Developers can shape urban environments to achieve sustainability
With World Environment Day round the corner, there has never been a more poignant time than now amid the Covid-19 pandemic to appreciate what this means to corporates and individuals globally.
This year’s theme on ‘Ecosystem Restoration’ coincides with the launch of the United Nations Decade on Ecosystem Restoration. It extends from planting trees and greening cities, to plant-based diets and regenerating degraded rivers, coasts and lands.
As our cities and communities grapple with the lockdown impacts, many of us find the inherent need to reconnect with nature even as we were confined to our own homes or neighbourhoods over the last year.
The pandemic has offered a glimpse into what cities could look like if we pursued an alternative growth model – one that actively reduces waste and carbon emissions, while concurrently creating space for nature.
The UN has forecast that by 2050, over 68 per cent of the world’s population will live in cities. Combined with population growth, this could add another 2.5 billion people to these already densely populated areas.
The clock is ticking on collective action on climate change, failing which we may face more natural and man-made catastrophes that threaten human life and the economic sustainability of our communities globally.
The time is now to collectively work towards bridging the gap between nature and us.
Everyone has a part to play in making real change to the environment
The public and private sectors have the opportunity to collaborate on making transformative change.
The Singapore government recognises the need for green infrastructure and has set clear goals to address it in the Singapore Green Plan 2030 launched earlier this year, which Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong reiterated during the recent Asia Regional Commonwealth Leaders’ Roundtable calling for regional collaboration.
The “80-80-80” plan – setting tangible goals for the greening of 80 per cent of all buildings by 2030 and 80 per cent of new buildings to be ‘Super Low Energy’ from 2030 as well as an 80 per cent energy efficiency improvement (compared with 2005) for best-in-class buildings – is a great start.
The built environment sector itself is responsible for consuming over a third of the world’s natural resources and producing around 40 per cent of global emissions.
Even a miniscule reduction in emissions and waste produced by the sector can have a multiplier effect, making it critical for industry-wide engagement in sustainable practices.
Corporates alike have to acknowledge environmental risks and take that leap of faith to arrest the degradation of our environment. This is also why at Lendlease, we have set Mission Zero to pledge ourselves to achieve net-zero emissions by 2025 and absolute-zero emissions, without offsets, by 2040.
Ultimately, it is about translating these real environmental risks into a core business strategy and operationalising this into meaningful action.
Moving the needle by building smartly through the design process
For a start, the built environment should consider undertaking detailed Climate Change Adaptation and Resilience assessments.
Over the past few years, we have combined local meteorological and geographical information to evaluate developments’ vulnerability to heatwaves, extreme weather, flooding and various climate scenarios.
These assessments are crucial in mitigating environmental risks. Across the projects we have planned and built, elements of sustainability and design go hand-in-hand in mitigating environmental risks.
At the same time, marrying these design qualities improves the wellbeing of shoppers, tenants and residents.
Precinct-wide local projects such as Paya Lebar Quarter (PLQ) have made significant strides in ensuring that the public area includes over 300 per cent more trees, incorporates flood-resilient design elements to mitigate flooding and connects people to nature through natural landscapes.
Greening the supply chain through digitalisation
Incorporating sustainability through sourcing practices is also an important step as 90 per cent of a company’s impact on the environment originates from its supply chain.
On the construction front, gradually weaning off the reliance on fossil fuels will become more important than before.
While we are using biodiesel and working with construction plant and equipment manufacturers to make these options more widely available, we are also ensuring that the source of biofuel feedstock does not create unintentional environmental consequences.
Moving towards 100 per cent electrification of site-based construction activities, together with the purchasing of green power are some tactics that developers can incorporate as part of their strategy.
Doing so is a great opportunity to combine battery storage technology, digital solutions and smarter processes in constructing in a more efficient and cleaner way.
In Asia’s construction sector, 49 per cent of respondents surveyed by McKinsey shared that transparent end-to-end supply chains would help to mitigate risks in the long term.
About 11 per cent of the building and construction sectors’ global carbon emissions are associated with materials and construction processes throughout the whole building lifecycle.
