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Lebanese architect offering an innovative approach to sustainable design

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The Lebanese architect offering an innovative approach to sustainable design is about how Lina Ghotmeh has caught the attention of Dezeen Awards for her building Stone Garden in Beirut. The story is by Lemma Shehadi in The National.

Architect Lina Ghotmeh. Hannah Assouline

For Lebanese architect Lina Ghotmeh, sustainable architecture should come from the ground of the city. “We need architecture that is anchored in its place and climate, not as an object that creates its own environment,” she tells The National. “I’m always relating the building back to traces of the past. I learn about the vernacular architecture and its relationship to the climate, and how to project that into the future”.

Her approach, which she has termed an “archaeology of the future”, has caught the attention of the architectural world, as well as Mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo. Within a month, Ghotmeh, 41, who lives in Paris, won two major architectural prizes. Last week, her Stone Garden building in Beirut was named Architecture Project of the Year at the Dezeen Awards 2021.

The discrete and slender concrete tower with residential flats was designed to fit the urban make-up of the city, while echoing layers of its history. “Stone Garden whispers the memory of Beirut, its history, its ground. It tries to offer an alternative way of constructing at height in a Mediterranean city and in a hot climate,” she says.

A facade of sand-coloured mortar with hand-chiselled lines evokes the eroded surface of Beirut’s prehistoric Pigeon Rocks on the city’s shores. Their immaculate straightness appears at once futuristic and organic. “The facade was combed as we comb the earth before planting, as a body emerging and narrating the city,” says Ghotmeh.

Yet these lines are also a nod to craft and its potential for sustainable construction. “The power of the hand is presented as an act of healing. When we build by hand, we are more aware of the impact that we may have on the environment,” she explains.

Meanwhile, the building’s open terraces and urban gardens mimic the city’s scars from the civil war. “They transform the scars into moments of life,” she says, “Large windows play along the elevation of the envelope, they open to the city and house lush gardens, bringing nature at the heart of residences.”

The Stone Garden is a discrete and slender concrete tower with residential flats and gardens. Photo: Laurian Ghinitoiu / Lina Ghotmeh 

The award’s jury praised the building’s “remarkable freshness and power”. They said: “This project is really poetic − it is talking about memory architecture, which is a hard thing to do in a multi-dwelling project. It is going to give a new platform for a seed of ideas in Lebanon.”

And that’s not all. Since 2016, Ghotmeh has been among the architects involved in Hidalgo’s project Reinventer Paris, which aims to transform the city into the first green capital of its kind. For this, Ghotmeh will be designing a wooden tower that hosts a sustainable feeding programme in the district of Massena.

“Ghotmeh is present in the debate about the future of the city,” says architecture critic Kaye Geipel, who was a jury for the Schelling Architecture Prize 2020, which was awarded to Ghotmeh in November for her contributions to the field of architecture. “[She is] a weighty voice in the large-scale project of Mayor Hidalgo, who wants to make Paris a green capital and exemplary for France and Europe”.

Ghotmeh explains that her design approach stems from her upbringing in Beirut. “The city was like an open archaeology, it was always unveiling itself,” she says, “It made me think about our relationship with our ancestors, and the hidden cities that exist beneath us, but also the question of the ground.”

The unique pointed structure of the Stone Garden. Photo: Iwan Baan / Lina Ghotmeh

“In the past we thought about buildings as independent environments, climatised and full of glass that just sit there and ignore what’s around them,” she explains. “They could consume as much as they want. They don’t wear the traditions of their place. This is not sustainable, or durable or circular”.

When Ghotmeh began designing the Stone Garden in 2010, Beirut was a different place. “There was this beautiful creative community of designers, fashion designers, architects and chefs. It was a fertile and positive moment. The city’s identity had been developing with the works and voices of many artists and activists,” she recalls.

But today, the entire country is plagued by political deadlock and economic crises. Two of Ghotmeh’s projects in Lebanon, which includes a museum in the Bekaa Valley, have been put on hold. “The failed political system has been suppressing the extraordinary spirit of this city,” she says, “I remain hopeful that change will be possible towards a more just society and environment.”

A rendering of Lina Ghotmeh’s Hermes project. Lina Ghotmeh — Architecture

Nonetheless, a string of projects in France can further push her ideas on architecture and sustainability. She is working on a vast workshop building, called Precise Acts, for the luxury brand Hermes. “It is a low carbon, passive building that will be a benchmark in contributing into an ecological transition in France,” she says.

In the same vein, Ghotmeh is developing wooden housing for athletes for the Paris 2024 Olympics. Her designs for the National Dance Centre in the city of Tours will explore the relationship between dance and architecture.READ MORE‘The Anatomy of Sabkhas’ shows the UAE’s salt flats are a cause worth fighting for

Yet her dream building, she says, would be a public space along the Beirut coastline that would serve as a universal playground for all ages.

