Beirut New Embassy Campus: Project Summary

Located in the suburb of Aoukar approximately 10 miles (16 kilometers) northeast of Beirut’s historic core, the design strategy for the new United States Embassy draws on local building techniques adapted to the dramatic site topography, using hillside planning techniques that integrate architecture with the landscape to inform security, function, and performance.  Buildings are clustered on the eastern half of the site to promote walkability, with recreational open space and flexibility for future expansion to the west. Blending with the medium density and character of the neighborhood, the Campus maintains a low profile along Aoukar Road, culminating in the symbolic rise of the Chancery, consulate, and public function areas at the highest point of the site. Consular services and areas dedicated to public diplomatic functions are designed around visitor experience, with comfortable waiting areas, shaded gardens, and an art program featuring site-specific commissions from international and Lebanese artists. Extending from the Chancery, ribbon-like residential buildings frame the campus’ central service and circulation corridor, a community “main street” with outdoor plazas and dining for Embassy staff.

The new Embassy pursues rigorous energy-saving and sustainability goals, aiming to reduce environmental impact, optimize building performance, and enhance the self-sufficiency of the campus. The sustainable design strategies include LEED Neighborhood Development; a LEED Platinum and net zero energy Chancery; net zero water for site irrigation; a full waste-water treatment facility on site; rainwater reuse for toilet flushing; and a majority of building heating supplied through heat recovery systems.  Taking advantage of the mild Mediterranean climate, natural lighting and airflow are used whenever possible to reduce energy usage and improve interior ambiance.

Landscaping and green roofs across the Embassy use water-saving native plantings, while significant habitat regeneration throughout the site will preserve the local ecosystem. Durable, locally-sourced materials, such as cast in place concrete facades and precast concrete floor tiles, are used to improve longevity and reduce the energy footprint during construction. A campus-wide building management system monitors building performance to ensure that sustainability systems will continue to function as designed.

Project Information and Team

Program Chancery, representational and staff housing, facilities for the community and associated support facilities.

Program Size 93,000 square meters

Morphosis Architects Architect, Planning, and Interiors

B.L. Harbert International General Contractor

Planning Concept

The Beirut New Embassy Campus project envisions a compact village that accommodates diverse functions in a flexible framework of forms that become an extension of the existing landscape planes and terraces. Situated between the main access road and the rugged topography of the surroundings, the Chancery, housing, and support buildings interact with the terraced ground plane, joining architecture to landscape and environment to site.

Building Program

The United States Embassy draws on local building techniques adapted to the dramatic site topography, using hillside planning techniques that integrate architecture with the landscape to inform security, function, and performance.  Buildings are clustered to promote walkability, with recreational open space and flexibility for future expansion. Consular services and areas dedicated to public diplomatic functions are designed around visitor experience, with comfortable waiting areas, shaded gardens, and an art program featuring site-specific commissions from international and Lebanese artists. 

High Performance Interiors

High performing interiors start with intelligent planning strategies that seek to create sustainable solutions for office environments. These solutions focus on balancing user comfort, productivity and operational costs by enabling more efficient planning, improving worker and operational performance, and reducing overall energy demand. This approach targets user comfort through intelligent building system management, optimized energy usage and performance, workplace safety and security, durable materials and components, and fully accessible spaces.  Four components define the physical environment of a High Performance Interiors workplace:

building and street
Staff courtyard and main street
  1. Collaborative Space
  2. Modularity and Flexibility
  3. Sustainability
  4. Daylighting

Flexibility has become an increasingly important criterion in the design of High Performance Interiors. Examples of this flexibility in the New Beirut Embassy Campus are:

LIGHTING CONTROLS

Maximizes the efficient use of lighting, prevents unnecessary energy expenditure, improves occupant comfort and satisfaction.

SOLAR ADAPTIVE SHADES

Increases energy reduction potential due to solar orientation, local climate, and interior workplace configuration.

SOUND MASKING

Supports both distraction-free work and interactions with co-workers. Used together, these interior strategies have the potential to support modularity and flexibility in the workplace, optimize energy performance of the physical plan, support occupant productivity, and provide a sustainable working environment.

FLEXIBLE FURNITURE

Supports the flexible workplace through reconfiguration.

Materials

For the Beirut Embassy Campus, the performance and psychological characteristics of the interior spaces in the buildings were a main focus.  The typical embassy workplace and living environments were studied resulting in a design with a new paradigm for interior public and private spaces that optimizes performance and promotes healthy and sustainable interior environments.  The intent is to combine the best of both American and Lebanese cultures into the overall campus planning, architecture, and interiors.

The contemporary workplace and living environments have been rethought with performance as the primary driver.  Traditional approaches to planning, productivity and hierarchy are reinterpreted in hybrid spaces that promote open, flexible environments that foster interaction and community.  The flexibility of these new high-performance spaces reflects a desire to adapt facilities to accommodate fluctuations in staff and changing technologies.  Planning for modularity and flexibility in both the working and living environments facilitates future growth and expansion.

The myriad building types, scales, and functions on the Beirut Embassy Campus require a holistic design approach to interior finishes and materials.  Traditional divisions between interior and exterior have been eroded in favor of more open, transparent configurations that promote physical and visual continuity.  The material qualities that define each space reflect a commitment to a functionally-specific and environmentally responsive palette that is durable, sustainable, and timeless.  This palette represents an approach that balances a “base line” set of consistent materials applied throughout the functional spaces; with “accent” materials of color and texture that punctuate the public and representational spaces.  The following criteria formed the basis of the Beirut Embassy Campus interiors and finishes:

  • Functional
  • Flexible
  • Sustainable
  • Recycled
  • Healthy
  • Environmentally-friendly
  • Quality
  • Durability
  • Ease of Maintenance
  • Restrained Palette reduces inventory
  • Timeless

Sustainability

The new Embassy Campus pursues rigorous energy-saving and sustainability goals, aiming to reduce environmental impact, optimize building performance, and enhance the self-sufficiency of the campus. Taking advantage of the mild climate, natural lighting and airflow are used whenever possible to reduce energy usage and improve interior ambience. Folds and contours in the buildings are strategically oriented to increase privacy and security while reducing heat gain and maximizing views. Landscaping and rockscape roofs across the Embassy use water-saving native plantings, while significant areas of natural vegetation throughout the site are left intact to preserve the local ecosystem. Durable, locally sourced materials, such as sculpted pre-cast concrete, stone, and metal panels, are used to improve longevity and reduce the energy footprint during construction.

  • Net Zero Energy Chancery via solar panel array and Net Zero Water Site for irrigation
  • Wastewater treated on site AND reused on site for
  • irrigation
  • Rainwater used for ALL toilet flushing in Chancery
  • Native and low-water use landscaping reduces water Consumption
  • Local and regional materials used throughout project.
  • One façade material for entire project