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Amid Nile dam tensions, Egypt recalls Aswan 50 years on

Amid Nile dam tensions, Egypt recalls Aswan 50 years on

Hager Harabech elaborates in Phys.Org how Amid Nile dam tensions, Egypt recalls Aswan 50 years on.

13 January 2021

Amid Nile dam tensions, Egypt recalls Aswan 50 years on
Egypt's Aswan High Dam and Lake Nasser: the building of the dam was spearheaded in the early 1950s by charismatic pan-Arabist pr
Egypt’s Aswan High Dam and Lake Nasser: the building of the dam was spearheaded in the early 1950s by charismatic pan-Arabist president Gamal Abdel Nasser

Half a century since Egypt’s ground-breaking Aswan dam was inaugurated with much fanfare, harnessing the Nile for hydropower and irrigation, the giant barrier is still criticised for its human and environmental toll.

It is also a stark reminder—amid high tensions today as Addis Ababa fills its colossal Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) upstream—of just how volatile politics over the life-giving, but finite, Nile water resources can be.

The Aswan High Dam was spearheaded in the early 1950s by charismatic pan-Arabist president Gamal Abdel Nasser.

Egypt, where the river provides some 97 percent of water for more than 100 million people, is the final section of the Nile’s 6,650-kilometre (4,130-mile), 10-nation journey to the Mediterranean.

For millennia, the North African country was at the mercy of the seasonal rise and fall of the river, dependent on the rainfall in nations far upstream.

But the 111-metre-high and 3.6-kilometre-wide Aswan High Dam, dwarfing the far smaller Aswan Low Dam built under British rule in 1902, crucially gave Cairo power to regulate the flow.

Water power

It was a “very important hydro-political act”, said geographer and author Habib Ayeb, a Nile expert who has taught at universities in Cairo and Paris.

Amid Nile dam tensions, Egypt recalls Aswan 50 years on
An Egyptian 'felucca' sailing boat on the Nile at Aswan; before the dam was built, Egypt was for millennia at the mercy of the s
An Egyptian ‘felucca’ sailing boat on the Nile at Aswan; before the dam was built, Egypt was for millennia at the mercy of the seasonal rise and fall of the river

The dam was inaugurated on January 15, 1971, three months after Nasser’s death, by his successor Anwar al-Sadat.

For the first time, “an Egyptian president decided to manage the Nile within Egypt”, to develop agriculture and the economy in the country, Ayeb added.

For Egypt, an otherwise desert nation where 97 percent of the population lives along the green and fertile Nile banks, the dam revolutionised its relationship with the land.

“The dam offered a reprieve to Egyptians by giving them enough water… and protecting them from the hazards of floods, which could be absolutely catastrophic,” said Ayeb.

It also brought electricity to much of the country, a move Nasser said was key to developing the nation.

Abdel Hakim Hassanein, who overlooks the river from his home close to the dam, some 700 kilometres south of Cairo, praised its construction.

“We didn’t have electricity before, we used oil lamps,” the 68-year-old said, adding that work at the dem remains a key source of local jobs.

Ethiopia, the second most populous nation in Africa, today uses similar arguments, saying its 145-metre (475-foot) GERD Blue Nile barrier—set to be Africa’s largest hydro-electric dam—is vital to provide power for its 110 million people.

But Egypt, with the Arab world’s largest population, sees the GERD as an existential threat.

Amid Nile dam tensions, Egypt recalls Aswan 50 years on
The Aswan dam created the vast Lake Nasser, which flooded the homeland of Egypt's Nubian people, forcing tens of thousands of le
The Aswan dam created the vast Lake Nasser, which flooded the homeland of Egypt’s Nubian people, forcing tens of thousands of leave
‘Belly of the desert’

In the 1960s, many Egyptians also saw the Aswan dam as a threat to their lives—in a different way.

The lake behind the dam flooded the homeland of Egypt’s Nubian people, forcing tens of thousands to leave.

“For the Nubians, the High Dam is a symbol of oppression,” said rights activist Fawzi Gayer. “It wiped out a civilisation.”

Gayer was born just after his family was relocated to a dusty town its Nubian residents call Abu Simbel “Displacement”.

“We’re talking about a community with a Nilotic identity that breathes the Nile… and we have been thrown into the belly of the desert,” said Gayer.

“The elderly died of shock.”

The Nubians’ long-running demand for a “right of return” was included in the 2014 constitution, but their lands have been swallowed by the 355-kilometre-long Lake Nasser, which stretches south into Sudan.