“It would be a joyful public space. It’s a new typology for a museum in a way, that’s not about the collection, but rather the collection of relationships and community making,” Ghotmeh says. “I’m always excited to develop new typologies. How do you really build a public space that’s not just a piazza or the space between buildings, where people find joy?”

Updated: December 6th 2021

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Geospatial intelligence for infrastructure development to fight climate change

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How India can use geospatial intelligence for infrastructure development to fight climate change by Madhusudan Anand is a story that should be also common to those countries of the MENA region because there are certainly more similarities in The race to zero emissions, between the MENA region and India than differences.

Here are a few ways geospatial intelligence can be the catalyst for India’s smart status ambitions.

At the recent COP26 summit in Glasgow, India promised to reach Net Zero by 2070 — essentially balancing the total carbon dioxide emissions with its elimination from the environment — called carbon neutrality.

However, India is the world’s fourth-largest emitter of carbon dioxide after China, the US, and the EU. The latter two have issued a commitment to reach Net Zero by 2050. 

Despite the incredible progress made towards sustainability across the country, India seems to be lagging on a global playing field when it comes to mass scale solutions.

Naturally, there’s a lot of expectations and hopes riding on the government’s initiatives, including on the recent PM Gati Shakti Master Plan, which aims to create holistic infrastructure across the country through the incorporation of a centralised geospatial data platform.

The Rs 100 lakh-crore initiative is envisioned to ensure transparency, standardisation, and most importantly, sustainability through efficiency.

The programme will bring together 16 central government agencies, including the Railways, Roads and Highways, Petroleum and Gas, Power, Telecom, Shipping, Aviation, and more.

The overarching idea is that a smart city is sustainable — equipped to mitigate climate change’s effects by harnessing the power of technology. 

Geospatial knowledge can provide answers for most everyday problems, especially developing sustainable smart cities. Urban spaces contribute to around 80 percent of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. However, they are also responsible for 80 percent of a country’s GDP.

With the intersection of artificial intelligence and geospatial data — including census data, satellite imagery, remote sensing, weather data, cell phone data, drawn images, and social media data — urban planning can be highly efficient and contribute to better living conditions both environmentally and financially.

Astoundingly, the market of geospatial analytics is expected to grow at a CAGR of 24 percent between 2020 and 2025.

Here are a few ways geospatial intelligence can be the catalyst for India’s smart status ambitions. 

Environmental repair 

Consumption of resources, energy, ecosystems, and transport directly impact climate change. Geospatial intelligence can help monitor emission sources through collaborative workflows that harness big data to arrive at efficient solutions.

Detailed maps can help evaluate the productivity of land to arrive at its habitable or agricultural status. GIS also makes it easy for civic authorities to balance nature with humans in urban cities to avoid unnecessary culling of green spaces and wildlife conservation. Moreover, it can monitor and correct pollution and noise levels accordingly. 

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Critics claim Qatar’s sustainable 2022 stadium is just ‘PR’

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Critics claim Qatar’s sustainable 2022 stadium is just ‘PR’ by Nikolaus J. Kurmayer of EURACTIV.de would not be a slightly out of control criticism but a serious snapshot of our life of today. This can be summarised in a few words such as: should we build more and more of these sports infrastructure.

30 November 2021

The above image is for illustration and is of EURACTIV.com.

The new modular stadium 974 built for the 2022 Qatar world cup may solve some of the issues associated with world cup venue construction: empty unused stadiums left behind. [dezeen/Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy]

As Football comes under pressure to go carbon neutral, one major source of emissions remains the stadiums that need to be built for every world cup, something Qatar seeks to address. But critics remain unconvinced that supposedly sustainable stadiums are enough to tackle the issue.

A big part of the 3.6 million tonnes of greenhouse gas equivalent emissions associated with the 2022 Qatar world cup counted by FIFA stems from what the report describes as “permanent construction of venues”.

Some 639,482 tonnes of CO2-equivalent emissions would be emitted during the preparatory phase of the world cup during venue construction, FIFA notes.

As a result, Qatar proudly presented stadium 974 to the world on 26 November. Made from recycled shipping containers, the stadium is named after the number of containers used and its Qatari area code.

The design, based on prefabricated modular elements, reduced the waste generated during production and on-site during construction, say the owners.

The use of modular elements also reduced the venue’s construction duration, they added.

Considering the 6,500 deaths of migrant workers in Qatar since the country won its bid to host the world championship in 2010, as reported by the Guardian in February 2021, speeding up construction may be conducive to preventing more deaths.

