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Smart Villages, Internet Cities or Creativity Engines

Smart Villages, Internet Cities or Creativity Engines

Here is the Abstract and some excerpts of Dr Ali Alraouf’s examining the Discourse on Knowledge Cities as published by Academia. It is of being or planned to being Smart Villages, Internet Cities or Creativity Engines.

The world’s growing cities are a critical fact of the 21st Century and represent one of the greatest challenges to the future. By the year 2050 cities with populations over three million will be more than double: from 70 today to over 150. When knowledge is perhaps the most important factor in the future of city’s economy, there is a growing interest in the concept of the “knowledge city”. Hence, what are the qualities of future cities becomes a crucial question. Leif Edvinsson defines Knowledge City as “a city that purposefully designed to encourage the nurturing of knowledge”.

Knowledge city is not just a city. It is a growing space of exchange and optimism in which each and every one can devote himself to personal and collective projects and aspirations in a climate of dynamism, harmony, and creativity.  There are already several cities that identify themselves as knowledge cities or have strategic plans to become knowledge cities. The list includes the following cities, for example: Barcelona, Melbourne, Delft, and Palmerston North. On the contrary, Arabcities are building technological isolated projects to promote the same concept. An examination of projects like Egypt’ Smart Village and Dubai’s Internet City and Knowledge Village will be helpful in evaluating the knowledge status of contemporary Arab Cities.

I’ll argue in this paper that the concept of ‘Knowledge Cities ‘is rooted in the urban, cultural structure of traditional Arab cities. Therefore, an attempt to foster this concept in today’s Arab cities would not be possible by building isolated technological statement scattered around the city. Alternatively, the rise of the network society, global networks, linked cities, and existence of smart communities should construct the basis for shaping Arab Knowledge Cities.  In addition, the paper will introduce the concept of “Urban Creativity Engines”, and examples of various types will be presented. I’ll argue that this is a more comprehensive concept for constructing and evaluating knowledge cities. Although this concept and its terminology is new, the paper will prove that there are many historical examples, regionally and internationally, of “knowledge cities” and “Innovation/Creativity Engines

Castells (1996 & 1998) has argued that a new type of society is rising in our contemporary cities due to the consequences of the information revolution. From a sociological point of view, Sassen (2000) has argued that cities in the information age should be reperceived as nodes of an immense network of commercial and political transactions.

The Emerging Knowledge Cities: International Attempts

Smart Villages, Internet Cities or Creativity Engines
Smart Village project in Cairo – Egypt, is it really smart?

There are already several cities that identify themselves as knowledge cities, or have strategic plans to become knowledge cities. These cutting edge cities are aiming to win competitive and cooperative advantage by pioneering a new environment and knowledge ecology for their citizens. The list includes some of these cities according to the Knowledge Cities Observatory (KCO) classifications: Melbourne, Australia – its strategic plan for 2010 emphasize the path towards enhancing its position as a knowledge city.  Delft, the Netherlands – the city clustered its knowledge intensive projects included in the “delft knowledge city” initiative in 5 themes: soil & water, information technology, innovative transport systems, environmental technologies.  Barcelona, Spain – the activity of Barcelona Forum 2004, which manifests the cultural perspective which Barcelona adopted as a main theme for its knowledge sensitivedevelopment. Accordingly, the city was chosen to host the founding meeting of the distinctive Knowledge Cities Observatory (KCO).  Palmerston North, New Zealand – this relatively small city puts education in the heart of its “knowledge city” manifest.  Monterrey City, Mexico – the new governor set the goal of becoming a knowledge city among his top 5 priorities.

Knowledge Cities/Zones: Regional Attempts

In an attempt to actualize the high-performance knowledge city different initiatives took place in the Middle Eastern cities. Experiences and lessons learned from real-world knowledge zone initiatives.  On the contrary of the strategic planning of European and American cities, Arab cities are building technological isolated projects to promote the same concept of claiming its new identity as knowledge cities. An examination of projects like Egypt’ Smart Village and Dubai’s Internet City and newly lunched project Knowledge Village will be helpful in evaluating the knowledge status of contemporary Arab Cities. 

Read more in the Academia‘s

Ali A. Raouf, PhD, M. Arch., B. Sc is an Egyptian architect based in Bahrain and interested in research related to architectural and environmental design.