Egypt recalls Aswan 50 years on
The Ramses II Temple at the archeological site of Abu Simbel in southern Egypt; the three-millenia old temples were moved in a g
The Ramses II Temple at the archeological site of Abu Simbel in southern Egypt; the three-millenia old temples were moved in a giant rescue mission before they were drowned by rising waters in Lake Nasser

It was not only people who had to move; the waters threatened to drown the three-millenium-old Pharaonic temples at Abu Simbel, kickstarting a massive UNESCO-led rescue mission that took eight years.

The ancient complex, including giant stone carved statues, was dismantled and moved to a new location, in one of the world’s biggest archaeological rescue operations.

There were environmental consequences too.

The creation of the giant lake also upset the river’s delicate ecosystem, holding back the fertile silt deposits, causing erosion and increasing use of chemical fertilisers.

‘Political bomb’

For Ayeb, the dam also “proved to be a political bomb”.

In building Aswan, Egypt and Sudan agreed a Nile water sharing deal, but did not include any other upstream nations, including Ethiopia.

“It created the foundations for the break-up of the Nile basin as a framework for a common good,” said Ayeb.

Egypt recalls Aswan 50 years on
The colossal statues of a seated Ramses II at the entrance of Abu Simbel archaeological site, rescued from the waters of the res
The colossal statues of a seated Ramses II at the entrance of Abu Simbel archaeological site, rescued from the waters of the reservoir behind the Aswan Dam

Today, Addis Ababa, Cairo and Khartoum are mired in long-running fractious talks over the filling and operation of the GERD dam.

But, according to Ayeb, the critical challenge for Egypt is the management of the water it gets at present.

“Even if Ethiopia stopped its dam, there wouldn’t be enough water,” he said, arguing Egypt should halt desert irrigation—where nearly half the water is lost by evaporation—and stop agricultural exports.

Ayeb believes Cairo needs a new water and agricultural policy entirely.

“Egypt must change everything,” he said.

Explore further in Looming crisis of the much decreased fresh-water supply to Egypt’s Nile delta

Sustainability From A Construction Standpoint

Sustainability From A Construction Standpoint

Sam Bowman back in December 2020 wrote this article on Sustainability From A Construction Standpoint whereby he demonstrates that all construction-related matters do not have to have any bearing on the planet.


Credit: Andrea Piacquadio,. Pexels.com

It seems as though the more we examine our day-to-day actions, the clearer the extent of our environmental damage becomes. Almost every aspect of the way we live our lives has the potential to have a destructive influence. This is why it is so important that we take time to understand how we can more effectively coexist with the ecosystem. Sustainability sits at the heart of this idea.

Many of us are making changes to the ways we work, eat, and travel to have more positive influences on our planet. One of the key ways we can make a long-term difference is in our approach to construction. Whether building a new home is a professional or personal project, there are adjustments we can make in design, materials, and internal systems. These can both minimize the initial use of resources, and make the building itself a more environmentally friendly home to live in. Studies have even found that green buildings can be instrumental in minimizing pollution’s effect on mortality rates and thus reduce pressure on public health services.

So, what do these sustainable construction elements look like? How does the way we design and build our homes have a tangible effect on our planet? The truth is, there are a lot of areas we can improve on. But we’re going to take a closer look at a few key areas of focus when it comes to sustainable construction.

Energy

Our homes are the primary culprits of excessive energy consumption. This is not only important from a general sustainability and cost-saving perspective. One recent study has reported that residential energy consumption is responsible for around 20% of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. Therefore those constructing new homes must take measures that both improve energy efficiency and utilize less harmful forms of energy production.

Some key approaches in this area include:

  • This is one of the primary areas construction professionals focus on when building energy-efficient homes. Taking the time, and a little investment to obtain insulation materials and apply them from the outset of construction can make a huge difference to home sustainability. This is because an airtight home prevents thermal bridging, which is heat escaping through the walls. However, using a large quantity of insulating material isn’t especially sustainable. It’s best to obtain insulation with high levels of thermal heat resistance — known as an R-rating — but lower quantities.
  • Solar Panels. Choosing to go solar at the construction stage is a more sustainable approach for a variety of reasons. The most obvious is the ultimate reduction in fossil fuel usage. However, it also reduces unnecessary utilization of construction materials, and the resources used to manufacture them — panels can be arranged to effectively replace these areas of the building. For those on a budget, installing solar panels as part of initial construction can reduce costs in other areas such as roofing materials, and solar water heating installation.
  • Heating and Cooling. One of the areas of most energy expenditure in American homes is heating and cooling. Aside from the aforementioned insulation, choosing the right heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) approach can have a huge impact on how sustainable a home is. This involves understanding what system is most appropriate for the size and shape of the space being constructed. A geothermal heat pump system may well be the most efficient option in colder climates and larger constructions. However, in small to medium spaces, mini-split heating and cooling appliances are less of a drain on energy, and only need to be utilized for short periods to heat or cool individual rooms.