According to the organiser, the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy (SC), 34 migrant workers died on World Cup construction sites during the aforementioned period. 

The committee says it is transparent about these figures and doubts other “misleading” reports on the number of deaths.

The greenwashing issue

Aside from the human rights concerns and the deaths of primarily Pakistani migrant workers, environmental activists are also concerned that the new stadium may be one big greenwashing exercise.

The stadium, built from recycled materials and will be dismantled at the end of the world cup, boasts a modular design, allowing it to be disassembled and turned into multiple smaller stadiums or scraped easily.

“If you look at all the criticism for all of the big stadiums created around the world — and nobody uses them later on — this is, well, it’s useful,” Zeina Khalil Hajj, of 350, a global climate protection NGO, told Deutsche Welle

Yet, the innovative sea-side stadium, which can forego cooling due to its construction and location, is just one of eight massive stadiums Qatar built for the 2022 world cup.

“It doesn’t mean they are the biggest culprit in the world. It just means that they have a duty,” Hajj told DW. “They have a responsibility as a rich nation. They have to contribute. And that means they have to change their domestic consumption pattern.”

Residents of Qatar have some of the largest per capita carbon footprints due to their oil-based economy in a relatively inhospitable environment necessitating artificial cooling.

Instead of tackling the systemic challenges to their society, “What they’re doing instead is all this ‘PR machine’,” added Haji.

Despite all the smart design the Qatari SC employs to cut emissions and make the world cup as carbon-neutral as possible, critics are worried about their reliance on carbon offsets.

To achieve the SC’s pledge “to measure, mitigate and offset all FIFA World Cup 2022 greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions” will ultimately require a massive amount of so-called carbon offsets, as a majority of emissions from air travel and venue construction are challenging to abate.

Offsetting “unavoidable emissions” by planting a million trees, as Qatar has pledged, rather than using solar power or wind energy to cool stadiums is not what Phillip Sommer, of environmental action Germany, would call sustainable, he told DW.

Neither organisers like the SC nor “FIFA should therefore not rely on offsets, but on direct investments in solar or wind power, and tie conditions for venues to the climate footprint of member countries,” Michael Bloss, Greens EU lawmaker, told EURACTIV.

[Edited by Alice Taylor]

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MENA region’s GDP to surge by over 3x by 2050

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MENA region’s GDP to surge by over 3x by 2050 according to Gulf Capital White Paper as reported by SME10X . In effect, the oil and gas trade revenues allow considerable financial power and a strategic position on the international scene for those exporting countries but also a source of vulnerability for their economies, especially in the aftermath of not only this recent COP26 but to also the ensuing COPs Let us nevertheless look at this prediction of this white paper.

MENA region’s GDP to surge by over 3x by 2050

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A New report quantifies unprecedented growth opportunities across “Ascending Asia” which is set to drive 40 percent of global consumption by 2040.

Gulf Capital has released a white paper, “Bridging West and East Asia: The Investment Case for Ascending Asia”, that outlines the significant future growth of the Asian economies and the growth in the intra-regional trade and investment flows between West Asia, including the GCC, and East Asia.

The study, jointly published by Gulf Capital and Dr Parag Khanna, Founder and Managing Partner of FutureMap, reveals that the MENA region is expected to increase its GDP by over 3x by 2050, the ASEAN region is expected to grow by 3.7x, and India by 5x. This turbo-charged growth is in sharp contrast to the projected slower growth of the European and US economies at only 1.5x and 1.8x respectively for the same period.

Within greater Asia, the GCC and Southeast Asia are two ascending regions with rising youth populations where demographic and technological shifts will generate a significant expansion of the services sectors. Across these societies, rising affluence and consumption will drive business expansion, corporate profits, and higher valuations. Longer-term reforms including capital account liberalization and accelerated privatization will unlock fresh investment inflows into new Asian listings.

Dr Karim El Solh, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Gulf Capital, said: “The unprecedented growth opportunities presented by the emergence of ‘Ascending Asia’ have never been greater. The strong macro-economic fundamentals, a growing middle class and youth population, increasing GDP per capita, rapid adoption of technology, and growing intra-regional trade and investment flows will only strengthen the case for the Asian economies. We are fortunate to be investing and operating across Ascending Asia from the GCC to the Near East and Southeast Asia, where we have acquired a large number of companies in the past.”

Additionally, East and West Asia’s deepening trade and investment networks indicate that capital, companies, and consumers will increasingly traverse the Indian Ocean and strengthen ties along the new Silk Roads, stitching the region into a whole greater than the sum of its parts.

