NCCI Headquarters, Riyadh, completed 1998. Photo © Mohammed Bin Mahdi.


The twin granite-and-glass towers comprising the NCCI headquarters have become a recognized landmark in Riyadh. Less visible but no less of an achievement is the building’s thermal energy storage system — a landmark accomplishment in its own right.

Designed by Omrania’s engineers in the 1990s, NCCI’s thermal energy storage system is thought to be the first of its kind in the Middle East. It is, essentially, a “battery” for cool air. By introducing a chilled water storage tank into the standard cooling system, the building is able to shift part of its cool air production to off-peak hours, when electrical demand is lowest. The stored water is then used to cool the building during the hottest — and most demanding — hours of the day, dramatically reducing the building’s energy consumption and environmental impact. Thermal energy storage can also provide emergency cooling if necessary, making the building more resilient as well as more sustainable. The system proved successful and was later incorporated into our design for other buildings including the Kingdom Centre.