Materials

The real estate industry is finding that there’s a growing demand for homes with sustainable features. However, we should take the approach that sustainability should be a consideration from the outset. It’s not just an additional feature, but an integral part of the home itself. Material choices play an important role here.

From the perspective of the body of the building, concrete continues to be a popular choice. However, it is also one of the least sustainable materials — its production is responsible for around 8% of greenhouse gas emissions. Alternatives are becoming increasingly accessible. Ferrock, for example, is an iron-based compound that incorporates recycled waste materials, resulting in it being a carbon-negative construction option. Even in circumstances where a concrete outer shell is needed, its use can still be reduced. Tightly packed straw bales can allow for thinner concrete outer walls and even minimal use of plaster and gypsum on the inside of the home.

Material considerations are integral to making how we live with the building more sustainable, too. Thermal mass — a material’s ability to absorb and retain heat — is particularly important for walls and foundations. Understanding these properties help us to make intelligent choices about the most sustainable material for the location of the building. High thermal mass elements like brick and stone allow for those homes in cooler climates to absorb more heat from the sun and spread it throughout the home. While low thermal mass items such as steel and wood can be more appropriate for high-temperature areas where coolness needs to be maintained. This is conducive to long term sustainability, as it is more reliant upon the renewable properties of the natural environment rather than putting pressure on temperature controls that consume large amounts of energy and emit waste.

Architecture

The design of the building itself can have an impact on its sustainability. Architects are increasingly expected to devise solutions that support environmentally friendly construction, enable sustainable occupation, and reduce the negative impact on the spaces these homes inhabit.

One such approach is vertical design. In the U.S., we have vast geography to enjoy, and as such we have developed a tradition of creating large, sprawling homes that extend outward. However, with populations on the rise, particularly in cities, this isn’t a sustainable approach. Increased demand for space means that architects are straying away from looking outward, and looking upward instead. Homes with more floors also have the benefit of being more energy efficient; they have fewer exposed walls, and heat rising from the bottom of the home helps to heat the whole house.

Architects are also considering how to cut down on unnecessary material expenditure and construction emissions. A popular solution to this is learning how we can adapt to what already exists. Cargotecture uses old shipping containers as the basis for construction. This provides a modular approach to architectural design, giving scope for tailoring, and even later additions. It also tends to have a shorter construction process, reducing waste during building. That said, the tiny home movement has also become a popular choice to minimize the use of construction materials. These houses, generally less than 500 square feet, also limit their impact on the environment. As detailed in the linked resource, they also tend to produce 14 times less carbon than the average home.

Conclusion

We have a responsibility to consider how all elements of our lives can be made more sustainable. As such, whenever we build a new home we must put time into making choices that minimize our negative impact on the planet in both the short and long term. The materials, energy systems, and architectural styles that are conducive to sustainability are becoming more accessible. We, therefore, have fewer excuses not to make our environmental and social responsibilities forefront in our construction decisions.

6 trends that will influence construction this year

6 trends that will influence construction this year

Welcome to the year that follows the most turbulent year that all countries and sectors of their socio-economic went through. Here is the 2021 outlook: 6 trends that will influence construction this year.

Several factors – some positive, some less so – are poised to shape the industry this year.

By Joe Bousquin

4 January 2021

6 trends that will influence construction this year
Retrieved from Jeremy Gilbert/Flickr.

Here’s some perspective to ring in the new year: “2020 bad, 2021 good.”

That’s the takeaway from construction observers looking ahead at the turn of the year, even as the bleakness of the pandemic surge and record deaths in the U.S. continue to weigh on their minds.

“My expectation is that the U.S. economy will shrink between 4% and 5% in 2020,” said Anirban Basu, chief economist at the Associated Builders and Contractors during a year-end webinar, where he also made the good-bad prognostication quoted above. “But we’re going to come back hard in 2021.”

There are reasons for hope, such as a second coronavirus vaccine being authorized for emergency use and shipped in recent weeks and the $900 billion relief package recently signed by President Trump. But the drivers of optimism among those who track construction are also more specific to the space, while encompassing fundamental shifts in markets and processes that will lead to more broad-based development activity in 2021.

