculated based on actual soil conditions in each of the planted panels.

The roof panels are built on the ground before being lifted into place. The irrigation components – already installed – are then attached to the supply lines once placed on the roof.

Irrigation water is supplied from a municipal reclaimed water source and the project meets LEED Platinum certification. The building also features extensive green walls throughout the inside, helping to bring the landscape inside.

Unique? Yes, but a fun challenge!

WC3 Design was acknowledge with an award for our design efforts from the New York Chapter of the ASLA in 2012. Click to see award:  KAFD Award. Sam Lawrence with HM White, New York, notified us with these words, “In late February of this year, we submitted the King Abdullah Conference Center Living Roof and Landscape project to the NY ASLA Awards Program. Submitted projects were juried by a panel of Landscape Architects and allied professions of the Chicago Chapter of the ASLA. We were very please to learn a couple weeks ago that our submission received an Honor Award in the category of Un-Built projects.

This was a huge collaborative team effort which we could not have done without the expertise and support of talented consulting team. We would like to congratulate you as a participant on this endeavor. I have enclosed is a duplicate award certificate in your name as recognition of valuable contribution.”