The Index Tower is a sky scraper designed by Foster + Partners, completed in 2011. Spanning a height of 328 m (80 storeys) and covering a site area of 20,000 square meters, the tower is capable of housing 6,000 residents. It is a mixed use development. Of the 80 floors, the first 4 are service floors followed by retail on the podium levels. Above that are 25 levels of commercial offices while the remaining 50 floors are residential. It occupies a prime location and lends to the already towering skyline of the city.
Index Tower on Sheikh Zayed Road
The entrance to the building is on an elevated platform, where a large volume of space (4 storey high) is dedicated to the 3 main entrances into the building. The entrance to the retail, commercial and residential zones is segregated. The exterior lobby is characterized by narrow pathways with water bodies and cascading fountains which create a great ambience and atmosphere, but may pose some safety risks. The retail spaces are currently being revamped by Foster + Partners themselves. The work is ongoing to reconfigure shopping stores and attract more retail activity.
The Index is known to be one of the first towers in the region to intelligently embrace its surrounding environment within its fundamental design principles. Cooling consumes most of the energy (and cost) while maintaining high rises in the UAE. The buildings environmental strategy is aimed at significantly lowering the requirement for air conditioning and therefore substantially reducing the cost for its tenants. This feature of the design is what perked our interest in this particular tower. We wanted to explore this further to see if it is truly an environmentally conscious design. We looked at several factors that are known to affect solar gain and thermal comfort in a structure among other features, along with speaking to the users.
Location and Accessibility
Located just off Sheikh Zayed Road on the periphery of Dubai International Financial Center, which is the federal financial free zone of Dubai, it is very close to several major landmarks in Dubai such as Burj Khalifa, Emirates Towers and the Dubai Mall. It can be accessed by public transport through the metro or bus. The closest metro station is Financial Centre which is approximately a 600m walk. The bus stops located on Al Saada Street are a shorter distance away.
Location and surrounding landmarks
Proximity to public transport
The axis is aligned in the east-west direction so that the cores absorb most of the heat and limits its reliance on mechanical ventilation. The southern façade that is exposed to harsh sun has louvers to combat heat gain. When compared to other high rises on Sheikh Zayed Road, the axis of Index Tower is different from its neighbors.
The northern and southern facades are more widely extended than the eastern and western sides. The southern façade receives the harsh heat from the sun and has a different treatment than the northern façade. Approximately a quarter of the façade is exposed glass glazing on both the sides, however, the southern side has additional louvers to reduce solar gain. The upper portion of the building which is residential has a combination of balconies and glass glazing. The structural members are slightly projected outwards and keep parts of the façade shaded throughout the day. About, 30% of the façade has no openings thus reducing the capacity to trap heat inside the building.
It was noticed that there is very little landscaping with plants, which significantly reduces the maintenance efforts required. Most landscaping practices around buildings do not adopt the use of native plants thus increasing the use of water and other resources for maintenance. On the podium level outside the retail area, there are platforms covered in turf with palm trees. The remaining landscaping is either without plants or uses water features (like waterfalls and small water bodies), which we noticed helps to maintain a comfortable temperature at the entrance of the building.
Fountain at the plaza
Landscape at the podium
Going by the ads for office and apartment rentals online, it seems that there are several vacant units within the building at present. The occupancy rate can be an important factor that contributes to the sustainable feature of buildings.
We managed to get in touch with one of the residents and asked her a few questions to try and understand the user experience of the building. Here are some of the questions and responses by the residents.
1 – How many months do you regularly use the AC for?
Nearly all but switch it on and off.
2 – Are there any energy saving light fixtures installed in your apartment/office? If yes, please mention details.
Yes, I use compact fluorescent lamps.
3 – Is it convenient for you to practice re-cycling in the building? If no, suggest how it can be made easier.
No, because the recycling bins placed in the building are extremely tiny and not suitable for a tower the size of The Index. There should be bins on each level by garbage chute or there should be a massive one on the Ground floor.
4 – Are you aware that the Index Tower is designed to reduce environmental impact?
5 – Are there any other ‘green’ practices you are aware of that have been implemented in the Index Tower?
In many ways the Index is a great attempt to learn from, when it comes to designing to reduce environmental impact in the unique climatic conditions of the UAE. It is evident that many aspects like the alignment of the building’s axis, louvers on the Southern façade and landscaping have been well thought of and implemented to reduce energy consumption. On the other hand, low occupancy rate and lack of proper recycling facilities for residents can be seen as the glitch in the otherwise almost perfect example. However, these factors are more strongly associated with building management and maintenance rather than the actual intention of the design. We speculate that this could be because of the information gap between the building designers and users. Other than the design, buildings should also adopt environmentally conscious practices when it comes to construction and maintenance for it to be truly called a ‘sustainable’ example. Providing adequate facilities to collect recyclables among other things mobilizes people towards adopting sustainable practices. We wanted to get the opinion of the building management and maintenance team, however, they refused to comment at this particular time.