Just listen to Tom Stringer, managing director for site selection and business incentives at professional services firm BDO, whose job is to find suitable development sites for corporate clients who want to build new facilities and offices.

“Site selection tends to be a leading indicator in the economy that businesses are starting to think about capital investments, and our phones have been ringing,” Stringer said. “So if your readers are the folks on the contracting side, well, they’re about to get busy, too.”

Stringer isn’t alone. According to a post-election survey of engineering and construction executives conducted by Deloitte, 68% of respondents characterized the business outlook for the industry as somewhat or very positive.

“We do see pent-up demand sitting out there as we end out 2020 and come into 2021,” said Michelle Meisels, Deloitte’s engineering and construction practice leader.  

That widespread optimism among construction executives is grounded in the reality of several factors – some positive, some less so – that are poised to shape construction in 2021. Here are six of the top factors that will influence the industry in the new year:

Subs on the skids

The coming months and beyond could be particularly hard on subcontractors, and the contractors who will need them once projects pick up again.

“The market is just getting much more competitive for subcontractors, and therefore, sadly, some will go out of business, especially the smaller guys,” Meisels said. “General contractors may need to self-perform a lot of work they would normally sub out, and build those capabilities in house.”

That’s the road Michael Bordes, president of New York City general contractor AA Jedson Company, is already on.

He said during the pandemic, he’s had to pivot from the restaurants and gyms he built previously to focus on affordable housing projects that were still considered essential. But he’s also flipping the script and limiting his risk from subs by handling more work in house.

“We’re self-performing most of the construction tasks ourselves because the subcontractors that are out there are having a very hard time,” said Bordes, noting that affording insurance is one issue subs are struggling with. “The people we’re dealing with may not be transparent about saying we’re having trouble with assurances or we’re short on labor. If you keep it on your payroll, you at least have 95% control.”

Staying safe

Meanwhile, Bordes said he’s focused on keeping his workers safe and healthy by combating complacency and continually reinforcing mitigation strategies, which has become more challenging as the pandemic has worn on. And while he hopes his workers will sign up to get the vaccine, he says he’s not planning to force them to do so if they have reservations about taking it. 

“We know masks work. We know sanitizing on a regular basis, washing your hands and not touching your face works to not get this disease,” Bordes said. “But while we would suggest to employees that it’s important to get the vaccine, we don’t feel we can force them. Some are still cautious about what the side effects might be in the future.”

While the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission, as well as a panel of construction lawyers, recently determined that employers could require workers to be vaccinated with certain exceptions, the implications of forcing workers who object to get inoculated over potential safety concerns is sure to be a challenge for contractors in 2021. 

Hiring for the surge to come

With subs being squeezed, contractors will also surely be challenged to hire enough workers, even in house, when the pent-up demand of mothballed projects are put back into the marketplace once the pandemic is brought under control. At the same time, observers say companies aren’t doing so yet, since many new projects still aren’t coming to market, given the explosion of coronavirus cases going into 2021.

“The story there is that projects are still getting pushed to the right, so companies are not hiring unless they have a job to put someone on,” said Patrick Jones, who leads the architecture, engineering and construction division at Raleigh, North Carolina-based recruiting firm Orion Talent. “They’re not just out there building bench strength.”

He says while experienced superintendents and estimators are still in high demand, companies don’t necessarily want to hire individuals they would have to train and invest in while jobs are still scarce. “We see that hiring for what I would call the entry level roles has slowed,” Jones said.

At the same time, nonresidential construction has only regained 58% of the jobs it lost since the beginning of the pandemicaccording to Ken Simonson, chief economist for the Associated General Contractors of America. In November, he noted, the industry’s unemployment rate was 7.3%, not seasonally adjusted, with 732,000 former construction workers idled. 

On its surface, that may indicate contractors will have

an easier time hiring coming out of the pandemic. But that’s still not likely to be the case, according to Basu.

During his economic forecast in December, Basu asked his audience of more than 1,000 participants how many intended to increase staffing in the coming year, with more than half responding affirmatively. That’s in line with the ABC’s Construction Confidence Index from November, which indicated a majority of firms intended to increase staffing in the next six months.

Given the demand for projects, along with many firms trying to hire workers whenever jobs are finally released in 2021, contractors may experience labor challenges all over again.

“I would predict that many of you will continue to suffer difficulty finding truly motivated and skilled workers,” Basu told his contractor audience. “One thing that has happened in past recessions is that many construction workers who lost their jobs left the construction industry altogether.”

Infrastructure on the agenda

On the bright side, there should be some increased infrastructure and building projects on the horizon.

