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Multi-million national green growth plan launched

Multi-million national green growth plan launched

A Multi-million national green growth plan launched today is reported in this article of the Jordan News Agency.

Amman, July 6 (Petra) — Jordan on Monday launched a multi-million ambitious green growth plan as part of a broader national drive towards a green economy and sustainable development.

The six-pronged 2021-2025 National Green Growth Plan, which was announced by Minister of Environment and Agriculture Saleh Kharabsheh, comprises executive plans targeting the key sectors of water, waste management, energy, agriculture, tourism and transport.

In part, the blueprint is intended to help build sustainable sectors that are more resilient and adaptive to adverse phenomena, including climate change and the fallout of emergencies, such as the coronavirus pandemic. It was drawn up in collaboration with the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI).

Kharabsheh told a teleconference with government representatives and global stakeholders that the plan is designed to ensure alignment between green growth, climate change and sustainable development goals within the sectoral strategic framework.



Marshall Brown, Senior Officer/ Jordan Program at the GGGI, underlined the importance of multi-stakeholder cooperation to translate the plan on the ground, and said that the private sector and international partners have a key role to support this effort.

In the energy sector, the plan envisages the development of a smart electric grid, backing the Jordan Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Fund’s bid for the Green Climate Fund’s accreditation and a public-private partnership for the construction of EV charging stations at a total cost of $85 million.

The plan sets $965 million as the total cost of water projects, which include the rollout of a financial mechanism to support water harvesting projects, in addition to carrying out a technical project to rationalize industrial water use. Also in the water sector, the plan envisages the construction of an industrial wastewater treatment plant in Zarqa.

With regard to waste management, the plan includes the establishment of an excellence center for waste management, research and development, a feasibility study for the launch of projects aimed at separating organics from municipal solid waste, and finally a pilot project on the extended producer responsibility in the e-waste sector. The total cost of projects in the waste management sector is put at $248 million.

Turning to agriculture, the plan includes an information management and communication capacity-building project within the green growth framework. It also pursues a resource management project in the production of olive and olive oil. Other key projects in this area includes investing in hydroponics and a national afforestation project. The combined cost of these projects stands at $194 million.

Another key focus of the plan is the transport sector, where the total project cost is envisioned at $167 million. The projects in this domain include the rollout of smart transport systems, the establishment of a transport excellence center and the introduction of environmentally-friendly transport solutions in Irbid, Zarqa and Madaba.

As for tourism, the plan contains a set of ambitious projects, which include the establishment of an excellence center aimed at developing the tourism industry and maximizing ecotourism in protected areas, as well as a project for resource rationalization in the tourism and hospitality sectors for a total cost of $173 million.

//Petra// AA

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Second MENA Green Building Congress

Second MENA Green Building Congress

MEP Middle East, June 28, 2020, covering the Second MENA Green Building Congress did highlight the fact that this Virtual two-day event underscores need to revive green economy in planning post-Covid-19 recovery.

Second MENA Green Building Congress organised under patronage of UAE Minister of Climate Change and Environment

The World Green Building Council (WorldGBC), in partnership with Majid Al Futtaim Holding, has hosted the second MENA Green Building Congress virtually.

Drawing the participation of WorldGBC board members and partners of the MENA Regional Network, the two-day Congress focused on three key topics: Better Places for People, Advancing Net Zero, and Sustainable Reconstruction.

In his keynote address on day one, His Excellency Dr Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, UAE Minister of Climate Change and Environment, said: “The transition towards green buildings is a much-needed move, as the building and construction sector is the largest contributor to energy-related greenhouse gas emissions worldwide at 39%, while accounting for 36 percent of global energy use.

“The UAE has a wealth of experience and knowledge in this field, as over the past decade, the construction industry in the country has made significant strides in incorporating sustainability into its concepts and practices.

“The escalating impacts of climate change and the dedication of our region to sustainable development make it imperative for all of us to join forces and fast-track the shift to a green economy across all sectors, including building and construction.

“The second MENA Green Building Congress aims to enhance regional collaboration in advancing the sustainability of the construction sector and offers a prime platform for stakeholders to network and exchange best practices and development plans.”

The Congress drives momentum among industry decision makers around green building issues, and promotes the adoption of green building practices and new technologies in the MENA region.

Cristina Gamboa, CEO of WorldGBC, said: “The MENA Green Building Congress is bringing together learnings and leadership that are invaluable to our global network, and in particular, to the region.

“In these unprecedented times, we must embrace a green economic recovery and prioritize improving the quality of green buildings as well as creating new jobs in the sustainable construction field. It’s time we deliver at scale net zero, healthy, equitable and sustainable built environments for everyone, everywhere.”

Ibrahim Al-Zu’bi, Chief Sustainability Officer at Majid Al Futtaim Holding, added: “This year’s MENA Green Building Congress is truly special as it gives us an opportunity to reflect and share insights around the current situation to a receptive online community.

“As the world recovers from the pandemic’s immediate implications, we need to focus on harmonizing the health and well-being of our communities, and achieving energy efficiency and resilience.

“Maintaining healthier communities without losing focus of climate change mitigation actions is crucial for the sustainability of our people and planet.”

For the latest news from the UAE, Gulf, and around the world, follow MEP Middle East on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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Three Interrelated Elements: Art, Technology, and Culture

Three Interrelated Elements: Art, Technology, and Culture

Architecture is first and foremost, the combination of three interrelated elements: art, technology, and culture.
An architect’s mission is to create and visualize an organized space, via a 2D-3D drawing, corresponding to the premises needs of a given activity, while respecting all the binding or favourable factors.

After the preliminary stage of the documentary research and the usual surveys, the architect will then analyze the physical, regulatory and financial data to draw the basic directions of the construction programme and this before the start of the design work. On the other hand, the ideological orientation of the designer remains decisive as to the optional choices of the project if the client master of the works does not relay them explicitly.

The type of education provided in our architecture schools was supposed to meet the quality and quantity exigences of the national market. This is far from the case at the EPAU (Ecole Polytechnique d’Architecture et d’Urbanisme) of the 1970s. The art of building largely European inspired the type of training offered, thus unsuited to the reality and needs of the country. Foreign teachers with foreign pedagogical support without the slightest anchor to the existence of the public building have made us, inevitably, international architects in our own country and in other words, formed by Europe, for Europe. As proof of this reality, during our various internships in German architectural agencies, we were well-integrated, and our level of competence was relatively satisfactory, (Neufert and Mittag oblige). In addition to national market-oriented training, the contemporary model should not be overlooked and will be integrated into the curriculum. This will give the architect a level of competence that is acceptable on a global scale and will allow him to master the various stages of the design process for an international-style project.

The legal vacuum in the construction sector has severely reduced the curricula of their regulatory content. To this end, a complementary module should have been provided at the end of the course of study in the form of courses documented and presented by specialists from the relevant ministries.

It was not until the Planning Act 90-29 of 1 December 1990 that this void was finally filled. This law was promulgated, for the first time, under the leadership of the very far-sighted political leader, Mouloud Hamrouche.

In the world of work, this inadequate training forced new graduates to endure the vagaries of the profession under the orders of authoritarian directors, “party activists”, state-backed architectural consultants of the time. This situation of weakness was mainly due to the fault in the architect designing technical and regulatory elements specific to the field of the public building for which the latter, freshly graduated, was not or unprepared.