Integrated supply chains can contribute to greener, more efficient supply chains translating into reduced carbon footprint, and ultimately a cleaner planet.
A multi-stakeholder approach across the supply chain is essential to transform the way materials are used, alongside cascading efforts that extend the adoption of circular economic and other waste reduction practices.
Smart building management to adapt and respond to occupants’ needs
Autonomous buildings – the sustainable buildings of the future – will represent an evolution from static physical spaces to self-aware and self-governing environments that can anticipate and adapt to human needs.
In the future, we can also look forward to autonomous cities which can leverage data insights into the needs of the urban population and carry out predictive maintenance using artificial intelligence.
As we move towards the digitalisation of the built environment sector, developers should look at utilising digital twin technology as an intelligence interface for autonomous adaptive control.
For example, PLQ utilises an Open Building System Integration (OBSI) programme to streamline all building management functionalities including air-conditioning and ventilation.
The OBSI system led to significant savings in water and costs, presenting a use case for how the construction sector can leverage technology to support smart building management.
As we commemorate World Environment Day (on June 5), we need to call attention to the important role the built environment sector plays in helping us safeguard the sustainability of our living environment.
The journey towards decarbonisation is not an easy one, and the post-pandemic world will accelerate the demand for better buildings.
The spaces that we create, the air quality that we circulate and the biodiversity that we introduced have to all work in synergy to meet the requirements in a post-pandemic building ecosystem.
Establishing a safe and trusted corridor for shoppers, tenants and residents will become the new reality in the future of city planning and everyone has a part to play as they embark in this transformation.
The writer is head of sustainability, Asia at Lendlease
Laura Paddison in The Guardian. Oman plans to build the world’s largest green hydrogen plant that Renewable power is slowly replacing fossil fuel usage at all levels as a world trend shows the way. This article reporting such a piece of news that is as unnecessary as unproductive because solar, wind power is the future, and fossil fuels usage would be binned forever within the near future for good.
Oman plans to build world’s largest green hydrogen plant
Oil-producing nation aims plant powered by wind and solar energy to be at full capacity by 2038
Oman is planning to build one of the largest green hydrogen plants in the world in a move to make the oil-producing nation a leader in renewable energy technology.
Construction is scheduled to start in 2028 in Al Wusta governorate on the Arabian Sea. It will be built in stages, with the aim to be at full capacity by 2038, powered by 25 gigawatts of wind and solar energy.
The consortium of companies behind the $30bn (£21bn) project includes the state-owned oil and gas company OQ, the Hong Kong-based renewable hydrogen developer InterContinental Energy and the Kuwait-based energy investor Enertech.
Once online, the plant will use renewable energy to split water in an electrolyser to produce green hydrogen, which is able to replace fossil fuels without producing carbon emissions. Most will be exported to Europe and Asia, said Alicia Eastman, the co-founder and president of InterContinental Energy, either as hydrogen or converted into green ammonia, which is easier to ship and store. The facility aims to produce 1.8m tonnes of green hydrogen and up to 10m tonnes of green ammonia a year.
Oman currently relies heavily on fossil fuels, generating up to 85% of its GDP from oil and gas, but its fossil fuel reserves are dwindling and becoming increasingly costly to extract. In December 2020, the country published its Oman Vision 2040 strategy, a plan to diversify the economy away from fossil fuels and increase investment in renewables.Advertisement
Green hydrogen could play an important role, said Eastman, thanks to the Oman’s combination of plentiful daytime sun and strong winds at night. “Oman is one of the places in the world that I’ve called the ‘future renewable superpowers’,” said Michael Liebreich, the founder of BloombergNEF, “because what you really want [to produce green hydrogen] is very cheap solar and very cheap wind.”
While electrification is the most efficient way of decarbonising most sectors, it’s limited when it comes to energy-intensive industries such as steel, chemicals, aviation and shipping. Green hydrogen will be vital to help fill these gaps, said the International Energy Agency in its report published this week, which called for an end to fossil fuel investments if governments are serious about climate commitments.