This is especially true with President-elect Joe Biden pushing his Build Back Better initiative, which is envisioned as a broad spending program that could benefit contractors on multiple fronts.

“He’s looking for a multitrillion-dollar infrastructure bill that includes a broad definition of infrastructure, whether it’s surface transportation, aviation, waterfront, Army Corps, civil works, flood control mitigation projects, clean drinking water, renewable energy projects, K-12 public school construction or broadband,” said Jimmy Christianson, vice president of government relations at AGC. “There’s a lot in there.”

Meisels also sees opportunity for contractors under that kind of program in 2021.

“Infrastructure and public utility projects could possibly see a sharp rebound,” Meisels said. “If the administration comes through and directs funds toward that, you’d see projects that are driven by this government spending.”

Office, manufacturing, distribution projects ahead

Part of that jump-start may already be happening on the private side. Take the activity Stringer, the site selection executive, has been seeing lately.

His clients are calling and expressing interest in expanding offices in tertiary markets away from where their headquarters are in densely populated cities. But they’re also looking to build manufacturing and distribution facilities, to help alleviate some of the vulnerabilities the pandemic brought to light in the just-in-time supply chain. 

“The supply chain issues that were rampant during the start of the crisis really presented significant business opportunities for the unsexy old ways of things like inventory and building warehouses,” Stringer said. “Hopefully, we’ll never be without toilet paper again.”

Indeed, the explosion of e-commerce has caused a boom in the sector. “The most obvious change of the year has been robust development of warehouse and distribution facilities to meet the sudden rise in e-commerce,” said Robert Smietana, CEO at Chicago-based industrial developer and consultant HSA Commercial Real Estate.

For example, CRG, the real estate development and investment arm of Chicago-based Clayco, plans to identify industrial development and acquisition opportunities in cities such as Atlanta, Chicago, Philadelphia, St. Louis and Columbus, Ohio. 

“It’s no secret that e-commerce has been a tailwind to industrial real estate over the last cycle,” said Kevin Scott, vice president of investments and developments for CRG. “But e-commerce users still represent just a fragment of the overall industrial user base. Specialized uses such as cold storage and data centers continue to grow, and we are excited about opportunities there.”

Renewed focus on the environment

Data center construction is one of two top-growth industries for Jones, the construction recruiter, to find specialty contractors. The other? Utility-scale solar.

“Big players in utility-scale solar have been on a growth pattern, and are really kind of hitting their stride in this next year,” Jones said.  “Obviously, the new administration would be beneficial to that as well.”

For example, Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based Moss Construction highlights several of the utility-scale solar installations it has worked on in recent years in its portfolio, and promotes on its website that it is “helping our nation move towards a cleaner energy future.”

That growth has come as renewable energy is becoming cheaper than any new electricity capacity based on fossil fuels, according to sister publication Utility Dive. 

But that opportunity for contractors also illustrates the widening awareness of a broader range of companies focusing on the environment.

For example, contractor giants AECOM and Fluor said on recent conference calls they were experiencing increased interest in their environmental services practices from clients, while Jacobs announced it achieved its net zero carbon goal for its operations and business travel in 2020, with aspirations to be carbon negative by 2030. Balfour Beatty and Lendlease also recently announced carbon-cutting initiatives

“The construction industry is under tremendous pressure to improve their energy use,” said Meisels. “But I also think that construction companies that build capabilities to support green building standards and sustainable efforts by their clients are going to be positioned to thrive. You can’t not address this if you want to be a leader in this space.”

2021: Beginning anew – a joyful reimagining of our buildings

2021: Beginning anew – a joyful reimagining of our buildings

Architecture Live! predicts that in 2021: Beginning anew – a joyful reimagining of our buildings as schools! as per SJK Architects professional experience. It is by Madhura Patil.

2021: Beginning anew – a joyful reimagining of our buildings by Madhura Patil

Write-up and Concept Storyboards by Vaishali Shankar

Illustrations by Kinjal Vora

December 30, 2020


As an architect who has worked on educational buildings, I cringed at these completely closed boxes, but the openness of the education taught in them won and we enrolled our son in an IB school.-SJK Architects.

We were keen on an IB education for our child for the freedom in learning it offers. We loved it’s focus on a thorough understanding of a subject and analytical skills and not on rote memory, and the broad holistic range of subjects that it offers – one of the most open curriculums available today.

But as we scouted for schools and visited a handful, the irony of the centrally air-conditioned, closed, boxy buildings that IB schools have come to be synonymous with, was not lost on us. IB education is quite expensive and so with it comes an expectation for IB schools to have better infrastructure, one common interpretation for which is equating comfort to air-conditioning.