Ali A. Raouf, PhD, M. Arch., B. Sc is an Egyptian architect based in Bahrain and interested in research related to architectural and environmental design.


Retail real estate needs Paris-Proof decarbonisation strategy

Retail real estate needs Paris-Proof decarbonisation strategy

Retail real estate needs Paris-Proof decarbonisation strategy, says Buildings Performance Institute Europe as reported by property funds world. It is understandable when, with the increasing industrialisation, buildings’ energy consumption already accounts for one-third and still counting of global CO2 emissions.

Retail real estate needs Paris-Proof decarbonisation strategy, says Buildings Performance Institute Europe

24 February 2021

BPIE – Buildings Performance Institute Europe – has released a new report highlighting that despite industry efforts to decarbonise building portfolios, retail real estate asset managers and owners lack a sector-specific trajectory towards achieving climate-neutrality. 

The report marks the launch of Paris-Proof Retail Real Estate, an initiative that looks to develop a vision and strategy to support the European retail real estate sector reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, in line with the Paris Agreement.

The report highlights that the current rate of decarbonisation of retail buildings is not happening fast enough to meet climate goals. Extreme weather conditions, rapidly expanding floor area and growth in demand for energy consuming services exacerbate the issue. In 2019, the global buildings and construction sector accounted for 35 per cent of final energy use and 38 per cent of energy and process-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Delivering the vision of climate-neutrality requires thorough renovation and smart design of the whole building stock, including retail portfolios.  

According to the report, existing low carbon transition and 1.5°C climate roadmaps are not yet fully adapted to the needs of the sector, and climate change issues are not yet fully integrated into mainstream asset management and investment decision-making processes, traditionally focused on the cyclical trends of property markets. Yet it is precisely at sector level where climate-related risks become more apparent. Interviews with ten retail property investment and management companies, which informed the report’s analysis, reveal that failure to put in place a decarbonisation strategy now could lead to value erosion and stranded assets in the years to come.

“In Europe, while GHG emissions targets are well defined for 2030 and 2050, these are not yet transposed into meaningful guidance for individual industry sectors,” says Zsolt Toth, Senior Project Manager at BPIE.

“If we are serious about decarbonising the full building stock by 2050, the retail real estate sector and policymakers need to have a common understanding of who needs to do what, and by when. The strategy should be measurable, sector-specific, and disaggregated from high-level political targets.”

Clemens Brenninkmeijer, Head of Sustainable Business Operations at Redevco, an urban real estate investment management company, agrees. “The need for deliberate actions and tangible results to significantly decrease emissions in the built environment is becoming more urgent for retail real estate managers every day. This report, funded through the Redevco Foundation, provides insight into where the retail real estate sector in particular stands, and what should be the next step.”

While this may seem evident, developing a forward-looking decarbonisation strategy for businesses amidst a changing policy landscape is not a simple exercise, says Joost Koomen, Secretary General of ECSP, the European Council of Shopping Places, representing retail and mixed use destinations and their communities.
 
“Aligning the broader long-term 2030 and 2050 goals with short to medium term investment decisions will be important, particularly in a rapidly changing industry that has been hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic,” says Koomen. “Market actors urgently need to understand how to plan for the longer term while also ensuring stability within the short to medium term.”

As BPIE’s analysis shows, most of the risks associated with climate change are expected to appear in the medium to long-term and thus are not captured by the relatively short-term models used in most current risk management practices. Data gaps, confusion of metrics and protocols, as well as the particular nature of carbon risks could give rise to a collective mis-assessment by real estate markets.

BPIE plans to launch a decarbonisation vision and strategy with the European retail real estate sector before the end of 2021. Owners and asset managers from the sector are welcome to participate in workshops and provide input in its development.

Exporting building-research excellence from the UK

Exporting building-research excellence from the UK

The Buildings Research Establishment (BRE) has been a trailblazer in its field for a century. Much of the language it uses to describe what it does today is very familiar to chartered accountants. It is in this article mainly about how exporting building-research excellence from the UK could positively affect sustainability throughout the world.

The picture above is for illustration purpose and is of Digital twins in the building industry.

Exporting building-research excellence from the UK

23 February 2021

Exporting building-research excellence from the UK
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ICAEW member Andrew Herbert is the Interim Chief Financial Officer at BRE Group Limited. He talks very much in terms of measures, standards and accountability, and says sustainability, safety, security and quality will combine to create a roadmap for building design and construction of the future.

