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Hydrocarbon Resources and Their Spillover Effects

Hydrocarbon Resources and Their Spillover Effects

Despite the high oil revenues reaped from hydrocarbon resources and their spillover effects on all oil and non-oil producing countries, most MENA region economies suffer from structural problems and fragile political systems, preventing them from adopting effective politico-economic transformations.

The capital was available, but investments were typically misdirected to form in all cases ‘rentier’ economies, with Arab countries economies remaining very undiversified.  They primarily rely on oil and low value-added commodity products such as cement, alumina, fertilisers, and phosphates. 

Demographic transitions present a significant challenge: the population increased from 100 million in 1960 to about 400 million in 2011.  Sixty per cent are under 25 years old.

Urbanisation had increased from 38 per cent in 1970 to 65 per cent in 2010.

Rural development being not a priority; the increasing rural migration into the cities searching for jobs will put even more strain on all existing undeveloped infrastructures. 

Current economic development patterns will increasingly strain the ability of Arab governments to provide decent-paying jobs.  For instance, youth unemployment in the region is currently double the world average.

The demand for food, water, housing, education, transportation, electricity, and other municipal services will rise with higher learning institutions proliferating; the quality of education below average does not lead to employment. 

Power demand in Saudi Arabia, for example, is rising at a fast rate of over 7 per cent per year.

Amman, Cairo, and other Arab cities gradually lose their agriculture space because of the suburbs’ expansion.  Gated communities and high-rise office buildings are sprawling while ignoring low-income housing. 

In the meantime, the real world feels the planet is in danger of an environmental collapse; economists increasingly advise putting the planet on its balance sheets. For over a Century of Burning Fossil Fuels, to propel our cars, power our businesses, and keep the lights on in our homes, we never envisioned that we will paying this price.

Hydrocarbon Resources and Their Spillover Effects

In effect, a recent economic report on biodiversity indicates that economic practice will have to change because the world is finite.

For decades many have been aware of this reality. However, it is a giant leap forward for current economic thinking to acknowledge that Climate change is a symptom of a larger issue. The threat to life support systems from the plunder and demise of the natural environment is a reality.

Society, some governments, and industry are recognising that climate change can be controlled by replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy, electric cars and reducing emissions from every means of production.

Talking about replacing fossil fuels would mean a potential reduction of the abovementioned revenues.

However, would the spreading of solar farms all over the Sahara desert constitute compensation for the losses?

Smart Villages, Internet Cities or Creativity Engines

Smart Villages, Internet Cities or Creativity Engines

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

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

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

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

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

The Emerging Knowledge Cities: International Attempts

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

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

Knowledge Cities/Zones: Regional Attempts

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

Read more in the Academia‘s

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

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


Exporting building-research excellence from the UK

Exporting building-research excellence from the UK

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

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

Exporting building-research excellence from the UK

23 February 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Malta can truly kick-start a green revolution

Malta can truly kick-start a green revolution

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

Malta can truly kick-start a green revolution

By Cyrus Engerer and Stephanie Fabri

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

French Agency for the Development of AlUla (Afalula)

French Agency for the Development of AlUla (Afalula)

In 2018, France and Saudi Arabia signed a cultural partnership agreement and created the French Agency for the Development of AlUla (Afalula) writes Cécilia Pelloux, Contributor Travel in this Forbes article.

The picture above is of Design displaying the view from within the resort over the landscape of Sharaan “Every urban act is … [+] ROYAL COMMISSION FOR ALULA

A New Era In Architecture Jean Nouvel Unveiled Masterpiece Resort In AlUla

17 February 2021

AlUla is a spectacular natural and archaeological region. This unknown site inhabited for millennia is located 1100km from Riyadh in the North West of Saudi Arabia. The region has enjoyed prosperity since Antiquity thanks to the fertility of its oasis. AlUla was a crossroads on the caravan routes of myrrh, incenses and aromatic plants which crossed Arabia from the South. The birthplace of Arabic writing, this immense area of 23,000 km² is the witness of an extraordinary natural and human cultural heritage.

The geological formation of the valley with its lush oasis offers towering sandstone mountains and ancient civilization and architectural sites like the Nabataean from Petra. 

For nearly thirty years, Franco-Saudi archeological teams have done intense research inside thousand years old history, from the first human settlements seven thousand years ago to contemporary times.

Last Fall, French renowned architect Jean Nouvel announced his new extraordinary project in the Sharaan Nature Reserve near the Nabataean wonders of Hegra, UNESCO World Heritage Site. The first Saudi archaeological site listed on the UNESCO World Heritage in 2008. Hegra – A 52-hectare ancient city- was the principal southern city of the Nabataean Kingdom. It includes more than 100 well preserved tombs with elaborate facades cut into sandstone outcrops. Current research suggests Hegra was the most southern outpost of the Romans after conquering the Nabataeans in 106 CE. 

