IRENA Headquarters

New Commercial Office Shaped by Ecologically Sustainable Design.

IRENA’s (International Renewable Energy Agency) new headquarters in Masdar City, Abu Dhabi, exemplifies the overall development of Masdar City and embodies the Estidama ‘four pillars of sustainability’ (social, environmental, economic and cultural). 

The Grade A office building has been designed by Woods Bagot and developed by the Masdar Organisation, the company responsible for delivering Masdar City as a low-carbon, sustainable city. IRENA Headquarters also includes speculative commercial space which, combined with the space occupied by IRENA staff, offers a total floor area of 32,000m². The highly sustainable Four Pearl Estidama-rated commercial building features:

  • Achieved the first ever awarded Four Pearl Estidama PBRS rating for both design and construction
  • Reduction in energy demand by 42% compared to global energy-efficiency standards
  • Design and installation of 1,000m2 of rooftop photovoltaic solar panels supplying electricity to the building
  • Potable water use reduction by over 50% through the utilisation of high performance flow and flush fixtures
  • Diversion of over 93% of construction waste from landfill reducing the long-term environmental impacts associated with construction waste collection, transport and disposal



Sustainable landscape design strategies

The landscape design was driven by the ultimate objectives of: conserving water; promoting biodiversity; creating thermally comfortable and attractive external spaces; and minimising the use of high-embodied energy materials. The design of the courtyard within the central atrium is seen as a green ‘oasis’ and the selection of the materials and planting evoke the experience of an outdoor space.

The design of the IRENA HQ building has been driven by a desire to conserve energy and water, balanced with a vision to promote biodiversity, minimise the use of high-embodied-energy materials and create an attractive, liveable and inspiring environment for occupiers. Woods Bagot drew upon a wide range of skills from urban planning to workplace and education design, harnessing the global network capacity to produce an innovative and ground-breaking project.

When complete, Masdar City will include a number of major office complexes, a world-class education facility and homes for thousands of people all operating within the world’s most sustainable new-build city.

Accessibility, social responsiveness and integrated design

The building’s three atria house the main entrances, two of which accommodate glass-sided staircases aimed at encouraging occupants to use stairs rather than elevators, whenever possible. At the heart of the building lies a seven-storey-high main shared atrium space that encourages social interaction between the building’s users and connects the occupants both visually and physically. The central atrium is directly accessed via the three building entrances and flanked by a food & beverage outlet which draws occupiers and visitors into the space to create an animated and vibrant communal environment.

The early stages of the design used the ZERO-E tool, which has been co-developed by Woods Bagot and BuroHappold, to enable the project to meet challenging targets for energy, water, materials and waste reduction. 

The process involved a series of multi-disciplinary workshops using rapid assessment tools to identify the optimum building fabric and form to achieve the reductions whilst providing a space that has high levels of daylight and optimises interior comfort levels for occupiers.





Masdar City, Abu Dhabi


32,000 sq m



Completion Date



Shortlisted for World Architecture Festival – Office (completed buildings) category (2015)

Cityscape Emerging Markets – Commercial (built) + Sustainability categories (2015)

Highly Commended Emirates Green Building Council – Green Building of the Year (Commercial) (2015)

Big Project ME – Green Project of the Year (2014)

Construction Week – Sustainable Project of the Year (2014) – Highly Commended

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