With the passage of time and experience in the field of planning: permits, demolitions and plots, the weak point of the planning files relates to two elements of great importance: integration into the site and planning regulations.

The first element requires respect for the built environment at the architectural level (style, and material) (alignment and height, etc.).

The second element is to master the existing building and urban planning regulations to comply with them without diminishing the architectural quality of the project. For example, the work presented by a colleague shows, at first sight, a small building built on sloping ground. This highly coloured and glazed building shines with its lack of integration within the site, and as a result, it follows a very straight and visually disturbing urban image.

Chirac, then mayor of Paris, had to refuse to grant a building permit to the posterity project presented by Mitterrand because of its unsuited style and appearance for the built environment. Similarly, in Blida, a billionaire had a castle built in a former residential area of the 1950s. The result is shocking because of the incompatibility of styles, an unnatural marriage. He copied a villa in the upscale suburbs of Stockholm and glued it to his property. It’s like building a Moorish house in the middle of Manhattan !!!

In conclusion, I believe that the designer architect, through his project, will impact on the lifestyle of future users; thus, his gesture becomes a social act. Design work must begin with all elements of site integration and current regulation in mind. Respect for general alignments, the heights of the buildings do not exceed the width of the access roads with the H≤L formula due to the sunshine requirements of the facades. Avoid overly greedy ground rights.

The city of tomorrow must be somewhat airy and sunny (sanitary distancing) with large planted or not green spaces. These bouquets of greenery will be the lungs of the city and its places of relaxation and socialization. The dormitory cities are to be banned and replaced by living neighbourhood units, integrating daytime activity, and joining the periphery of urban centres, thus promoting constructive and soothing social relations. Provide quality accompanying equipment related to unit density. The latter should be limited to 150 dwellings max per hectare to allow structural integration (roads, networks and equipment) to the existing urban neighbourhood. Make the most of locally available materials, taking climate change into account. Prefer non-fossil fuels for urban transport. Great importance is to give to non-polluting traffic with a network of bike paths and numerous pedestrian walkways. The narrow alleyways of the former centres will be transformed into a pedestrian zone and decorated with decorative elements planted and removable in case of emergency. Leisure and tourism businesses will be privileged. This view is very sketchy and does not include all the problems related to architecture and urban planning. Besides, the establishment of collective social housing developments will have to be distributed over several external sites following the rules of density and height. Never schedule too much housing construction on the same location.
Always split these locations to less than 500 dwellings maximum per site. This beneficial condition will allow the future neighbourhood unit to integrate quickly and easily within the existing urban fabric and will not overwhelm the capacity of the surrounding facilities. Finally, it should be noted that northern Algeria is located on a seismic zone of type 2, medium intensity, therefore subject of periodic and unpredictable seismic movement. This natural characteristic requires respect for a building height not to exceed ranging from R-5 to R-7 to the maximum. Moreover, recent studies on high-rise buildings have shown that the quality of life in a high-rise dwelling is inversely proportional to its distance to the ground. People living on the 15th floor tend to have more chronic diseases than those of the 7th and lower levels.

The typical habit of local authorities to happily substitute for town planning specialists has done a great deal of damage to the development of cities. Decisions involving the future of the city for at least a century should have been discussed with all the specialists in the field: architects, urban planners, and sociologists in order to find the best proposals and thus avoid the disastrous and irreversible effects of unplanned developments. A city council should be created, headed by local officials, and assisted by technicians with proven competence. This council should discuss, request changes, and possibly approve all development plans for the city under a program set out by the PDAU (Plan Directeur d’Aménagement et d’Urbanisme) containing the basic guidelines and itself in line with the regional development plan.

Updated on 2020 06 26

Is green hydrogen the sustainable fuel of the future?

Is green hydrogen the sustainable fuel of the future?

Vanora Bennett with her question: ‘Is green hydrogen the sustainable fuel of the future?’ looks at the whole range of possibilities that such clean alternative to the fossil fuels.

European Bank for #reconstruction and Development, 22 June 2020

Imagine a clean alternative to fossil fuels, one that leaves no greenhouse gas residues and even, unlike solar and wind renewables, can be used at any moment of the day or night, whatever the weather conditions.

Imagine that using it instead of fossil fuels sharply reins in the harmful emissions raising global temperatures, helping the world to solve the climate crisis.

This is not a fairy story. This gas exists. It’s called green hydrogen, and is made by using clean electricity from renewable energy technologies to electrolyse water (H2O), separating the hydrogen atom within it from its molecular twin oxygen.

The catch has always been that the cost of making green hydrogen prices it out of competition with fossil fuels, because, even if it is carbon-free, it is energy-intensive. But that is changing, because, for the past two years, improvements in renewable energy technology have seen renewable electricity costs plummet.

Now, as the world plans economic recovery efforts after the coronavirus pandemic, and trillions of dollars and euro are readied to invest in build-back-better approaches, an increasing number of scientists and policymakers are saying green hydrogen’s time has come to be brought fully into the energy mix of the future.

They’re advocating investing in stimulating production, both to tackle the economic fallout of this year’s pandemic and to build a future without fear of climate cataclysm.

“Important emerging elements of clean energy progress – hydrogen electrolysers and lithium-ion batteries – are on the verge of becoming the decade’s breakout technologies. These technologies should play a key role in bolstering Europe’s transport and industry as the continent emerges from the crisis and looks to develop new advanced manufacturing for export,” the International Energy Agency’s executive director Fatih Birol and Frans Timmermans, executive vice-president of the European Commission, wrote in May.

“If the EU seizes this opportunity, it will give itself a cutting edge on global markets,” Birol and Timmerman concluded.

Their editorial – as well as reported comments by Birol that green hydrogen technology was “ready for the big time” and that governments should channel investments into the field – came as the European Union prepared to publish its own hydrogen strategy while implementing the European Green Deal plan to reduce net emissions to zero by 2050.

The pace of discussion on green hydrogen has picked up, especially since the outbreak of coronavirus.

Governments including those of Germany, Britain, Australia and Japan are working on or have announced hydrogen strategies. Australia has set aside A$300 million ($191 million) to jumpstart hydrogen projects. Portugal plans a new solar-powered hydrogen plant which will produce hydrogen by electrolysis by 2023. The Netherlands unveiled a hydrogen strategy in late March, outlining plans for 500 megawatts (MW) of green electrolyser capacity by 2025.

“We could use these circumstances, where loads of public money are going to be needed into the energy system, to jump forward towards a hydrogen economy,” said Diederik Samsom, who heads the European Commission’s climate cabinet. This could result in hydrogen use scaling up faster than was expected before the pandemic, he was quoted by Reuters as saying.

Most of the hydrogen produced today is not green. The gas is colour-coded according to the way it is produced, says the EBRD’s Christian Carraretto.

“The hydrogen that the world uses today is made from either coal or natural gas. This hydrogen is carbon-intensive, it’s not a green fuel. It’s called grey hydrogen if it comes from gas, while the hydrogen produced from coal is called black. Then there is blue hydrogen, an upgrade of the grey, where the CO2 emitted is captured upstream, so the system doesn’t emit CO2 in the atmosphere.”