A wave of net zero-emissions pledges has already led to a slew of hydrogen strategies, including from the European Commission in 2020, which predicted the share of hydrogen in the EU’s energy mix would rise from 2% to 14% by 2050.
Yet green hydrogen currently makes up less than 1% of global hydrogen production. The majority is still produced using fossil fuels such as gas and coal, in a process that emits about 830m tonnes of carbon annually, equivalent to the emissions of the UK and Indonesia combined. “Blue hydrogen” is a cleaner version, as emissions are captured and stored, but it is still produced using gas – and is seen by some oil companies as a way to keep using fossil fuels.
One of the stumbling blocks for green hydrogen has been cost, partly because of the huge amounts of energy required. But as renewables and electrolysers become cheaper, and fossil fuel prices rise, costs could fall by up to 64% by 2030, according to research from the consultancy Wood Mackenzie.
“Most green hydrogen products will not be competitive for at least another decade,” said Falko Ueckerdt, a senior scientist at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, who sees the Oman project as “a sign that investors anticipate large future demands for hydrogen-based fuels after 2030”.
Oman’s proposed plant is just one in a slate of green hydrogen mega projects planned globally. Eastman said InterContinental Energy has a number of other plants in the works, including a 26GW wind and solar green hydrogen plant in the Pilbara, Western Australia. If constructed, this $36bn (£25.5bn) plant would be the world’s biggest energy project. The first phase is expected to be online by 2028.
In March, the renewables company Enegix Energy announced the construction of a green hydrogen plan in Ceará state, north-eastern Brazil. Once built, which the company estimates will take about four years, the plant would produce more than 600,000 tonnes of green hydrogen per year from 3.4GW of wind and solar power.
“People are upping the gigawatts, and they should,” said Eastman, “there’s so much room in the market.”
Abdulla Al Humaidi Blazes Sustainability Trail With New Themed Resort
May 22, 2021
In a modern world where climate change has provoked widespread concern, it’s hard to create a new large-scale construction project without being mindful of its impact on the world’s environment. However, some projects go above and beyond in this regard, showcasing the ability of human ingenuity to develop innovative projects that can still focus on sustainability goals. Such is the case with the new London-based themed resort being developed by Abdulla Al Humaidi. The Kuwaiti European Holding CEO has made sustainability such a focus of his work that it has drawn widespread praise from interested parties around the world.
Abdulla Al Humaidi Answers Call to Action
To better understand how the new project will create a sustainable tourist attraction in London, it can first be important to examine how development in urban areas has been problematic in the past. While cities across the globe have created hubs of commercial, social, and economic progress, they have also sometimes been singled out for the drain they place on resources. This can manifest through development projects that prioritize a variety of metrics besides sustainability, leaving the environment low on the list of priorities for design and construction.
Acutely aware of this paradigm, Abdulla Al Humaidi entered into the development of his new themed resort intent on breaking that mold. He knew from the start that he wanted the tourist attraction, set to open in 2024, to not only be a place that could bring entertainment and joy to visitors from across the globe but also to be a place that could step up to its responsibilities to the planet and the local community. To accomplish this goal, he made sure his design team placed environmental sustainability as a top priority throughout every phase of the project’s creation.
Reducing Carbon Footprint
One of the most serious environmental issues the world is contending with at present is the impact of climate change. As carbon emissions have collected in the planet’s atmosphere, global temperatures have warmed, creating some of the hottest years on record. This heat has contributed to a host of issues across the planet, including rising sea levels, intense weather events, and the endangerment of a range of animal species.
A major driver of this climate change has been the emission of carbon-containing gasses. These gasses, often a byproduct of the burning of fossil fuels, have been singled out as one of the main sustainability concerns of the 21st century. The emergence of this threat has left many industries with a central question as to how to offset their usage of carbon-containing fuels while also providing for the energy needed to operate their commercial endeavors.