As an architect who has worked on educational buildings, I cringed at these completely closed boxes, but the openness of the education taught in them won and we enrolled our son in an IB school.

2021: Beginning anew – a joyful reimagining of our buildings as schools! - SJK Architects 3

00_Introduction sketch 1

August 2020 has come and gone. This month had been eagerly anticipated by my family – it was the start of the new academic year and the first time that my son would start going to a ‘Big’ school! But we are still in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic in semi lockdown state.  With all kind of human contact being discouraged for the fear of contracting and spreading the infection, all schools are physically shut, and so the academic year started on- line. It feels a bit strange that the start of a child’s schooling is in a virtual environment.

2021: Beginning anew – a joyful reimagining of our buildings
2021: Beginning anew – a joyful reimagining of our buildings as schools! - SJK Architects 5

Most teachers and schools have been exemplary in learning the ropes of on-line, remote teaching quickly, establishing systems and working very hard to come up with content that keeps kids engaged on-line. But while parents are happy to have schooling resume, most fret about the prolonged exposure to screens and the sense of isolation that the kids may feel.

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The understanding that social skills and friendships are essential for mental well-being and key to learning, was never so acutely felt as it is now. And when normalcy does return, will the kids have adjusting issues, they wonder.

For now, these are just thoughts and worries – safety is paramount and social distancing our armour until Covid- 19 is vanquished.

But normalcy will return. And when it does, the favourite question doing rounds is – what will we take back from this strange period in our lives?

With thoughts of physical safety and mental health being top of mind, I and other colleagues turned to thinking about the type of buildings that would serve as thriving post-Covid19 schools in the metros.

Two great needs stand out-

1- To design buildings that do not encourage infections from spreading:

Research suggests that being outdoors or in well ventilated spaces can dilute ‘aerosols’ (or germs as we knew them in the pre-covid times!) enough to minimize tremendously the spread of any infection.

A building that is designed to work with climate, one that invites sunlight and wind through strategically located openings but rejects heat and rain, may be quite comfortable for at least a certain percentage of the year in a tropical country like ours (studies claim upto 80% of the time in all climatic zones in our country). So ensuring open spaces and natural cross-ventilation to the extent possible maybe the way to go!

And when absolutely not possible to achieve a comfortable environment without air-conditioning, alternative technologies like radiant cooling that do not circulate air for cooling or use of specialized filters that clean air in circulation could be employed to prevent air-borne infections from spreading.

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2- To design buildings for human connections:

Post this isolation that children have been through, the attention would undoubtedly be towards providing environments that deepen human connections and restore or enrichen the social fabric of their little worlds.

Studies indicate that not only do friendships and social relationships strengthen children emotionally and turn them into well-rounded human beings, but also peer-to-peer sharing will most definitely accelerate learning. Such interactions with peers, often occurs outside the formal space of a classroom – so designing spaces for social interactions is a critical need.

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It seems clear that the two responses that emerge– designing buildings with really good ventilation and ensuring spaces for social interactions, are simple yet wonderful principles of design for physical-emotional health and happiness that have been prevalent through all of historic and vernacular architecture, and ones that we at SJK Architects have applied to a variety of projects.

Here’s examining some of our urban projects, ranging from office buildings to residential homes, and spotlighting methodologies that helped accomplish these principles of health and happiness, ones that can easily be applied to post covid school buildings.

One: Use screens to draw wind into the building without gaining heat:

2021: Beginning anew – a joyful reimagining of our buildings as schools! - SJK Architects 13

While the non-north faces of the building receive direct sunlight and are way warmer than the north, it may be necessary to open these up to invite the winds in for proper cross-ventilation. Drawing from the use of ‘jalis’ in vernacular and historic buildings, sun-shading devices such as louvers, fins or screens can be added to such non-north openings, ensuring that direct sun (and, therefore, heat) is blocked and not incident into the inner spaces, while the gaps in the ‘jalis’ can still allow wind in.

2021: Beginning anew – a joyful reimagining of our buildings
2021: Beginning anew – a joyful reimagining of our buildings as schools! - SJK Architects 15

1_Nagpur House – Jali

Allowing the screens to be movable can give additional flexibility to open up completely in the winters or in cloudy weather, while leaving them shut when the sun is scorching bright.

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4_Nagpur House – External Elevation

[Images 1, 2 and 3- Wooden jalis protect the bedrooms and living spaces of a Family Home at Nagpur, allowing for natural ventilation when possible, keeping the interiors cool, well shaded and additionally ensuring privacy.]

