In most of the MENA and the Gulf region, we reach for the A/C control when entering any living or working space. But as we casually flip a switch, we tend not to consider all those carbon emissions caused by machines.
After years of indulgence and as witnessed by all of the end results, climate change is forcing all to go green by trying to keep buildings cool as it gets hotter. Greening the Global Construction Industry has already engaged in developing new techniques, tools, products and technologies – such as heat pumps, better windows, more vital insulation, energy-efficient appliances, renewable energy and more imaginative design – has enabled emissions to stabilize the past few years.
The Conversation Weekly podcast is now back after a short break. Every Thursday, we explore the fascinating discoveries researchers are using to make sense of the world and the big questions they’re still trying to answer.
In this episode we find out how “modern” styles of architecture using concrete and glass have often usurped local building techniques better suited to parts of the world with hotter climates. Now some architects are resurrecting traditional techniques to help keep buildings cool.
From western Europe to China, North Africa and the US, severe heatwaves brought drought, fire and death to the summer of 2022. The heatwaves also raised serious questions about the ability of existing infrastructure to cope with extreme heat, which is projected to become more common due to climate change.
Yet, for thousands of years, people living in parts of the world used to high temperatures have deployed traditional passive cooling techniques in the way they designed their buildings. In Nigeria, for example, people have long used biomimicry to copy the style of local flora and fauna as they design their homes, according to Anthony Ogbuokiri, a senior lecturer in architectural design at Nottingham Trent University in the UK.
But in the 20th century, cities even in very hot climates began following an international template for building design that meant cities around the world, regardless of where they were, often had similar looking skylines. Ogbuokiri calls this “duplitecture”, and says it “ramped up the cooling load” due to an in-built reliance on air conditioners.
Alongside this, there was a massive boom in the use of concrete, particularly after the second world war when the Soviet Union and the US started gifting their cold war allies concrete technology. “It was a competition both to discover who actually mastered concrete and who was better at gathering the materials, the people and the energy to make concrete,” explains Vyta Pivo, assistant professor of architecture at the University of Michigan in the US. But too much concrete can contribute to the phenomenon of urban heat islands, where heat is concentrated in cities. Concrete is also a considerable contributor to global carbon emissions.
Some architects and researchers are working to rehabilitate and improve traditional passive techniques that help keep buildings cool without using energy. Susan Abed Hassan, a professor of architectural engineering at Al-Nahrain University in Baghdad, Iraq, focuses a lot on windcatchers in her work, a type of chimney which funnels air through houses to keep them cooler in hot climates. She’s now looking at how to combining underground water pipes with windcatchers to enhance their cooling effects.
Listen to the full episode to find out about other techniques being used to keep buildings cool without relying on air conditioning.
Oxford archaeologists discover monumental evidence of prehistoric hunting across the Arabian desert.
They have found over 350 Monumental Hunting Structures labelled and since then known as ‘Kites’ In Northern Saudi Arabia And Southern Iraq Using Satellite Imagery.
Evidence of Prehistoric Hunting across Arabian Desert
Distribution of kite structures in the Levant and in northern Arabia. White: previously documented kites. Red: kites recorded by EAMENA.
Archaeologists at the University of Oxford’s School of Archaeology have used satellite imagery to identify and map over 350 monumental hunting structures known as ‘kites’ across northern Saudi Arabia and southern Iraq – most of which had never been previously documented.
Termed kites by early aircraft pilots, these structures consist of low stone walls making up a head enclosure and a number of guiding walls, sometimes kilometres long. They are believed to have been used to guide game such as gazelles into an area where they could be captured or killed. There is evidence that these structures may date back as far as 8,000 BCE in the Neolithic period.
Kites cannot be observed easily from the ground, however the advent of commercial satellite imagery and platforms such as Google Earth have enabled recent discoveries of new distributions. While these structures were already well-known from eastern Jordan and adjoining areas in southern Syria, these latest results take the known distribution over 400km further east across northern Saudi Arabia, with some also identified in southern Iraq for the first time.