With a deep understanding of the problems that can be created by a large carbon footprint, Abdulla Al Humaidi has placed particular emphasis on alleviating these issues in the themed resort’s design. As a result, the resort has announced that it will be completely carbon neutral with respect to all of its operational activities. This announcement has been singled out as a major advancement for not only the global tourism industry but also for other major developments in London and beyond. When completed, the resort will have the distinction of being the only attraction of its kind to be operationally carbon neutral.
Focus of Abdulla Al Humaidi on Wildlife Habitats
While carbon neutrality is an important metric by which sustainability is measured, there are other concerns called out by environmentalists that also warrant consideration. One such concern is the impact that continued development can have on native wildlife populations. In the absence of efforts to create protected spaces for wildlife amidst development, urban centers run the risk of eliminating the entirety of a species’ natural habitat, leaving it no options for continued habitation in the area.
The Kuwaiti European Holding CEO has also taken steps to address these concerns in the design of his London resort. In this regard, he has allocated additional funds and resources for the creation of protected wildlife habitats along the River Thames to ensure that native wildlife populations will have spaces in which they can continue to make a home. The initiative figures to not only help maintain native wildlife populations but also to increase biodiversity as other animals find new homes in the area. In doing so, the development provides another win for the environment and for the continued protection of the area’s remaining wild places.
Of course, development is also of interest to residents of an area around a new construction project. While there has been much excitement about the new themed resort in London due to its potential to bring world-class entertainment and economic stimulus, there has also been a desire to maintain some community areas connected to the newly developed space. This has been another focus of Abdulla Al Humaidi, who has also listed sustainable community development as a high priority for his construction projects in London and elsewhere in the world. This has been done with a deep understanding that development can oftentimes be a balance between preserving elements of an existing community while also bringing it new opportunities for employment and enjoyment.
In the case of the London resort, one way this has been accomplished has been through the creation of numerous green spaces connected to the site’s overall design. These green spaces will be accessible by the public and will allow for a pleasing place to step away from some of the urban elements of the city and find a greater sense of peace and quiet. The green spaces will allow community members to engage in recreation, relaxation, and increased appreciation of the area surrounding their residences and gain greater access to the new development and the existing amenities present in the area.
While the above overview amounts to just a small look at the positive impact the new resort will have on the environment and local community, it begins to provide a picture of how it is breaking new ground when it comes to sustainability. In pursuing this course of action for his new development, Abdulla Al Humaidi is not only making a meaningful contribution towards alleviating these concerns, but he is also helping to further the global conversation on responsible development. This is a conversation that will no doubt feature his efforts often in the years to come as the resort’s construction showcases the manner in which an ambitious undertaking can be accomplished in a sustainable manner.
GLOBALFLEET‘s article authored by Alison Pittaway argues that Egypt’s new capital is a smart city in the making. So it will but some people are not happy. Let us see what’s it all about.
The image above is for illustration and is of Reuters.
Egypt’s new capital – a smart city in the making
18 May 21
Aside from the recent troubles in Gaza threatening war in the Middle East, decades of population growth and unplanned urban sprawl have taken their tole on Egypt’s economy.
The Government is building several cities, including a new capital, one million low-cost homes, plus an infrastructure of highways and bridges.
This bustling regeneration has helped Egypt remain in growth in 2020, despite the economic shock of the Coronavirus pandemic.
However, some people are not happy. Citizens have been displaced and lost their homes to the building work. Others have seen their neighbourhoods transform too quickly. Analysts wonder how much of a difference the infrastructure boom will make while economic problems persist.
A new capital city
Under construction in the desert, east of Cairo (due to open later this year) is a a futuristic-looking city that many are calling “the new capital city”. Egypt’s President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi recently referred to it as “Hope city”. It’s officially referred to simply as the “New Administrative Capital”. It will be Egypt’s first smart city and is expected to house 6.5 million people. Covering 700 square kilometres of desert, it’s the size of Singapore.
Some people worry that the pace of change in Egypt is too fast and that the “old ways”, such as selling tomatoes from a donkey cart or driving a rickshaw, are being bulldozed and the people who rely on them forgotten.