The European Commission has earmarked clean hydrogen – a loose term which can include gas-based hydrogen, if fitted with technology to capture the resulting emissions, as well as green hydrogen – as a “priority area” for industry in its Green Deal.

If clean hydrogen does start to play a bigger part in the world’s energy mix, incorporating it will be technically relatively easy, Mr Carraretto said, as the infrastructure already built to carry natural gas can also carry hydrogen.

He said a recent study had shown 70 per cent of Italy’s gas network would be hydrogen-ready if there were enough hydrogen being produced to be carried down its pipes. It could be used in both homes and industry without radical change. 

“Clean hydrogen is what the EU think is the solution to deliver on decarbonised fuels. And the reason why it’s important is that not all economic activities can move to renewables only. There are some sectors that are typically hard to decarbonise – sectors like steel, or chemical industries, or to some extent aviation – which will still use fuels in their systems.

“So either they are stuck with the cleanest of the fossil fuels or they switch to decarbonised fuels like hydrogen or biogas. Biogas is a mainstream technology and it hasn’t really picked up a lot because there is an issue with availability of organic wastes. So hydrogen is what we see as the most promising option at this moment.”

There remains the question of prices. Today, hydrogen made from fossil fuels costs between $1-$1.8/kg. Green hydrogen can cost around $3-$6/kg, making it significantly more expensive than the fossil fuel alternatives.

However, increased demand could reduce the cost of electrolysis. Coupled with falling renewable energy costs, green hydrogen could fall to $1.5/kg by 2050 and possibly sub-$1/kg, making it competitive with natural gas. Higher carbon prices would also encourage the shift.

Mr Carraretto said: “Here we are probably in the same situation as we were a decade or two ago with renewable energy, where this solution is still more expensive than the alternatives. But even today it’s only two or three times more expensive, it’s not 100 times more expensive, so if things keep going and if there is policy push going forward, our expectation that it will become really cost-competitive soon.

“And that’s why we see a lot of big players looking at it, pilot projects happening everywhere.”

“What is also exciting is that with the recent dramatic fall in renewable energy prices – particularly in the southern and eastern Mediterranean countries where we work, and potentially with offshore wind being developed in countries from Turkey to Poland and Greece, too – these countries could become sources of production of green hydrogen, with projects we could consider investing in, within a few years,” Mr Carraretto added. “This is really on the edge of becoming a game-changer”.

Roads and Railway Projects to Protect People and Nature

Roads and Railway Projects to Protect People and Nature


With construction paused, let’s rethink roads and railway projects to protect people and nature advice of Charis Enns, University of Manchester; Alex Awiti, The Aga Khan University, and Brock Bersaglio, University of Birmingham could easily be adapted into any corner of the MENA region.

The image above is of the Mongu-Kalabo Road crossing the Barotse Floodplain in western Zambia. Charis Enns, Author provided


Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta fumed at construction delays on the Lamu Port-South Sudan-Ethiopia Transport Corridor in 2019 – a US$22 billion (£18 billion) transport network that includes a 32-berth port, highways, railways and pipelines. But these delays, caused by financing gaps, afforded fishers, pastoral farmers and conservationists time to challenge the project in court, and push for amended plans that better protect local habitats and migratory routes used by people, livestock and wildlife.

While major road and rail projects often break up wilderness and grazing lands, a sudden pause in construction can offer a lifeline to people fighting to protect these areas.

Lockdown restrictions and the uncertainty caused by COVID-19 have made sourcing labour and materials more difficult, increasing construction costs. The result is that infrastructure building has slowed globally, creating a unique opportunity to redesign road and rail projects around the world so that they benefit the people and environments they share the landscape with.

Barriers to travel

Dozens of new roads, railways and pipelines are under construction in sub-Saharan Africa due to a surge in investment in recent years. Although they are promised to bolster economic growth, our research shows that many of these new mega-highways and high-speed rail lines were approved without meaningful consultation between planners and local people. As a result, they tend to become new barriers that are difficult and dangerous to traverse, forcing people to travel long distances to reach safe crossing points.

In dry regions, this can make it difficult to reach vital water sources. Amid farmland and forests, construction can push people from their land or force them to travel further to reach it. Deforestation usually comes before construction too, which encourages people to migrate further into woodland, building new settlements that drive more forest clearing.

Roads and Railway Projects to Protect People and Nature
Forest is cleared to make way for road construction in central Tanzania. Charis Enns, Author provided

Poorly designed roads and rail lines can take a heavy toll on human and animal life. During our research between 2017 and 2019, we found too few safe crossing points, inadequate signage and lax speed enforcement along new highways and railways in Kenya and Tanzania, resulting in numerous road accidents.

Conservationists are particularly worried by growing roadkill sightings along a new highway in northern Kenya. Endemic and endangered species like the Grevy’s zebra are often killed in collisions with cars and lorries after wandering onto roads that now criss-cross their range. As one pastoral farmer living alongside the new highway exclaimed

How many animals have died? Uncountable.

The alternative

Fortunately, there are lots of proven strategies for preventing transport projects from fragmenting habitats, such as building passages across new highways and railways that migratory species can use. Repairing environmental damage caused by construction, by filling in quarries that produce construction materials, for example, can also help restore grazing land for livestock and wildlife.

Roads and Railway Projects to Protect People and Nature
One of many quarries dug during construction of the Central Corridor in Tanzania. Brock Bersaglio, Author provided

The Mongu-Kalabo road constructed over the Barotse floodplain in western Zambia shows these ideas in action. Completed in 2016, the road was built with 26 bridges over the floodplains and regular culverts between bridges, allowing water and wildlife to move across the floodplain without impeding road traffic and trade, even during seasonal floods.

The road was also planned with local cultures in mind. Wetland livelihoods, such as fishing and floodplain farming, aren’t affected by the road since the regular movement of fish and water remains largely undisturbed. By maintaining these flows across the floodplain, cultural traditions have been protected. The annual Kuomboka ceremony that takes place at the end of the rainy season can continue, when the Litunda (king of the Lozi people) moves from his compound in the Barotse floodplain to higher ground.

Roads and Railway Projects to Protect People and Nature
A bridge in the Mongu-Kalabo road, built over the Barotse floodplain in western Zambia. Charis Enns, Author provided

There is no single blueprint for building roads and railways that allow humans and nature to thrive. Wherever construction is planned, public participation is vital. Gathering the knowledge local people have of their environment can improve the design of these projects, but this insight cannot come from rushed consultations or impact assessments conducted from a distance. Only meaningful and ongoing engagement with local communities and environmental authorities will do.

Major infrastructure investment will likely be key to pulling the global economy out of recession. The opportunity to mould upcoming projects won’t last forever, so let’s ensure any new road and rail project is designed with respect to the rights of people and nature.


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Charis Enns, Presidential Fellow in Socio-Environmental Systems, University of Manchester; Alex Awiti, Director, East African Institute, The Aga Khan University , and Brock Bersaglio, Lecturer in Environment and Development, University of Birmingham

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The Conversation

Read more: Cars: transition from lockdown is a fork in the road – here are two possible outcomes for future travel

Beyond the Line in the Sand

Beyond the Line in the Sand


In Carnegie Middle East Diwan write up by Armenak Tokmajyan and Walid al-Nofal in Beyond the Line in the Sand seems to have encapsulated a situation of contentious borders of the modern states. This article highlights the human down to earth life aspects that continue unabated for millennia.