Dr Fradley said: ‘The structures we found displayed evidence of complex, careful design. In terms of size, the ‘heads’ of the kites can be over 100 metres wide, but the guiding walls (the ’strings’ of the kite) which we currently think gazelle and other game would follow to the kite heads can be incredibly long. In some of these new examples, the surviving portion of walls run in almost straight lines for over 4 kilometres, often over very varied topography. This shows an incredible level of ability in how these structures were designed and built.’
Evidence suggests considerable resources would have had to be coordinated to build, maintain, and rebuild the kites over generations, combined with hunting and returning butchered remains to settlements or camps for further preservation. The researchers suggest that their exaggerated scale and form may be an expression of status, identity and territoriality. Appearances of the kites in rock art found in Jordan suggests they had an important place within the symbolic and ritual spheres of Neolithic peoples in the region.
From the design of the kite heads to the careful runs of guiding walls over long distances, these structures contrast markedly in scale with any other evidence of architecture from the early Holocene period. The researchers suggest that the builders of these kites dwelt in temporary structures made from organic materials that have left no trace visible on current satellite imagery data.
Desert kite research is a very active field just now – Michael and colleagues explore a significant extension to their distribution pattern, which has major implications for our understanding of the relationship of the kite builders with new mobile pastoralists and the occupation of the region.
Bill Finlayson, Director of EAMENA and Professor of Prehistoric Archaeology at the University of Oxford
These new sites suggest a previously unknown level of connection right across northern Arabia at the time they were built. They raise exciting questions about who built these structures, who the hunted game were intended to feed, and how the people were able to not only survive, but also invest in these monumental structures.
In the context of this new connectedness, the distribution of the star-shaped kites now provides the first direct evidence of contact through, rather than around, the Nafud desert. This underlines the importance areas that are now desert had under more favourable climatic conditions in enabling the movement of humans and wildlife. It is thought the kites were built during a wetter, greener climatic period known as the Holocene Humid Period (between around 9000 and 4000 BCE).
The largest number of kites were built on the Al Labbah plateau in the Nafud desert, where the absence of later Bronze Age burial monuments suggests that a shift into a drier period meant some of these areas became too marginal to support the communities once using these landscapes, with game species also potentially displaced by climate change.
Whether the patterns of kite construction over space and time represent the movement of ideas or people, or even the direction of that movement, remain questions to be answered.
The project, supported by the Arcadia Fund, is now extending its survey work across these now arid zones to further develop our understanding of these landscapes and the effect of climate change.
The study Following the herds? A new distribution of hunting kites in Southwest Asia is published in The Holocene.
Construction Enquirer estimates that Factory-made homes can cut carbon emissions by 45%. It is by Aaron Morby.
Shouldn’t countries of the MENA region especially those where housing development is intense, get any inspiration from the idea of factory-made homes cutting carbon emissions by 45%?
Anyway here is:
Factory-made homes cut carbon emissions by 45%
Housing construction using volumetric modular systems can produce 41-45% less carbon dioxide emissions than traditional methods of building homes.
Substantial embodied carbon emissions savings were unearthed by academics from Cambridge University and Edinburgh Napier University in a study on a high-rise and a mid-rise modular scheme in London.
The buildings totalling 879 homes were delivered by Tide Construction using its modular system. University academics found that 28,000 tonnes of embodied carbon emissions were saved from construction – the equivalent of the CO2 absorbed by 1.3m trees in a year.
(l-r)44 and 38 storey George Street in Croydon, now known as Ten Degrees and The Valentine in Gants Hill, London Borough of Redbridge were measured
This is well ahead of industry targets and shows a switch to modular construction could radically reduce the carbon footprint associated with the UK government’s ambition to build 300,000, better quality homes.
Embodied carbon, the CO2 produced during the design, construction and decommissioning phases of a development, is slashed because buildings require lower volumes of carbon-intensive products such as concrete and steel.
The report, “Life Cycle Assessments of The Valentine, Gants Hill, UK and George Street, Croydon, UK” also shows emissions were lower because indirect carbon emissions from deliveries and on-site workers are reduced.
Dr Tim Forman, senior research associate at University of Cambridge, said: “Buildings are responsible for approximately 40% of global energy-related carbon emissions, and there is an urgent need to reduce the carbon intensity of construction and buildings in use.
“As buildings become more energy efficient in operation, reducing the carbon associated with construction — including the production and transportation of materials and site activities – and their end of life is becoming increasingly significant.