Investing in the future
On the positive side, in Eastern Cairo and beyond, 1.1 trillion Egyptian pounds ($70 billion) (€53.7 billion) will be spent on transport between now and 2024. A third of that is for the new road network, which will connect many more citizens to transport networks, basic services and create the foundations for a raft of mobility services.
While being interviewed on television recently, Sisi was emphatic about the new developments: “We need to do this so we can make people’s lives easier, so we can reduce the amount of lost time, reduce people’s stress and stop the fuel being used causing more pollution.”
A 2014 World Bank Study put the cost of congestion in greater Cairo at 3.6% of gross domestic product. But while new roads are being built, old ones are poorly maintained.
Middle East’s first mobile natural gas fuel station opens in Egypt
Meanwhile, Egypt’s Ministry of Petroleum and Mineral Resources has launched the first mobile facility to supply cars with compressed natural gas as part of the sector’s efforts to increase the supply of the fuel across the country.
The new station can transport and store up to 5,000 cubic meters of gas and supply up to 1,000 cars every 24 hours to public, industrial and commercial facilities.
The Ministry has plans for 10 new mobile stations across the country, especially in areas of seasonal consumption, such as tourist spots and resorts.
It’ll be interesting to see how this pans out. Will Egypt’s smart city be a step too far or will it become a shining example to the rest of the world? Time will tell.
Analysis: Saudi Arabia’s Brand New Futuristic City
By Ramanath Jha
In 2017, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman, announced the launch of the nation’s futuristic and fully automated business zone, NEOM. This hi-tech business hub, to be located in the Tabuk province in the northwestern part of Saudi Arabia along the Red Sea coast, is to be established at a cost of US $500 billion (INR 37.5 lakh crore). The region has been selected in view of its relatively mild climate. Most of Saudi Arabia has a desert climate with extremely oppressive day temperatures of above 45° Celsius. The project’s total area is slated to be 26,500 square kilometre and will link Jordan and Egypt via Saudi territory. The project is expected to generate 380,000 jobs and contribute US $48 billion (INR 36,000 crore) to the kingdom’s GDP by 2030.
More recently, in Jan 2021, the Crown Prince also announced that, as part of the NEOM project, a zero-carbon city called ‘The Line’ would be set up. The Crown Prince labelled the city project as a “civilisational plan that puts humans first”. ‘The Line’ is crafted as a linear city for one million people, running 170 kilometre long, with a width that would be walkable in five minutes. It is anticipated that people from all over the world would be drawn by the city’s excellent environment, state-of-the-art infrastructure and superior quality of life.
‘The Line’ is not designed to be a conventional city but a futuristic one. A city’s usual amenities such as schools, hospitals, and gardens will be carefully crafted in view of the residents’ expected proclivity towards the availability of top-quality education, health, and recreation. Additionally, the city would position itself as a top tourist destination. The Saudi administration also seeks to dispel any misgivings about the governance model that ‘The Line’ would follow. The entire NEOM area, including ‘The Line’, will be a free trade zone with its own tax structure and an autonomous legal system.
The technological and environmental plans of the “zero cars, zero streets, and zero carbon emissions” city have drawn the most attention. Drawings of ‘The Line’ show the city infrastructure and services arranged in three layers. The top layer, above ground, will be a pedestrian layer. It will be supported by two underground layers. The one immediately below ground will be the service layer of physical infrastructure. And further below the service layer will be the spine layer for transport. Project proponents stated that “High-speed transportation, utilities, digital infrastructure and logistics will be seamlessly integrated in dedicated spaces running in an invisible layer along The Line”. The high-speed transit is being designed to reach people anywhere in the city within 20 minutes. Alternately, people could walk to conveniences within five minutes. Artificial intelligence will have a critical role in the city. ‘The Line’ would be powered by 100 percent clean energy, rendering the city pollution-free, healthy, and sustainable. The city would be run totally on smart city technologies. Robots will play a key role in the areas of security, logistics, home delivery, and provision of care.