Syria’s conflict has transformed the conditions of tribal clan notables who have sought refuge in Jordan.

The social fabric on both sides of the Syrian-Jordanian border has remained similar, notwithstanding the fact that a century has passed since the Sykes-Picot agreement that divided the region between Britain and France. Communities on either side of the separation line remain similar, with extended families and clans (sub-tribes or ‘ashireh) dominating the social landscape. They remain linked by family and kinship ties, as well as shared customs and traditions.

But this so-called “line in the sand”—the boundary dividing British and French areas of control drawn during World War I—has also left its mark. Relations between tribal clans and their respective states differ markedly between Jordan and Syria, both in terms of their roles in the state-building process and the space that clan notables have been given to exercise traditional authority within their societies.

With the increasing levels of violence in Syria after 2011, many Syrians, especially from the border governorate of Dar‘a, sought refuge in Jordan. Statistics from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees show that the largest concentration of refugees is located in Amman Governorate, Jordan’s economic heartland. The second-largest is present in the northwestern border areas of the kingdom, which resemble nearby parts of Syria in their climate, geography, and even architecture. Not only is the environment similar, but many Jordanian and Syrian families have family ties and relationships from before the conflict. This helped Syrians integrate into Jordanian society after they had fled Syria.

After settling in Jordan, many refugees found that the state’s relationship with clans were different than what they had encountered in Syria. Throughout the decades of Ba‘th Party rule, the Syrian state sought to weaken tribal clan authority. Half a century of such policies prior to the uprising, along with changing ways of life, gradually reduced the role of clan notables. Still, the state used what remained of these notables’ influence for its own ends. For example, it took advantage of their authority to contain and resolve major disputes between large families and keep the peace in rural peripheries of the country.

Jordan’s tribal clans, in turn, face few of the restraints and pressures experienced by their Syrian counterparts. Instead, they remain a major power center with considerable authority and influence in the kingdom. Tribal tradition plays a crucial role in Jordanian society despite growing opposition to it. Even today, the king derives some of his legitimacy from his status as the leader of the kingdom’s tribal leaders, a historical legacy dating back to Jordan’s foundation. Despite rare bumps in ties between the state and tribal clans, especially for economic reasons, these relationships have remained essential for the stability of Hashemite rule.

The new reality in Jordan makes some Syrian notables claim that there is more respect for the clan in Jordan than in Syria. Indeed, in Jordan tribal traditions and customs similar to those in Syria are more widely practiced. This continues to strengthen the clans’ traditional authority, which gives them positions of leadership with judicial, customary, and even political roles as intermediaries between their communities and the state—far more than in Syria.

The situation in Syria has brought about deep changes in the relationship between state and society, including with clan notables. Early on in 2011, notables in Dar‘a broke with their traditional roles and were at the forefront of anti-regime protests when Brigadier General ‘Atif Najib, the head of the Political Security Directorate in Dar‘a, humiliated notables who had gone to seek the release of children arrested and tortured for writing anti-regime slogans. This is widely seen as the incident that sparked the uprising.

Tribal customs remained, and perhaps were strengthened, amid the absence of state institutions in Syria. As a result, some known personalities lost their social status as notables, while others turned the crisis into an opportunity. They gained authority and prominence within their extended families and clans and became new intermediaries with the state. These transformations are ongoing and the political role of clan notables in Syrian society today has yet to become clear. For now, many seem to have lost the roles they played before the uprising, becoming rivals and targets of the state.

The lives of Syrian clan notables in Jordan differ greatly from their lives before the uprising and from the situation of Syrians who are living in Dar‘a today. Many certainly face the hardships of being refugees and do not enjoy the same privileges as their Jordanian counterparts. Yet they live in a sociopolitical environment in which they are able to exercise their traditional authority more widely over their communities and without the fear of being targeted by the state. In that sense, despite living in exile, they are in a more favorable social and political setting than where they had been.

*Walid al-Nofal is a journalist in Dar‘a, Syria.

Green economy saving the day

Green economy saving the day

Sally Farid, an associate professor of economics at Cairo University thoughts on this Friday 29 May 2020, are to put it in few words as only a Green economy saving the day would be a viable way out of this traumatic conjecture. This is at a time when Egypt presses on with a new capital in the desert amid virus outbreak, and its Officials seeing these mega-projects as the key source of jobs, the author of this article advises the following.
The world needs to adopt a green economy to enhance growth and job creation amid the crisis of the Covid-19 pandemic

Green economy saving the day

A green economy is the means to salvation for the global economy after the coronavirus pandemic has affected 81 per cent of the world’s workforce. After millions of people had been infected and thousands had died due to the virus, the tourism and travel industries collapsed and the oil and gas sector plummeted owing to the preventive measures countries have adopted to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

However, a green economy would allow countries to achieve growth and generate jobs in the wake of the pandemic. The coronavirus has brought the green economy to the fore as the virus is expected to negatively impact the world’s economies for years to come.

Austria has announced that 13 European countries are joining hands to support economic activities that reduce toxic emissions, for example. The European states are also discussing emergency measures at the cost of more than half a trillion euros to stimulate their economies after controls on the spread of the coronavirus led to airline stoppages, factory closures, and restrictions on public life. The leaders of the European Union countries have vowed to focus on environmentally friendly policies to revive their economies.

The measures adopted to recover from the repercussions of the virus should encourage clean solutions instead of the current infrastructure that causes pollution. They should also encourage electric transportation technology and a reduction in the use of fossil fuels. Green projects, such as enhancing the use of renewable energy, can create more jobs, bring in more revenues, and be cost-effective in the long run. The world is standing at a crossroads at present: either to pursue zero-emissions goals or to fall under the mercy of fossil fuels once more.

The industrial countries should focus on supporting their material infrastructure, such as wind farms, solar plants, renewable electric and clean energy networks, and the use of hydrogen. They should carry out modifications to improve the quality of construction and invest in education, training, and clean-technology research.

The green economy is an opportunity to benefit from its advantages in terms of growth, food security, and the provision down to the village level of energy, clean water, housing, sewage networks, and public transport. These opportunities can create jobs, help to eliminate poverty, achieve sustainable development, preserve natural resources, and give access to green technology that reduces pollutants and increases production.

Egypt launched a work plan to promote the green economy in Africa in 2019, and Africa’s financial centres now have a golden opportunity to transform their sister countries into global green hubs.

According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the green economy can improve human well-being and reduce social inequalities in the long run. It can help to decrease the risk for future generations to be exposed to environmental degradation and ecological depletion. It is necessary to help to protect the environment and create an economic system that generates jobs and covers the whole social spectrum.

Global estimates now put the increase in greenhouse-gas emissions responsible for global warming across the world at around 70 per cent, giving rise to temperatures that could go up by four to six degrees Celsius by the end of this century. According to the UN, water scarcity will become a chronic phenomenon in many parts of the world by 2030, imposing vast challenges to policies and the costs of acquiring clean water.

The international community is therefore looking at the green economy as a means to economic recovery and sustainable development by encouraging investments in the environment to achieve sustainable economic growth, or “green growth”, and to reduce poverty. For the green economy to be successful, environmental elements should be incorporated into economic development models, policies, and projects at the earliest stages of their preparation.