“This study underscores the fundamental importance of quantifying carbon in construction and across a building’s life cycle.”
Professor Francesco Pomponi of Napier University, said: “This study is a truly comprehensive and robust life cycle assessment of the modular solution.
“The analysis of two residential buildings was conducted in accordance with the latest carbon assessment guidelines, and analysis was based on conservative assumptions and a careful selection of data inputs.
“While further studies should be completed to deepen our understanding, the research makes a compelling case for the embodied carbon-saving benefits of modular construction.”
WORLD FINANCE in this article by Angelica Krystle Donati, CEO, Donati Immobiliare Group. It is on an idea of the transition to sustainable construction.
The image above is of Modular wooden houses made out of renewable resources
Many aspects of life as we knew it changed irrevocably when the global pandemic hit, and even though the path to a circular and greener economy was well underway before then, the rebound from COVID-19 should be a catalyst for change in the construction sector
After many years of stagnation, the construction industry is finally expected to grow significantly in the next decade according to the Future of Construction, a report published by Marsh & Guy Carpenter. The report envisages a solid rebound from the COVID-19 outbreak this year, with worldwide construction production increasing by 6.6 percent. Construction spending contributed to 13 percent of global GDP in 2020 and this is expected to rise steadily over the next few years. By 2030, global construction output is expected to increase by 35 percent from today’s levels.
Thanks to governmental measures aimed both at reaching environmental targets and kick starting the economy, construction, which has always lagged behind other sectors from a growth perspective due to critically low margins and consequentially low R&D spending, is seeing a renaissance. Italy, for example, has a commitment to reduce CO2 emissions by 55 percent by 2030, and to zero by 2050 within the European ‘green new deal.’ The construction sector will be pivotal in achieving this goal, as the built environment must be upgraded to be more sustainable.
Meanwhile, the European Union’s ‘next generation EU’ fund will help support recovery of construction in Western Europe with growth forecasts suggesting the sector will expand by 7.9 percent in 2021. Italy will benefit from over €196bn, and 48 percent of this will be spent on construction projects. For example, €68.9bn is destined for ecological transition and 40 percent of this sum (€29.3bn), is intended for energy efficiency and the upgrade of existing buildings.
On the other side of the pond, the US have established the ‘build back better’ programme, which is a projected $7trn COVID-19 relief and stimulus package designed to accelerate economic recovery and for investment in large infrastructure projects proposed by President Joe Biden. It is projected to create 10 million clean-energy jobs.
Sustainability and the circular economy Climate change and the race to net zero are arguably the greatest challenges that the construction industry is facing. The building and construction industry as a whole is responsible for 40 percent of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions and produces 30 percent of Europe’s waste.
The industry is finally waking up to the importance of proactively addressing climate change concerns and embracing responsibility for its direct and indirect carbon emissions. The major contributors to these emissions are the materials used, as well as the heating, cooling and lighting of buildings and infrastructure. Sustainability is not just a matter of corporate responsibility, but it is good for business – and many companies are investing heavily in sustainable practices not just to be good global citizens, but also because it makes great financial sense.
As construction entrepreneurs, we have a responsibility to lead our industry’s evolution towards the practice of maximum respect for the environment, both in terms of construction methods and the life cycle of the built environment. To achieve this goal, the sector must focus on innovation, sustainability, and the circular economy.
The impact of sustainable objectives To meet sustainability objectives, it is important to positively impact the life cycle of each project as well as improving building methods. There are many construction techniques available that are less damaging to the environment, and technology and materials choices that make long-term management of an asset more sustainable. The circular economy, for example, is creating added value in the construction industry. According to data from the Italian ‘national association of building constructors,’ the transition to the circular economy system is increasingly becoming a fundamental value for construction companies, with 81 percent of respondents to a recent poll stating that it is key to their future goals.
In Italy, the 110 percent super-bonus is giving a positive boost to the industry as it encourages the private sector to invest in energy efficiency by funding upgrades to existing buildings at no actual cost to their owners. In addition, the use of eco-friendly materials as a standard practice is hugely beneficial in the long term as they do not have an adverse impact on the environment when used and can easily be recycled.