Two: Open up the North for drawing wind into the building and for social spaces:

The north face of the building receives the best shade (in our hemisphere) and is, therefore, the coolest! So, it makes sense to open up the north of the building. One can easily provide windows to draw wind into the building from the north. But, additionally, one can also step out into comfortable, well-shaded courtyards, balconies and other social spaces that can be carved out of the north face of the building. Providing these courtyards with props like amphitheater steps and benches can support interactions.

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While designing in cities, one is ever conscious of ensuring that all available FSI is consumed leading to tall buildings with little or no open space available at ground level. So while a courtyard at ground level is often impossible, providing courtyards at higher levels is a useful strategy that can ensure a win-win.

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[Image 4, 5 and 6- A north facing, shaded and vibrant courtyard at the 4th floor of a Commercial Building at Nagpur with an amphi-theatre and overlooking public passages, staircases, projecting meeting rooms and terraces to create a design centered  around social gathering spaces and green pockets at every level.]

Three : Tiny courtyards for better social interactions and some fresh air:

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Often, in the quest to consume all available FSI, it may be impossible to provide large courtyards. But even an eight feet wide tiny courtyard can become the soul of a building by bringing in day light and visually connecting different floors.

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[Image 7- A tiny 8’ x 21’ atrium courtyard within a Family Home at Nagpur. The courtyard visually connects different levels of the house and is designed to create a sense of togetherness that binds a large joint family]

Four: The Staircase as a courtyard for cross ventilation and visual connectivity:

Some projects are so hemmed in from all sides that even the tiniest courtyard is impossible. But converting the staircase into a courtyard is still a possibility as we found while designing one of our favourite projects in Bangalore.

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The staircase is a vertical connector that is a mandatory part of any building and organizing it, such that it visually connects different levels and becomes a conduit for sun and wind, can convert it into an urban courtyard that much like a traditional courtyard can serve as a space for social connections and welcome breaks, with minimal waste of precious floor space.

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                (Images 8 and 9- The core of this ‘out of the box’ office building for Nirvana Films at Bangalore is the N-S connector staircase that slices through the building with a huge skylight above, suffusing it with sunlight and natural ventilation.

Five: Use the terraces for social interactions:

2021: Beginning anew – a joyful reimagining of our buildings as schools! - SJK Architects 31
2021: Beginning anew – a joyful reimagining of our buildings as schools! - SJK Architects 33

The roof terrace is a free of fsi space.  If possible, carving into the building to provide small terraces at every level can allow for each classroom to have a small attached open space. But whether at one level or at many, greening up the terrace for the children to use is such a simple possibility! It can bring an additional benefit – the joy of learning from nature!

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[Images 10,11 and 12- The spaces within this Commercial office building  at Chennai are naturally lit with  coconut & mango trees visible at  every turn. There are semi green terrace spaces for internal meetings, reflection and joy.]

Six: Balconies for well ventilated social interactions:

Some cities have, very wisely, retained the possibility of cantilevered balconies and double height terraces over and above the permissible fsi allowed for the building. If one is lucky to be in such a city, needless to say, all balconies must be availed for breezy, social spaces.

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The lockdown in the wake of Covid 19 has forced us to pause and reflect, and simple solutions like the ones described here and perhaps several more are available to design post-covid city schools. These simple solutions that promote better physical-emotional health and happiness align beautifully with the spirit of sustainable development. Buildings and cities that work with climate will consume less energy and lower our carbon footprint. Likewise, buildings and cities that promote social interactions will help provide an emotionally stronger social fabric through better communication and understanding, one that, hopefully, will lead to a more inclusive, fair and tolerant society. So, in promoting our own health and happiness, we can simultaneously nurture the planet and its people – the wonderful i n t e r c o n n e c t e d n e s s   of all fates! Sometimes it takes a pandemic to remind us.

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Happy New Year.

MENA Construction Output Growth Forecast

MENA Construction Output Growth Forecast

The Region is wrestling with oil demand slowdown but construction recovery is predicted for 2021 and 2022, GlobalData report as per Dominic Ellis of Construction Global who elaborates on the MENA construction output growth forecast sees 4.5% drop.


18 December 2020

Region wrestling with oil demand slowdown but construction recovery predicted for 2021 and 2022, GlobalData report says

The construction output growth forecast for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region for 2020 predicts a contraction of 4.5 percent this year, before a recovery with growth of 1.9 percent in 2021, and 4.1 percent in 2022, according to GlobalData.