In its simplest form, the green economy is one in which carbon emissions are reduced and the efficient use of resources is maximised. It covers all social groups whose incomes increase with their opportunities for work. This kind of economy is driven by public and private investments that help to prevent the loss of biodiversity and preserve a healthy environment.

These investments should be supported by amended policies and regulations as well as public spending. The development of a green economy should help to maintain, enhance, and rebuild natural capital, seeing this as a source of public benefit, particularly to the poor whose security and lifestyles depend on natural resources. Africa remains the wealthiest continent in the world in terms of mineral resources, including fossil fuels. However, many African countries have been attempting to adopt a green economy as a means for growth, including Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, and South Africa.

Many countries have applied different economic policies to encourage the conversion to a green economy, whether by investing in green energy, providing financial facilities and loans at low interest rates, applying preferential tariffs and prices on products in which renewable energy is used, taxing products produced by non-renewable energy sources, or imposing taxes on waste and cash transfers.

The conditions necessary for the growth of a green economy include the application of policies and visions for sustainable development, coupled with legislative, institutional, and financial procedures, social awareness, and coordination between all the parties concerned.

Legislative measures include reformulating and amending laws, adapting them to the principles of the green economy, and clarifying implementation mechanisms.

Institutional procedures are concerned with adopting a national strategy for developing and identifying priority sectors that can easily go green. This is in addition to incorporating environmental considerations into five-year national plans and development strategies, while preparing government authorities, educational entities, non-governmental organisations, civil society, and the private sector for a green transformation.

It is the role of present economic policies to transform the economy in the long run into a green economy through, for example, licensing laws, incentives, and pricing policies, modifying import restrictions, financial aid, fines and taxes that give preference to the proper use of resources, and the integration of the cost of pollution and the use of natural resources within the total cost of goods and services.

Financial procedures include investing in green infrastructure and modern technologies and encouraging the private sector and civil society to be incorporated within a green system.

This batch of measures should be adopted in tandem with national studies to identify the opportunities for going green and the factors of success and challenges associated with this transformation, as well as developing research, monitoring, and environmental knowledge management.

*A version of this article appeared in print in the 21 May, 2020 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

Extreme Environments: farming in the Sahara Desert

Extreme Environments: farming in the Sahara Desert

The MENA’s Sahara region is increasingly being looked at for purposes stemming from power generation to food production. Here is how Danny Kane in this write up brings in to everyone’s attention the hot topic on Extreme Environments: farming in the Sahara Desert.


Every year, an area of fertile land roughly half the size of Britain becomes desert. This process, known as desertification, isn’t usually caused by one single factor, but the usual suspects make an appearance every time: climate change, deforestation, and poor agricultural practices. 1/5th of the world’s arable land is under threat from desertification.

With desertification likely to become an even greater issue in the future, it is time to start looking at possible ways to combat it. Reclaiming the desert is often a costly action few countries immediately affected by it can afford to pursue. The alternative, while also expensive, may be the best chance many of these countries, and in future the world, has to thrive. So, what if you could grow food in the desert?

Firstly, let’s dispel a myth — you can’t grow anything in sand. Numerous forms of plants will grow in sand, as long as they can source water and are able to tolerate the extreme heat, wind, sandstorms and occasional torrential rains found in deserts (particularly the Sahara), plants will grow. Unfortunately for us, a few wild plants cannot sustain a population, so for all intents and purposes, deserts appear to us to be barren.

Much of the problem comes from the sand itself. We’re not used to thinking about sand as a kind of soil, but it’s simply on the extreme end of the spectrum. The main issues come from two things. Sand isn’t very good at holding water, the particles are simply too big, so the water just runs off and isn’t absorbed as it is with soil, thus starving the plants of water. The second issue with sand is its lack of organic matter. Most sand is less than 1% organic matter, which is defined as organic material (plants and animal residues) in different stages of decomposition. This organic material feeds micro-organisms, which in turn create nutrients that are then utilised by the plants in their survival.

All this combined with the high temperatures, the weak structure of sand at holding roots and the high winds constantly trying to rip away the plants, make desert farming a huge challenge — but perhaps not an impossible one though.

Algeria

Extreme Environments: farming in the Sahara Desert
The Sahrawi refugee camp in Algeria

Algeria is the largest country in Africa at 2,381,740 square kilometres (919,590 square miles). Unfortunately for Algeria, around 80% of that land is in the Sahara Desert and essentially uninhabited.

Instability in the region following the Western Saharan War from 1975–1976 led to the creation of the Sahrawi Refugee camps, which today house between 90,000 and 165,000 (the exact number remains disputed by all parties involved, but the UN today recognises 90,000 individuals).

For decades, the refugees were dependent on the United Nations World Food Programme for food aid and to a large part they still are, but steps are being taken to reduce that dependence in the camps.

Here, growing plants in sand is possible thanks to hydroponics — a type of farming that grows plants in ‘inert mediums’ like packing peanuts, gravel and sand. Put simply, it is plants being farmed using nothing but water and a mineral nutrient solution. It vastly reduces the amount of water required to farm, which often has to be brought in by the literal truck load and at a high price.

The refugee camps and UNWFE have been successful in growing a strain of local barley in greenhouses, which is used as fodder to feed to the animals in the camp, noticeably increasing their dairy output, as well as the quality of the meat, and thus supplementing the diets of the refugees.

Though steps are being taken to reduce the cost, this remains relatively expensive and is far from providing enough food to support the camps. It is certainly a step in the right direction, but it’s still in its infancy.

Egypt

Extreme Environments: farming in the Sahara Desert
The Valley of the Kings from the River Nile

For a country that dared to try and tame the Sahara though, we need look no further than Egypt. At approximately 90% desert, Egyptians have always stayed close to the Nile, the life blood of the country. Evidence of agriculture in the Nile Delta has been dated to as far back as 8000 BC, so it would seem the Egyptians have already mastered the desert sands, but unfortunately the Egypt of today is very different than the Egypt of 10,000 years ago.

The population today has swelled to nearly 90 million, four times as many as in 1945. Egypt simply does not have the enough agricultural land to feed its people, and so the country that was once the breadbasket of the Roman Empire now imports 50% of its food from abroad.

The New Valley Project aimed to change that. It was one of the most ambitious construction projects ever created and has its roots in the dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak in the 1990s. It aimed to add approximately 1.5 million acres of farmland to Egypt. Following his deposition in the 2011 Arab Spring, the project was frozen, but recently it has been revived.

The project aims to deal with arguably the most difficult part of growing plants in the desert — the lack of water. The New Valley Project and other desert reclamation projects undertaken by the Egyptian government solved this by either creating an elaborate system of canals and pumping systems to syphon water from the Nile River and Lake Nasser, or by pumping up ground water from below the surface.

Extreme Environments: farming in the Sahara Desert
Toshka construction site

So, did it work? Well, not really, no. Numerous factors plagued the projects. Firstly, a vast amount of work was needed to get the shoddily constructed canals up to standard, which increased the costs of the project exponentially. Next was the issue of pumping up ground water. The vast quantities required expected to have a drastic impact on the Nubian Sandstone Aquifer, the source of the water. Essentially, it was theorised that the farming would drain the aquifer, and thus the farmland would only be productive for a limited period of time.

