All photos by Peter Kovessy
After two years of construction, one of Qatar’s most environmentally-friendly office structures is finally open for business.
In a sign of the changing times, the QR120 million (US$32.95 million) redevelopment is not located in the downtown financial district, but in Bin Mahmoud.
There, an old cafeteria situated amid blocks of villas has been transformed into a new eye-catching office building.
The GATH building – named after its corporate owner, Ghanem Al-Thani Holdings – is located on Salwa Road, across from the Radisson Blu.
The office is part of a string of high-end developments along the road that also includes a nearly complete Westin hotel and apartments at Center Junction, near Megamart.
Speaking to Doha News, Edd Brookes, the general manager of DTZ Qatar, which is marketing the building to tenants, said:
“It’s a new gateway to a changing neighborhood. It’s changing the commercial center of an older area of Doha.”
According to proponents of the building, the new office space is among Qatar’s greenest.
Though that title may soon be lost to one of the eco-friendly buildings under construction in Lusail, the GATH building contains several firsts for the country, including distinctive fan-shaped shades that run horizontally along the exterior of each floor.
Suspended by cables, the mesh shades are expected to reduce the building’s air conditioning requirements by 10 percent over a conventional office building, said Arab Engineering Bureau architect Martin Jakobson, who designed the building.
Inside, the ground floor is illuminated by an unobstructed skylight eight stories above it. In addition to the natural light, the hollow core of the building provides a “chimney” effect, Jakobson said.
Air rises up until it is trapped by the warmer air under the skylight, which contains the cooled air at the lower level. The cooled air in the office walkways will also flow down, lessening the cooling requirements on the lower levels.
The overall building design is loosely based on some of the more unusual coral found off Qatar’s coastline. Inside, the layout is intended to resemble traditional Arabic planning and architectural elements.
Visitors walk in to a central “courtyard” ringing by two stories of retail space. Above, a 25m-high plastic screen dotted with a randomized pattern of openings visually separates the private office areas from the semi-public courtyard below.
“We’re using traditional features in modern architecture,” said Jakobson, who firm also designed Al Sharq Hotel & Spa, the Kempinski Residences and the Barwa Al Sadd complex, among other projects.
So far, the only commercial tenant with a presence in the building is a luxury car dealer on the ground floor. But Jakobson said several of the two-story retail units were designed with cafes and restaurants in mind.
Market research published by DTZ suggests that government-related entities drove the office leasing market in 2014, although the amount of new space taken was below the previous five-year average.
“The market is buoyant, but there are concerns about the amount of space coming onto the market,” Brookes said.
In the Dafna/West Bay area, where most of Qatar’s office towers are located, the vacancy rate among available space sat at 9 percent at the end of 2014. DTZ expects that to creep higher this year as several new office buildings totaling some 300,000 square meters are completed.
While no specific properties were mentioned in DTZ’s report, the World Trade Center Doha – which reportedly contains nearly 142,000 square meters – appears to be one building nearly ready for occupancy.
Brookes said he hopes the GATH building can differentiate itself by offering high-end office space at a lower rate and with more tenant parking than in Dafna.