The region is wrestling with two distinct but related issues: climate change, and the slowdown in oil demand.

The data and analytics company reports that the 2020 contraction reflects the severe impact of COVID-19 lockdowns, as well as other restrictions on construction activity. Much will depend on its ability to embrace digital transformation. 

Yasmine Ghozzi, economist at GlobalData, said: “The construction sector will face headwinds in 2021 with a slow recovery, but the pace of recovery will be uneven across countries in the region. Throughout 2020, and running to 2021, spending on real estate megaprojects, especially in the GCC, is likely to take a backseat as a result of budget revisions. 

“However, large-scale projects in the oil, gas, power and water sectors have gained traction against the downturn in market conditions this year, and this is likely to continue. As a result, some local contractors are pursuing development in these sectors to replace the loss of real estate work. 

“There is also a push towards decoupling power and water production across the region to reduce energy consumption continuing to provide the impetus for Independent Water Projects (IWP) implementation and in the future, there will be a lot of contract awards in that respect as the region pushes its renewable energy programme, particularly solar photovoltaic and wind.” 

Saudi Arabia

GlobalData has slightly revised up its forecast for Saudi Arabia’s construction output to -1.9 percent from -2.8 percent and expects a recovery for the sector of 3.3 percent in 2021. This revision reflects an improvement in economic performance and the Kingdom ending a nationwide curfew at the end of September, lifting restrictions on businesses after three months of stringent curbs and a notable decrease in infection rate. 

Recovery is also underlined by the crown prince’s announcement in mid-November that the Public Investment Fund (PIF) is to invest £29.5 billion (5% of GDP per annum) in the economy in 2021-22. 

Nearly half of the construction of the five minarets of the Grand Mosque in Makkah is now complete. 

The UAE

GlobalData still maintains its forecast for construction output growth in the UAE of -4.8 percent, with a rebound in 2021 of 3.1 percent and a promising medium-term outlook. 

Ghozzi adds: “The recent approval of a new Dubai Building Code is a positive development for the UAE. The new code outlines a revised set of construction rules and standards and seeks to reduce construction costs by streamlining building rules.” 

The UAE is proceeding with plans to expand its production capacity with Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) announcing its five-year investment plan worth £90.1 billion.

Qatar, Kuwait, and Oman

GlobalData has not changed its estimated growth rates for Qatar and Kuwait in 2020, at -4.5 percent and -9.5 percent, respectively. However, it has further cut the growth forecast for Oman to -10.3 percent from an earlier estimate of -8.1 percent, as the construction industry struggles with the challenges presented by the outbreak of COVID-19, low oil prices and the impact of sovereign credit rating downgrades. 

Ghozzi adds: “The new fiscal plan launched by the Omani Government to wean itself off its dependence on crude revenues through a series of projects and tax reforms is a good step which will aid the construction sector recovery in the medium term”.

Egypt

GlobalData expects construction in Egypt to grow at 7.7 percent in 2020, slowing from 9.5 percent in 2019 – given a short-term slow down due to the pandemic – and 8.9 percent in 2021. The industry is also expected to continue to maintain a positive trend throughout the forecast period. 

Ghozzi continues: “Egypt has become the first sovereign nation in the MENA region to issue green bonds with a £553.9 million issuance. Bonds’ earnings will be used to fund projects that meet Egypt’s commitment to the UN goals for sustainable development.”

Egypt’s comprehensive development plan provides varied opportunities for construction companies, such as the national project to develop the countryside which targets 1,000 villages nationwide. 

Israel

GlobalData expects Israel’s construction industry to contract by 8.9 percent in 2020, reflecting the significant fallout from the pandemic, with growth expected to resume at a modest pace in 2021. 

Ghozzi said containing a second wave of the virus, while trying to revive the economy and approve budgets for 2020 and 2021, are the government’s top priorities. “However, difficult decisions will be postponed, with the deadline to pass the 2020 budget being pushed to the end of 2020,” he said.

Arab Maghreb

In the Arab Maghreb, GlobalData maintained its forecasts for construction growth in 2020 for Morocco and Algeria to -5.5, and -3.4 percent, respectively. 

Ghozzi adds: “Amid a second wave of COVID-19 with restrictions placed on public mobility along with increasing public sector doubt about economic prospects and social tensions continuing to cause shutdowns at oil and phosphate-manufacturing facilities, GlobalData has further cut its forecast for Tunisia to -13.3 percent from an earlier estimate of -12.5 percent. 

“Recovery in the sector is expected to be very slow and expectation of an early legislative election is likely in 2021 but is unlikely to reduce political volatility.”

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