This coupled with the fact that despite incentives, few people want to move to one of the hottest parts of the world to work on a potentially unsustainable farm has basically rendered the project a failure. A few companies have managed to stick it out at on the New Valley Project, but these companies are few and far between. It simply isn’t possible to make a profit or produce any notable amount of food in the area.

Extreme Environments: farming in the Sahara Desert
Toshka canal

Details remain scare, but it appears the New Valley Project has been set back once more, and the term Toshka (the Egyptian name for the New Valley Project) has become a joke and a byword for failure to everyday Egyptians, seem as little more than another political stunt by the government.

UAE

Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Away from the Sahara in the UAE a more novel solution has been found — Liquid Clay. At 80% desert, the UAE faces the reality of ‘learn to grow food in the desert of rely on buying from abroad.’

However, an experimental farm working in conjunction with a Norwegian scientist has managed to half the water needed to farm by using the excitingly named Liquid Nano Clay. In essence, this clay and water solution is pumped a few metres below ground where it binds with the sand, creating fertile soil. It needs to be re-done every 5 years or so, depending on how the soil is being used, but it has been proven to reduce the water required to make the desert bloom.

Unfortunately, this seemingly miracle product comes at a very high cost, up to $9,500 (£6,900) per hectare. Desert Control, the company behind it, intends to sell their products to municipal governments and commercial growers but hopes to make it affordable to all growers in the future. The issue with this is that many of the countries within the Sahara Desert are incredibly poor, some of the poorest in the world. Even a low price may prove unattainable on the large scale needed to move these countries toward self-sustainability.

No easy answers

Extreme Environments: farming in the Sahara Desert
The Sahara Desert from space

The problem of the Sahara Desert has stubbornly refused to give way for much of human history. It has acted as a natural barrier to numerous empires like the Romans and the Carthaginians.

While you can farm in the Sahara and, in isolated cases, peoples and companies are, it remains a colossal challenge. Bringing water to the desert seems to be the greatest limiting factor to growing in the Sahara. Pumping seawater and desalinating it has been done successful in Jordan on the small scale and could potentially be re-created in the Sahara, but the scale required is nothing short of daunting and de-salination technology remains prohibitively expensive for many countries today, especially those most affected by the Sahara.

In addition, in a future where food is grown in the Sahara, it will likely be the private sector, not the governments of these places that develops the scalable technology needed for the project. Naturally, those companies are going to want a payoff for their investment and so may turn to exclusively farming cash crops. This has been seen in the New Valley Project, where one of the few companies that remains appears to exclusively grow Medjool Dates, a notable cash crop.

While obviously investments in these countries should be encouraged, farming in the Sahara should ultimately make these countries less dependent on foreign investment. If companies paid for the use of the Sahara, the governments of these countries would still be forced to use that money to buy food from aboard. If the desert can be turned into an oasis, let oasis be used for the independence of those countries, not to further a cycle of dependence that leads to nothing but instability.

Danny Kane

A new low-cost solar technology for environmental cooling

A new low-cost solar technology for environmental cooling

A new low-cost solar technology for environmental cooling developed in Politecnico di Torino, Italy could bring some advantages in this day and age; especially in the MENA region.


Space cooling and heating is a common need in most inhabited areas. In Europe, the energy consumed for air conditioning is rising, and the situation could get worse in the near future due to the temperature increase in different regions worldwide. The increasing cooling need in buildings especially during the summer season is satisfied by the popular air conditioners, which often make use of refrigerants with high environmental impact and also lead to high electricity consumption. So, how can we reduce the energy demand for building cooling?

A new study comes from a research group based at the Politecnico di Torino (SMaLL) and the National Institute of Metrological Research (INRiM), who has proposed a device capable of generating a cooling load without the use of electricity: the research has been published in Science Advances*. Like more traditional cooling devices, this new technology also exploits the evaporation of a liquid. However, the key idea proposed by the Turin researchers is to use simple water and common salt instead of chemicals that are potentially harmful for the environment. The environmental impact of the new device is also reduced because it is based on passive phenomena, i.e. spontaneous processes such as capillarity or evaporation, instead of on pumps and compressors that require energy and maintenance.

“Cooling by water evaporation has always been known. As an example, Nature makes use of sweat evaporation from the skin to cool down our body. However, this strategy is effective as long as air is not saturated with water vapour. Our idea was to come up with a low-cost technology capable to maximize the cooling effect regardless of the external water vapour conditions. Instead of being exposed to air, pure water is in contact with an impermeable membrane that keeps separated from a highly concentrated salty solution. The membrane can be imagined as a porous sieve with pore size in the order of one millionth of a meter. Owing to its water-repellent properties, our membrane liquid water does not pass through the membrane, whereas its vapour does. In this way, the fresh and salt water do not mix, while a constant water vapour flux occurs from one end of the membrane to the other. As a result, pure water gets cooled, with this effect being further amplified thanks to the presence of different evaporation stages. Clearly, the salty water concentration will constantly decrease and the cooling effect will diminish over time; however, the difference in salinity between the two solutions can be continuously – and sustainably – restored using solar energy, as also demonstrated in another recent study from our group**”, explains Matteo Alberghini, PhD student of the Energy Department of the Politecnico di Torino and first author of the research.

The interesting feature of the suggested device consists in its modular design made of cooling units, a few centimetres thick each, that can be stacked in series to increase the cooling effect in series, as happens with common batteries. In this way it is possible to finely tune the cooling power according to individual needs, possibly reaching cooling capacity comparable to those typically necessary for domestic use. Furthermore, water and salt do not need pumps or other auxiliaries to be transported within the device. On the contrary, it “moves” spontaneously thanks to capillary effects of some components which, like in kitchen paper, are capable of absorbing and transporting water also against gravity.

“Other technologies for passive cooling are also being tested in various labs and research centres worldwide, such as those based on infrared heat dissipation into the outer space – also known as radiative passive cooling. Those approaches, although promising and suitable for some applications, also present major limitations: the principle on which they are based may be ineffective in tropical climates and in general on very humid days, when, however, the need for conditioning would still be high; moreover, there is a theoretical limit for the maximum cooling power. Our passive prototype, based instead on evaporative cooling between two aqueous solutions with different salinities, could overcome this limit, creating a useful effect independent of external humidity. Moreover, we could obtain an even higher cooling capacity in the future by increasing the concentration of the saline solution or by resorting to a more sophisticated modular design of the device” commented the researchers.

Also due to the simplicity of the device assembly and the required materials, a rather low production cost can be envisioned, in the order of a few euros for each cooling stage. As such, the device could be ideal for installations in rural areas, where the possible lack of well-trained technicians can make operation and maintenance of traditional cooling systems difficult. Interesting applications can also be envisioned in regions with large availability in water with high saline concentration, such as coastal regions in the vicinity of large desalination plants or nearby salt marshes and salt mines.

As of now, the technology is not yet ready for an immediate commercial exploitation, and further developments (also subject to future funding or industrial partnerships) are necessary. In perspective, this technology could be used in combination with existing and more traditional cooling systems for effectively implementing energy saving strategies.