“The organisation was set up by the UK Government after WW1 to look at the built environment and how it could be improved,” says Herbert. “That’s an ongoing journey.”

Perhaps one of the most famous milestones for the Buildings Research Establishment (BRE) was the work undertaken at the Hertfordshire site as part of Operation Chastise, or the Dambusters’ Raid. What BRE brought to the equation was a demonstration of how modelling advances technical understanding of a building and its properties. BRE continues to use models, both physical and software-based, to solve complex construction challenges. Today, that means wind tunnel testing and testing the spread of fire to make sure that building design, and construction, are based on science, and that they harness technology.

“We burn things, we break them, or we blow them up,” says Herbert. “On the site, we do a lot of testing of products related to the built environment. We might do fire safety testing on equipment, we might test to see if the lining to a tunnel does what it’s supposed to do, and also with beams, railways sleepers, and so on.”

On the security front, there is a fair bit of blowing up. “We do a lot of security work testing to make sure that building security works in a whole range of areas, both for UK companies but also internationally,” he adds.

The burning, breaking and blowing up is about half the work undertaken at BRE. The other half is about the impact that buildings have on the environment. “That means setting standards to ensure that when people build, they do what they say they will do, but the standards also to address the impact of the construction sector on the environment,” he says.

BREEAM is a tool designed by BRE that auditors can use to assess the environmental impact of a building. It has become a trusted mark of sustainability for buildings and communities in 77 countries around the world. “We also do lots of consultancy work for governments, not just the UK Government,” says Herbert.

“Another of our products – LPCB – is a standard developed by the insurance industry that we now own and run. This is a standard that makes sure things like suppression systems for fire safety do what they are supposed to do,” says Herbert. “The LPCB standard is actually enshrined in regulations across the globe. For example, a high-rise block built in the Middle East would have to adhere to the LPCB standard.”

BRE teams operate around the world, explaining to regulators the benefit of the BRE standards and tools. “Anyone can convince a building company that their product will achieve a certain result. How do you actually know that is true – particularly with safety products because we hope they don’t have to be used. Nobody wants the fire hose to come out or the sprinkler system to come on because you hope there’s not going to be a fire. But how do you know whether what’s been installed will perform on the day? The only way to rely on it is to have a set of agreed, independent, standards that everybody follows.” Apart from testing products, BRE regularly audits the processes of the factories in which these products are manufactured to make sure they are consistent and create a repeatable product.

BRE itself applies accountancy thinking to its processes. “We operate a risk-based approach ourselves at BRE. Each of our units has risk registers. The internal audit team takes the risk register information when they are preparing their internal audit plans, identifies the high-risk areas and spends more time in that area than in the low-risk areas. My head of risk and internal audit is also a qualified accountant,” says Herbert.

So where will the challenges for BRE lie given that the world is at a crossroads in so many respects, and the built environment will be an outward manifestation of the decisions governments and supranational organisations take now?

“Much of the work BRE has been doing over the last few years is with industry, trying to come up with a better way of building, often referred to as modern methods of construction – or offsite manufacturing methods. We secured a grant for just over £17m to work out what modern methods of construction means and how to get the industry to move in that direction,” says Herbert. “The building industry is very traditional. We still use a small brick, and we lay them, and that isn’t necessarily the most efficient way of building or delivering consistency.”

And traditional methods struggle to deliver that other necessity for change – data. Modern methods have a digital plan, so you always know where all the services are located, the types of materials used, their age and provenance. This makes maintenance so much easier and helps with testing in terms of safety and energy performance.

“Our hopes and expectations are that we will have that digital footprint which will give us a record of a building, that we can actually build more in a shorter space of time. That would help this new wave of construction,” says Herbert.

“There are many major infrastructure projects happening around the world, not just in the UK. The investment other countries are making is phenomenal. And certainly, BRE wants to be part of that process – to make sure that we set the right standards, that we can give people confidence that what’s being built adheres to those standards, and assists with the move to net zero.”

He points out that the UK offers the world really strong technical skills and scientific knowledge. “It would be great to disseminate that information in a much broader way. And we do. But there’s always more we can do,” says Herbert. “We want to be seen as an organisation that works across the globe, improving standards as we go.”