Finally, the use of technology is essential for reducing emissions and preserving the ecosystem. The sector has responded to the COVID-19 outbreak by focusing more heavily on innovation as it is fundamental to respond to the evolving needs of the construction market to ensure the industry’s transformation. The sector will have to adapt to a changing environment and create resilience to the serious effects of climate change. For its part, the construction industry has all the credentials to meet this challenge, enhance its evolution to a green economy and contribute substantially to the revitalisation of the global economy.
Hosting the World Cup is what many countries dream of, but hosting does not come without its drawbacks. It is a very costly event with no guarantees on economic return.
Any country that hosts the World Cup must meet strict infrastructure requirements, amongst many other standards required by all. These minimum requirements include criteria for all infrastructures, stadiums, hotels, transit, and communications and electrical grids. Despite all that is allowed by the accumulated petrodollars, fans could face accommodation shortages.
For that, Qatar will make a newly built and yet to be completed City in the Desert available for the event. Meanwhile, here is another aspect of the fothcoming tournament.
World Cup 2022: if Qatar can silence critics with a strong tournament, an Olympic bid could be next
The above image is for illustration and is of beIN SPORTS.
When FIFA picked Qatar as the first Middle Eastern country to host the men’s football World Cup in 2022, some considered it a bold gamble. Others thought it was a mistake – including former FIFA President Sepp Blatter.
Whether these issues will ultimately dissuade supporters from travelling to Qatar in late 2022 remains to be seen. The organisers will certainly not want a repeat of what happened when Qatar hosted the IAAF World Athletics Championships of 2019, which took place in half empty stadia.
Football has more global appeal than athletics, of course, and so far both Qatar and FIFA remain bullish that millions of fans will travel to the Gulf from all over the world. The event is certainly “unique” in sport event terms and that may drive fan interest. No expense has been spared by Qatar to deliver this unique experience, that is for sure. They have certainly spent big in the lead up to the tournament.
Even as early as 2010, estimates of the total cost for Qatar were in the region of US$65 billion (£48 billion) – a different level to the then record-breaking US$14 billion which Russia spent hosting the tournament in 2018. More recent reports, however, cite costs closer to US$300 billion.
The reason for such staggering sums is not just grandeur. The actual stadium costs, at around US$10 billion, are low in relation to the overall estimated total. The bulk of the money has been spent on infrastructure and transport projects in the country. Some of these were planned anyway, with the forthcoming tournament merely accelerating developments.
There is also a bigger picture at play here. In many ways, it has never been about the money for Qatar, one of the richest countries in the world.
The primary gains Qatar is seeking are non-commercial, with international relations at their heart, and and an opportunity to introduce itself to billions of people across the world. This has led to accusations of “sportswashing”. This can be defined as using sporting events as a way of seeking legitimacy or improving reputations and has been used in the context of Qatar 2022 given the controversies cited above.
Despite the negative press, Qatar will be encouraged by its latest foray into major international sporting events, including the inaugural Qatar Grand Prix in Formula One. The race was the first of a three-part Middle-East finale to the F1 season which also includes races in Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi. This could help place Qatar on a comparable level to its Arab neighbours in another very marketable sport.
Events like these, alongside the 2022 men’s World Cup, are designed to provide a legacy both socially and culturally – a legacy which creates national identity and places Qatar as a legitimate actor on the world stage.
Yet although money may be no object to the hosts, one organisation hoping to make some is FIFA. Their entire business model is geared around a successful World Cup. Russia 2018 helped FIFA to generate record revenues of US$6.4 billion, much of which is spent on “education and development”, and it will be hoping for similar takings from Qatar 2022. In the same way, FIFA’s (widely condemned) proposals to hold the tournament every two years are largely driven by the desire for more income.
So while the goals for Qatar and FIFA are different, both parties need the rest of the world to play ball. It’s worth bearing in mind that to make this happen, the majority of men’s domestic professional football leagues have altered their schedules to allow the 2022 competition to be staged, for the first time ever, in the months of November and December.
If the timing works, and Qatar’s non-commercial plans are achieved, it will then surely aim to become a regular major player in the sports event hosting market – so expect to see a bid to host a future Olympic Games. Money again here will be no object. Qatar will no doubt put on a show for the World Cup. A show that it hopes the rest of the world will be watching.
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