###

[*] Matteo Alberghini, Matteo Morciano, Matteo Fasano, Fabio Bertiglia, Vito Fernicola, Pietro Asinari, Eliodoro Chiavazzo. Multistage and passive cooling process driven by salinity difference, SCIENCE ADVANCES (2020), URL: https://advances.sciencemag.org/content/6/11/eaax5015

[**] Eliodoro Chiavazzo, Matteo Morciano, Francesca Viglino, Matteo Fasano, Pietro Asinari, Passive solar high-yield seawater desalination by modular and low-cost distillation, NATURE SUSTAINABILITY (2018), URL: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41893-018-0186-x

The Most Severe Threat Facing MENA

The Most Severe Threat Facing MENA

Nabil Fahmy in The Most Severe Threat Facing MENA, this Winter 2020, looks at all imponderable issues that the region faces to its water supply. The author failed, however, to invoke anything about the works that are underway of 22 dams upstream on the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.


Water scarcity is one of the most pressing issues facing the international community today and has gained widespread attention recently due to the rise in global temperatures and the increase in water consumption in a number of countries, especially those in the Middle East. Despite these concerns, many nations remain unprepared to confront water scarcity and continue to fail to make the issue a political priority.

The shortage of water in the Middle East has worsened in the modern era due to high population growth rates, urbanization and the expansion of cities, the low price of water, and inefficient water management. These factors have created an unstable—and extremely dangerous—situation, which will impact the availability of water and risk exacerbating tensions between countries in the region.

The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has predicted that the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) will be among the regions most impacted by global warming in the twenty-first century through a heightened risk of drought and flood, which will reduce agricultural productivity, impact food stocks, and harm the most disadvantaged of the population.

About 5 percent of the world’s population lives in the MENA region, which contains only 1 percent of the world’s renewable fresh water. Water was available to citizens at an annual rate of 819.8 cubic meters per capita as recently as a few years ago, which is more than 25 percent less than the global average. Meanwhile, 60 percent of the region’s population lives in areas suffering from surface water shortages, while the global average stands at about 35 percent. Despite the region’s scarcity of water, MENA has the world’s lowest water tariffs and the highest percentage of GDP spent on water subsidies. This has led to irrational use of water resources and over-pumping of non­renewable groundwater. These are striking examples of both poor water management and the region’s lack of appreciation of the urgency of this issue.

Groundwater, large transboundary rivers, and desalination represent the main sources of water in the region, according to a report from the World Bank. These sources are all either points of dispute between countries in the region, threatened by excessive use, or too costly to develop. As a result, the countries of the Middle East continue to suffer from an acute lack of water security, which is defined as “the availability of an acceptable quantity and quality of water for health, livelihoods, ecosystems and production, coupled with an acceptable level of water-related risks to people, environments and economies.” In other words, achieving water security is not limited to maintaining high water reserves, but also involves taking into account productive and preventive initiatives to deal with water needs and related issues. Countries that underestimate the importance of water security are squandering opportunities for economic, political, and social prosperity for their citizens.

This is because water security is directly linked to food security, energy, and irrigation inefficiency. The lack of available water impacts agricultural land and leads to an excessive dependence on food imports to meet the demands of the population. The countries of the Arab World import between 30 and 35 percent of their food resources. Egypt and China are among the largest importers of wheat in the world, despite the fact that China’s population is ten times larger. The higher the national dependence on basic food imports, the greater the risk associated with turmoil in global markets. In this way, protecting national security and achieving stability becomes difficult if water and food security needs are not addressed.

This is not exaggeration or fear mongering, but rather a warning about one of the most severe threats facing the MENA region—I do not rule out the possibility of this becoming a cause or justification for conflict—and a call for leaders to change policies. Policymakers can reach a solution to this crisis if there is political will.

For example, irrigation efficiency in the MENA region hovers at 50 percent, but if efficiency was raised to 70 percent through changes to policies and practices, huge benefits could be achieved. These include providing fifty billion cubic meters of water to the Middle East annually, which would allow countries to significantly increase grain production and work to find more sustainable ways to conserve water and produce food.

Water scarcity is a possible precursor to regional and potentially international conflict, and preemptive action must be taken to prevent this. Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan have been embroiled in a dispute related to water security and are striving to reach a consensual agreement in this regard that is both sustainable and implementable. The Nile River provides Egypt with 75 percent of its water needs, which are set to increase given population growth rates, and issues related to water security in the country are set to worsen. Ethiopia will soon begin the process of filling a lake connected to the Renaissance Dam, which is part of the largest hydroelectric power station in Africa. Egyptian anxiety and frustration at the slow pace of negotiations and the failure of talks thus far are made clear in Egypt’s public statements and talk about “red lines,” as well as in its seeking to call an international mediator to help resolve the dispute.

Another potential regional conflict lies in water disputes between Palestine and Israel, even if the political conflict is resolved, which remains unlikely. Israel controls the head of the Jordan River, which restricts access to water for Palestinians, and aquifers are also under the control of the Israeli government. This leaves Palestinians with a limited amount of water. United Nations Development Programme reports indicate that Palestinians have access to about three hundred million cubic meters of water annually, while Israelis enjoy about two thousand million cubic meters. Such a disproportionate and inequitable allocation of water resources sows the seeds of future conflict.

A sensitive and potentially dangerous issue like water insecurity in the MENA region requires sincere analysis and an honest warning about its possible impacts. If politicians, scientists, and economists work together to address water insecurity rather than ignoring the issue, we can prevent possible conflict over access to water in the region.

Translated by Madeleine Hall

Raising crops in PV facades of buildings

Raising crops in PV facades of buildings

An international research group has analyzed the visual impact of PV facades on buildings which include crop cultivation. Architects, PV specialists and farmers were surveyed and the results showed broad acceptance of such projects. The ‘vertical farming’ survey generated suggestions for the design of productive facades. So here is Raising crops in PV facades of buildings by Emiliano Bellini.


February 19, 2020

An international research team including scientists from Cuba’s Technological University of Havana and the National University of Singapore has investigated the potential of integrating PV facades with ‘vertical farming’ on buildings in densely-populated cities.

According to findings presented in the study Architectural quality of the productive façades integrating photovoltaic and vertical farming systems: Survey among experts in Singapore, published in Frontiers of Architectural Research, there is broad acceptance for projects combining crop cultivation and solar power generation – which the researchers defined as “productive facades (PF)” – despite concerns over architectural integration.

Web survey

The researchers conducted anonymous 10-minute, multiple-choice web surveys in English with 15 questions. The group also provided images of four variants of productive facade, with respondents asked to rate their architectural quality on a scale of one to five.

The questions addressed topics including the visual impact of PV modules and crops, preferences about the arrangement of PV modules and ease of operation for owners and workers. Around 80% of the 97 respondents were architects with the remainder engineers, PV specialists, productive facade experts, horticulturalists, solar facade professionals, consultants and other professionals.

Architectural concerns

The results indicated architects and designers gave low ratings to all four of the designs presented and rated the design of PV installation poor. However, respondents with experience in horticulture, farming and PV facades showed stronger acceptance of building-integrated productive facades. “All groups of experts agree that PFs have the most positive effect on the exterior facade design and have accordingly graded them with higher marks than the designs without PV and VF [vertical farming] systems,” the paper noted.