French Agency for the Development of AlUla (Afalula)
Concept rendering showing an aerial view of the resort built into the majestic Sharaan Nature Reserve.
Concept rendering showing an aerial view of the resort built into the majestic Sharaan Nature … [+] ROYAL COMMISSION FOR ALULA

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Jean Nouvel’s works offer a modern design vision on this 2,000-year-old architectural legacy since the Nabataeans carved into the region’s millions of years old sandstone rock. “The coming together of a landscape and history, the history of past civilisations in an extraordinary landscape – the only place to create such a masterpiece.” said Jean Nouvel. The architect wants to preserve this unique landscape. “AlUla is a museum. Every wadi and escarpment, every stretch of sand and rocky outline, every geological and archeological site deserves the greatest consideration. It’s vital we keep all its distinctiveness and its attractiveness which largely rests on its remote and occasionally archaic character. We have to safeguard a little mystery as well as the promise of discoveries to come.” He added. 

French Agency for the Development of AlUla (Afalula)
Concept rendering of a pool area displaying the interaction of modern designs mixed with the Nabatean way of using light, shadow and rocks. Concept rendering of a pool area displaying the interaction of modern designs mixed with the Nabatean way of using light, shadow and rocks.
Concept rendering of a pool area displaying the interaction of modern designs mixed with the … [+] ROYAL COMMISSION FOR ALULA

He is adapting old ways of life to our modern world  minimizing the impacts on natural and urban landscapes. To do this, genius Nouvel has introduced a new typology of architecture never seen before, using abstraction, sculpting within the landscape itself rather than competing with it. Inspired by the Nabateans, it plays on the old ways of living to build on the present and meet the challenges of the future. Jean Nouvel integrates the way Nabateans interacted with their environment, both with verticality and horizontality, to reconnect with the earth and build sustainable habitats, away from the heat of the summer and the cold of the winter.

These concept renderings show the resort’s luxurious embrace of AlUla’s natural colours, light, shapes, and materials.
These concept renderings show the resort’s luxurious embrace of AlUla’s natural colours, light, … [+] ROYAL COMMISSION FOR ALULA

The resort will bring emotional experiences from nature, architecture and art. Jean novel invites us to embark on a thousands of years journey where civilisations and geographical strata will be found in every detail of his designs, from the permanent feel of the rocks to the soft comfort of the armchairs, sofa, and seats. 

The sound, musicality, harshness, tactility, power and complexity of nature are everywhere, from finely chopped stones on balconies to the singular granularity of each rock wall, everything becomes an artwork in itself.

French Agency for the Development of AlUla (Afalula)
Design of one of the resort’s rooms with terrace: “Our design principles will guide us as we explore new typologies that reconcile heritage alongside the subtle transformation of the existing architecture.” Jean Nouvel
Design of one of the resort’s rooms with terrace: “Our design principles will guide us as we explore … [+] ROYAL COMMISSION FOR ALULA

Sharaan by Jean Nouvel is scheduled to open in 2023. The resort will feature 40 rooms, three villas and 14 pavilions carved into a sandstone outcrop, each suite having a balcony that looks out across the stunning surrounding AlUla scenery landscape. The hotel’s entrance will be from a circular courtyard that will be carved into the sandstone hillside. From here a series of rooms will be arranged around a central 80-metre high lift shaft.

French Agency for the Development of AlUla (Afalula)
A scenic express lift will bring guests to the heart of the resort, allowing them to travel through millions of years of geological stratas.
A scenic express lift will bring guests to the heart of the resort, allowing them to travel through … [+] ROYAL COMMISSION FOR ALULA

Sharaan by Jean Nouvel Resort is a major part of the Royal Commission of AlUla’s strategy to develop in a long term commitment AlUla as a global destination for culture, heritage, and eco-tourism. “These concepts, which showcase Jean Nouvel’s masterly innovation in architecture, underscore our commitment to developing AlUla as a global tourism destination without compromising the history, heritage, and landscape of AlUla. We are a destination built by artists. Sharaan by Jean Nouvel will build on that legacy to become a timeless landscape-architecture that will last forever – a gift to the world.” told Amr AlMadani, CEO of RCU.

To learn more about Saudi Arabia. Assouline just released a beautiful book Crafts of the Kingdom: Culture and Creativity in Saudi Arabia curated by author HRH Princess Najla bint Ahmad bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud.

French Agency for the Development of AlUla (Afalula)
CRAFTS OF THE KINGDOM Culture and creativity in Saudi Arabia published by Assouline
CRAFTS OF THE KINGDOM Culture and creativity in Saudi Arabia published by Assouline ASSOULINE

This book celebrates Saudi Arabia unique craft traditions and the master artisans who produce the Kingdom’s rich handicrafts. It highlights the abundant traditions which still exist in each of the Kingdom’s regions while revealing each craft’s historic roots and modern interpretations. A rich portrait of Saudi Arabia as a nation whose cultural heritage and diverse creativity have been proudly cherished, reverently preserved, and profoundly influential from ancient days to modern times.

Follow Cécilia Pelloux on Twitter or LinkedIn

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