Malta can truly kick-start a green revolution

Malta can truly kick-start a green revolution

The start to a green revolution – Cyrus Engerer and Stephanie Fabri elaborate on how Malta can truly kick-start a green revolution.

Malta can truly kick-start a green revolution

By Cyrus Engerer and Stephanie Fabri

As the world struggles with COVID-19, the challenges of climate change and wider environmental problems loom large. It is clear that the economic response to the impact of COVID-19 must benefit the environment while plans to address climate change and environmental issues must benefit the economy and society. The only way these twin imperatives can be met is through a green revolution that transcends our economy and society.

This was our task when we both chaired the first Intelligent Planning Consultative Forum that was established by Environment Minister Aaron Farrugia. The aim of the forum was to bring together all stakeholders involved in the planning and construction sectors to start coming up with ways in which we can transform and transition planning and construction which is smart, green and sustainable.

The result of this forum and the discussions we led is the green policy document on green walls and roofs together with the recently-launched scheme by the government to incentivise such improvements.

This incentive scheme should be seen as the first step towards having greener and more sustainable buildings. The benefits of such interventions are major given that they result in low energy consumption and decreased carbon emissions while mitigating the effects of roof flooding. This happens as the green infrastructure, walls or roofs, acts as a protective layer for buildings, absorbing heat and excess water.

Additionally, the utilisation of local fauna in such projects would create various pollination havens across the island, helping to restore natural biodiversity – a key aim of the EU’s 2030 biodiversity strategy. The utilisation of Maltese fauna could have the additional benefit of requiring minimal maintenance and reduce the consumption of water.

Such initiatives also have macro effects including the creation of additional value-adding activities and green jobs. Together with other initiatives and incentives, the demand for such products could even help kickstart a whole new industry focused on green construction.One of Malta’s biggest opportunities in the Green Deal is greening the construction sector

In fact, one of Malta’s biggest opportunities in the Green Deal is greening the construction sector which remains a significant contributor to economic growth. The EU recently launched the New European Bauhaus and, in a statement, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said that “the New European Bauhaus is about how we live better together after the pandemic while respecting the planet and protecting our environment. It is about empowering those who have the solutions to the climate crisis, matching sustainability with style”.

This is something we believe can truly support the country in its next phase of design, planning and construction. Malta and Europe have a number of common challenges. Whereas the original Bauhaus was focused on new designs, the biggest challenge we face is of renovation, regeneration and retrofitting.

We are surrounded by buildings and infrastructures, home to both embodied carbon and embedded histories. A design and architecture for this problem requires a quite different sensibility. It implies a refining in place, understanding repair and retrofit cultures and developing new logics predicated on care and maintenance.

These approaches, in line with the EU Recovery Strategy, necessitate new ways of unleashing the societal value latent in people and place. Producing anew in this way is far more challenging than simply making new things –although new things will emerge.

Malta has a unique potential in this and, if leveraged properly, we can truly kick-start a green revolution in our planning and building industries. We are confident that the new phase of the Intelligent Planning Consultative Forum will look into this and, together with the environment minister, a new era of Malta’s planning and construction industry can commence, one that is smart, green and sustainable.

The green wall and roof initiative and support scheme is a step in the right direction.

Cyrus Engerer is a Labour MEP and Stephanie Fabri is an economist and a lecturer at the University of Malta.

How Construction makes up the ‘Last Mile’ of Decarbonization

How Construction makes up the ‘Last Mile’ of Decarbonization

From concrete to steel, how construction makes up the ‘last mile’ of decarbonization by Katherine Dunn is an article that is part of Fortune‘s Blueprint for a climate breakthrough package, guest-edited by Bill Gates.

It’s been called the “last mile” of decarbonization and without further ado, here is:

From concrete to steel, how construction makes up the ‘last mile’ of decarbonization

February 16, 2021

As companies and countries worldwide map out how they will hit net-zero emissions by 2050, some elements of the vast shift are relatively straightforward: Cars will go electric; power grids will adopt clean energy.

But when it comes to buildings, engineers and policymakers alike hit a hurdle: Even a house covered with solar panels is likely to contain concrete and steel—some of the most intractable sectors when it comes to emissions. To make truly low-carbon buildings, researchers say we must embrace breakthrough technology, from hydrogen to carbon capture, and explore new ways of designing concrete, industrial products, and even houses themselves.