Concerns were expressed by almost all respondents about the logistics of crop cultivation and irrigation near electronic devices such as the vertical solar modules.

“Several comments recommended exploring more creative designs,” the researchers added.

The lowest rating – 2.84 – was given to a productive facade with only PV modules visible from the inside. The highest mark – 3.9 – was scored by the image in which only plants were visible.

Tips for developers

The study also generated recommendations for the improvement of productive facade prototypes. “It should be noted that the selection of elements for practical application cannot be made based on a single isolated PF element – the entire building should be considered, especially the aesthetic elements of the building envelope, such as composition, proportion, rhythm, transparency, scale, colors and materials,” the researchers stated.

The study’s authors recommended the installation of the PV systems on north and south-facing facades, with ceiling level a preferable location.

Tilt angles of less than 20 degrees were suggested as a better aesthetic solution which would also avoid reflection onto neighboring buildings. “However, a well-designed integration of the PV modules with the planter of the above storey provides additional advantages – it improves the quality of indoor daylight and obstructs the view from inside to a lesser degree,” the study stated.

The researchers added copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS) panels were preferred to crystalline silicon modules, due to their more homogeneous structure.

Emiliano Bellini

Emiliano joined pv magazine in March 2017. He has been reporting on solar and renewable energy since 2009.

emiliano.bellini@pv-magazine.com

More articles from Emiliano Bellini

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Buildings kill millions of birds. Here’s how to reduce the toll

Buildings kill millions of birds. Here’s how to reduce the toll

In Reach for the Sky—Wood Frame Building Will Be 35 Stories, there was no question about any other matter such as the possibility of these buildings killing birds and in this case, how to reduce this eventuality. To dutifully fill that gap, here is Norman Day, of Swinburne University of Technology who informs that Buildings kill millions of birds. Here’s how to reduce the toll.

Buildings kill millions of birds. Here’s how to reduce the toll


Buildings kill millions of birds. Here's how to reduce the tol
These birds were killed by flying into a set of surveyed buildings in Washington DC in 2013. USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab/Flickr

As high-rise cities grow upwards and outwards, increasing numbers of birds die by crashing into glass buildings each year. And of course, many others break beaks, wings and legs or suffer other physical harm. But we can help eradicate the danger by good design.

Most research into building-related bird deaths has been done in the United States and Canada, where cities such as Toronto and New York City are located on bird migration paths. In New York City alone, the death toll from flying into buildings is about 200,000 birds a year.

Across the US and Canada, bird populations have shrunk by about 3 billion since 1970. The causes include loss of habitat and urbanisation, pesticides and the effects of global warming, which reduces food sources.

An estimated 365 million to 1 billion birds die each year from “unnatural” causes like building collisions in the US. The greatest bird killer in the US remains the estimated 60-100 million free-range cats that kill up to 4 billion birds a year. Australia is thought to have up to 6 million feral cats.


Read more: For whom the bell tolls: cats kill more than a million Australian birds every day


But rampant global urbanisation is putting the reliance on glass buildings front-of-stage as an “unnatural” cause of bird deaths, and the problem is growing exponentially.

In the line of flight

Most birds fly at around 30-50km/h, with falcons capable of up to 200km/h. When migrating, birds generally spend five to six hours flying at a height of 150 metres, sometimes much higher.

And that’s where the problems start with high-rise buildings. Most of them are much taller than the height at which birds fly. In Melbourne, for example, Australia 108 is 316 metres, Eureka 300 metres, Aurora 270 metres and Rialto 251 metres. The list is growing as the city expands vertically.

The paradigm of high-rise gothams, New York City, has hundreds of skyscrapers, most with fully glass, reflective walls. One World Trade is 541 metres high, the 1931 Empire State is 381 metres (although not all glass) and even the city’s 100th-highest building, 712 Fifth Avenue, is 198 metres.

To add to the problems of this forest of glass the city requires buildings to provide rooftop green places. These attract roosting birds, which then launch off inside the canyons of reflective glass walls – often mistaking these for open sky or trees reflected from behind.

Buildings kill millions of birds. Here's how to reduce the tol
Reflections of trees and sky lure birds into flying straight into buildings. Frank L Junior/Shutterstock

A problem of lighting and reflections

Most cities today contain predominantly glass buildings – about 60% of the external wall surface. These buildings do not rely on visible frames, as in the past, and have very limited or no openable windows (for human safety reasons). They are fully air-conditioned, of course.


Read more: Glass skyscrapers: a great environmental folly that could have been avoided


Birds cannot recognise daylight reflections and glass does not appear to them to be solid. If it is clear they see it as the image beyond the glass. They can also be caught in building cul-de-sac courtyards – open spaces with closed ends are traps.

At night, the problem is light from buildings, which may disorientate birds. Birds are drawn to lights at night. Glass walls then simply act as targets.

Some species send out flight calls that may lure other birds to their death.

Buildings kill millions of birds. Here's how to reduce the toll
White-throated Sparrows collected in a University of Michigan-led study of birds killed by flying into buildings lit up at night in Chicago and Cleveland. Roger Hart, University of Michigan/Futurity, CC BY

Read more: Want to save millions of migratory birds? Turn off your outdoor lights in spring and fall


We can make buildings safer for birds

Architectural elements like awnings, screens, grilles, shutters and verandas deter birds from hitting buildings. Opaque glass also provides a warning.

Birds see ultraviolet light, which humans cannot. Some manufacturers are now developing glass with patterns using a mixed UV wavelength range that alerts birds but has no effect on human sight.

New York City recently passed a bird-friendly law requiring all new buildings and building alterations (at least under 23 metres tall, where most fly) be designed so birds can recognise glass. Windows must be “fritted” using applied labels, dots, stripes and so on.

The search is on for various other ways of warning birds of the dangers of glass walls and windows.

Combinations of methods are being used to scare or warn away birds from flying into glass walls. These range from dummy hawks (a natural enemy) and actual falcons and hawks, which scare birds, to balloons (like those used during the London Blitz in the second world war), scary noises and gas cannons … even other dead birds.

Researchers are using lasers to produce light ray disturbance in cities especially at night and on dark days.

Noise can be effective, although birds do acclimatise if the noises are produced full-time. However, noise used as a “sonic net” can effectively drown out bird chatter and that interference forces them to move on looking for quietness. The technology has been used at airports, for example.

A zen curtain developed in Brisbane has worked at the University of Queensland. This approach uses an open curtain of ropes strung on the side of buildings. These flutter in the breeze, making patterns and shadows on glass, which birds don’t like.

These zen curtains can also be used to make windows on a house safer for birds. However, such a device would take some doing for the huge structures of a metropolis.

More common, and best adopted at the design phase of a building, is to mark window glass so birds can see it. Just as we etch images on glass doors to alert people, we can apply a label or decal to a window as a warning to birds. Even using interior blinds semi-open will deter birds.

Birds make cities friendlier as part of the shared environment. We have a responsibility to provide safe flying and security from the effects of human habitation and construction, and we know how to achieve that.


This article has been updated to correct the figure for the estimated number of birds killed by the cats in the US to “up to 4 billion”, not 4 million.

Norman Day, Lecturer in Architecture, Practice and Design, Swinburne University of Technology

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license.

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