El Solh concluded, “Against the backdrop of the evolving megatrends of deepening trade links, sizable FDI flows, greater political cooperation, and the fastest growing consumer sector, Gulf Capital is ideally poised to capitalize on this once in a generation cross-border opportunity. It is our firm belief that if investors want to capture rapid growth over the next three decades, they need significant exposure to the fastest growing industries across Ascending Asia.”

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Accelerated renewables-based electrification paves the way for a post-fossil future

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The hydrocarbon producing countries of the MENA region believe in their preeminent albeit shrinking source of revenues for decades. But, as shown by some counties of the Gulf net-zero recent pledge, they see economic and political opportunities in moving to the green energy transition. Accelerated renewables-based electrification paves the way for a post-fossil future by Nature Energy explains how the world and particularly the EU in order to achieve its climate and geopolitical goals, it will need to substantially increase its engagement with Gulf states.

The image above is for illustration and is about how Fossil Fuel Jobs Will Disappear, So Now What?

Accelerated renewables-based electrification paves the way for a post-fossil future

The research was published in Nature Energy.

Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Cost-slashing innovations are underway in the electric power sector and could give electricity the lead over fossil-based combustion fuels in the world’s energy supply by mid-century. When combined with a global carbon price, these developments can catalyze emission reductions to reach the Paris climate targets, while reducing the need for controversial negative emissions, a new study finds.

“Today, 80 percent of all energy demands for industry, mobility or heating buildings is met by burning—mostly fossil—fuels directly, and only 20 percent by electricity. Our research finds that relation can be pretty much reversed by 2050, making the easy-to-decarbonise electricity the mainstay of global energy supply,” says Gunnar Luderer, author of the new study and researcher the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. “For the longest time, fossil fuels were cheap and accessible, whilst electricity was the precious and pricier source of energy. Renewable electricity generation—especially from solar photovoltaics—has become cheaper at breath-taking speed, a pace that most climate models have so far underestimated. Over the last decade, alone prices for solar electricity fell by 80 percent, and further cost reductions are expected in the future. This development has the potential to fundamentally revolutionize energy systems. Our computer simulations show that together with global carbon pricing, green electricity can become the cheapest form of energy by 2050, and supply up to three quarters of all demand.”

The reasons lie mainly in the ground-breaking technological progress in solar and wind power generation, but also, in the end, uses of electric energy. Costs per kilowatt hour solar or wind power are steeply falling while battery technology e.g. in cars is improving at great speed. Heat pumps use less energy per unit of heat output than any type of boiler and are becoming increasingly competitive not only in buildings, but also in industrial applications. “You can electrify more end-uses than you think and for those cases actually reduce the energy consumption compared to current levels,” explains Silvia Madeddu, co-author and also researcher at the Potsdam Institute.

“Take steel production: Electrifying the melting of recycled steel, the so-called secondary steel, reduces the total process energy required and lowers the carbon intensity per ton of steel produced,” says Madeddu. “All in all, we find that more than half of all energy demand from industry can be electrified by 2050.” However, some bottlenecks to electrification do remain, the researchers point out. Slowest in the race to decarbonisation are long-haul aviation, shipping, and chemical feedstocks, i.e. fossil fuels used as raw materials in chemicals production.

Limiting the reliance on negative emissions

The scale of the technological progress holds great opportunities for countries to leapfrog and for investors alike. However, not every technology is a success story so far. “In this study, we constrained the reliance on technologies which aim at taking carbon out of the atmosphere, simply because they have proven to be more difficult to scale than previously anticipated: Carbon Capture and Storage has not seen the sharp fall in costs that, say, solar power has. Biomass, in turn, crucially competes with food production for land use,” Luderer lays out. “Interestingly, we found that the accelerated electrification of energy demands can more than compensate for a shortfall of biomass and CCS, still keeping the 1.5 degrees Celsius goal within reach while reducing land requirements for energy crops by two thirds.”

Era of electricity will come—but global climate policy must accelerate it to meet climate goals

“The era of electricity will come either way. But only sweeping regulation of fossil fuels across sectors and world regions—most importantly some form of carbon pricing—can ensure it happens in due time to reach 1.5 degrees,” Luderer says. Indeed, the simulations show that even if no climate policy at all is enacted, electricity will double in share over the course of the century. Yet in order to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement of limiting global warming to well below two degrees, decisive and global political coordination is crucial: pricing carbon, scrapping levies on electricity, expanding grid infrastructure, and redesigning electricity markets to reward storage and flexible demands. Here, hydrogen will be a crucial chain link, as it can flexibly convert renewable electricity into green fuels for sectors that cannot be electrified directly. “If these elements come together, the prospects of a renewables-based green energy future look truly electrifying,” says Luderer.

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