The stakes are high. Between the energy they consume and their construction, buildings are responsible for nearly 40% of the world’s emissions, according to the International Energy Agency. To truly produce a zero carbon house, office, or shop, every industry involved in its construction and maintenance must be decarbonized first, says Dabo Guan, a professor of climate change economics at University College London’s Bartlett School of Construction and Project Management.

When buildings are constructed, “they trigger the whole economic supply chain,” says Guan. “And the emissions of the supply chain are very big.”

“Like making a cake”

When it comes to concrete, “the only thing we use more as humans is water,” says Jeremy Gregory, executive director of MIT’s Concrete Sustainability Hub.

At the heart of concrete is cement: the key binding agent that turns sand and water into one of the world’s most ubiquitous materials. In 2019, the world produced roughly 4.1 billion tons of cement, according to the IEA. It’s also extremely hard to decarbonize. Cement itself must be formed at extremely high temperatures and is the product of a chemical process that naturally produces carbon dioxide. Collectively, it is responsible for up to 8% of global emissions, says Gregory.

Because it’s extremely difficult to use renewable energy to produce the energy intensity needed for ultrahigh temperatures, truly low-carbon cement will likely rely oncarbon capture, storage, and utilization, which prevents CO2 from being released into the atmosphere, either by injecting it into the ground or—potentially—into the concrete itself.

There is also another approach that could help, says Gregory: diluting, or even replacing, the cement in concrete. These options already exist: The ancient Romans used volcanic ash as a binding agent to make concrete. But it’s possible to use a large number of waste products, including fly ash—a by-product from coal plants. Some blends can reduce the carbon intensity by as much as 70% compared to conventional cement and will produce a product that’s just as good.

It’s “sort of like making a cake,” says Gregory. “You can use whole wheat flour. It’ll still look like a cake. It’ll just taste a little bit different.”

Reduce, reuse, recycle

Steel struggles with some of the same problems as concrete. Mainly, it must be produced at high temperatures, and, to a lesser degree, some CO2 also results from the process. Steel has one advantage—it can more easily be recycled—but that, too, has challenges. There is not enough to meet demand, and reprocessing requires energy, says Richard Curry, a program manager at Sustain, the Future Steel Manufacturing Research Hub based at the University of Swansea in Wales.

Logistically, recycling can be challenging and degrade the quality of the metal. As with concrete, the most feasible solutions are carbon capture, utilization, and storage—even if those are not yet commercially mainstream.

Embracing better design—from buildings to infrastructure to, yes, electric cars—to make them easier to disassemble so that their parts can be accessed and recycled could help, says Cameron Pleydell-Pearce, Sustain’s deputy director.

Another option, he says, is reusing.

“One of the things that we’re looking at in a very great level of detail is the degree to which we can understand which product and trace which product is coming out of a steel mill at a particular point, and then what happens to it as it goes through its life cycle,” he says.

Unlike even recycling, that would offer a major advantage: It comes with almost no CO2 emissions at all.

Warm in winter, cool in summer

When it comes to design, there’s another potential solution staring us in the face: drawing inspiration from what our buildings used to look like.

A traditional house in New England, for example, would have had south-facing windows, maximizing the sunshine and minimizing the darkness in winter, says Anna Dyson, the founding director of Yale University’s Center for Ecosystems in Architecture.

Houses all over the world have traditionally been designed and built to best work with the climate, she adds, but “over the course of the 20th century, as buildings became more and more reliant on cheap fossil fuels, then it wasn’t so required to be really, really careful about orientation and working with climate.”

Also, to manage the indoor temperatures, houses were built in shapes and sizes that suited their climates. In humid locations, home designs included ample ventilation and steep roofs to enhance air flow. In arid climates with hot days and cold nights, houses were roomy and light-colored to reflect heat. Those principles, along with making use of biodegradable materials, from timber to straw to coconut husks and bamboo, are ideas that some architects like Dysonare now looking back to.

Of course there are no silver bullets. Houses still need energy for lights and heating, preferably clean energy, Dyson points out. And now we face the prospect of not just making houses that are suited to the next 100 years, but also finding ways to retrofit the ones that have already lasted a century.

“We’ve got a long way to go,” says Dyson. “But we’ve got a lot that we can do with design.”


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