It is expected that the city infrastructure would cost between US $100 to 200 billion (INR 7.5 to 15 lakh crore). Investments are planned to be drawn from the US $500 billion allocated for NEOM, the Public Investment Fund (PIF) which is the Saudi’s sovereign wealth fund, and local and global investors over 10 years. Construction on the project’s first phase has already begun. NEOM Bay, some hotel complexes, and luxurious apartments have been completed. In 2019, the NEOM Bay Airport was inaugurated. A huge complex of palaces for the Saudi king, prince, and royal family members has also been started.
NEOM and ‘The Line’ are projects with a larger objective. As the world moves towards a non-oil-based future, Saudi Arabia, as the largest producer of oil, finds its economy threatened unless it finds alternate sources of wealth creation. Global trade and tourism would be the key areas for Saudi’s new economy. NEOM, backed by ‘The Line’ as the first fully automated city, could emerge as the leading global destination. In this, there is commonality between Saudi Arabia and the other gulf countries. Bahrain (Economic Vision 2030), Oman (Vision 2040), Qatar (National Vision 2030), UAE (Vision 2021) and Saudi Arabia (Vision 2030) are all seeking to diversify their economies and reduce dependence on oil.
Information on many areas in regard to ‘The Line’ are scarce. However, based on the material available, a broad assessment is possible. Firstly, the history of megaprojects in Saudi Arabia has not been happy. “The Saudi landscape is already dotted with failed or abandoned megaprojects”. Furthermore, such projects do not always turn out the way they are planned. Adverse turns in the global economy, cost overruns, and reduced financial returns on investment are some of the most common failings. Even if the above cited observations are dismissed as speculation, the fact is that this urban endeavour incorporates certain technologies that do not exist. Robot maids, dinosaur robots, and flying cars are still in the making. Neither are high-speed transits today capable of speeds of 512 kilometre per hour, which the city would require for end-to-end travel in 20 minutes.
Furthermore, irrespective of whatever kind of city one builds, a city’s foundational philosophy ought to remain the same. The quality of a city rests on its economy, its environment, and its equity. A city that overstates one to the detriment of the others imbalances itself and over time becomes unsustainable. The project proponents have talked profusely about the economic, technological, and environmental angles, but nothing is known about how equitable the city would be and who could afford to live there.
NEOM and The Line, as cited earlier, would be governed by a set of laws different from Saudi Arabia. But given the nature of the Saudi polity, where some of the governance practices are among the most regressive, uncomfortable incongruities for residents may surface. Since the city is looking for people to move in from the rest of the world, such concerns may not enthuse populations to move in. Saudi Arabia is not very kind to dissent; hence, very few voices of disagreement from inside the country have emanated. Some have mildly sought to remind the Saudi administration that there is no point spending billions of dollars on a totally new venture when the already existing Saudi cities were in a state of disrepair and needed fixing.
The Saudi administration highlights its environmental concerns and is planning to build a totally eco-friendly city. As the Crown Prince said, “Why should we sacrifice nature for the sake of development? Why should seven million people die every year because of pollution? Why should we lose one million people every year due to traffic accidents?” However, this does not seem to be practiced on the ground. The city’s construction is cutting “through its surroundings, forcing its way through tough terrain rather than embracing natural features such as the coast line.”
The Saudi administration also faces criticism on account of the attempt to evict the 20,000-strong Howeitat tribe from its centuries-old homeland that falls within the territory of NEOM. The tribe is resisting eviction. When leaders of the tribe protested, several from the leadership found themselves behind bars. The most vocal critic of them all, Alya Abutayah Alhwaiti, lost his life. The negative publicity was sought to be countered through a public relations exercise, crafted by an American PR company. However, much of the disquiet around the project remains.
Originally posted on looking beyond borders: As a key player in the recent Israeli-Palestinian ceasefire and with its diplomats more active than they have been in years, Egypt is back as a major influencer in Middle Eastern affairs. From Gaza to Libya, the Eastern Mediterranean to the Horn of Africa, Cairo is now key in…
Originally posted on Eli Lester: The African Colosseum in El Djem, Tunisia
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