THE HILL in Climate resilience is the new sustainability By Randolph Kirchain, PhD, and Franz-Josef Ulm, PhD, concluding that the world must get together to build a better future. With suitable investments, though, it can be both resilient and sustainable.
That is alright for the world, but why is the MENA region is falling behind in meeting the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals. The UN has set for 2030 for the world to achieve. These already raise some concern in the region are those particularly related to nature, the environment, and climate change. Given the push to transition to renewable energy and the disaster potential posed by sea-level rise and other climate changes, sustainability in the MENA region is critical. The region uses much more water than it replenishes, knowing that the changing climate exacerbates water stress, amongst other things. But let us see the details of what is up in the world.
As the world tackles climate change, it faces a seemingly intractable problem. Mitigating climate-disaster will require more resilient construction — and yet the building sector already comprises nearly 40 percent of global emissions.
So, how can we build the resilient infrastructure we need while also eliminating the carbon footprint of construction? At first glance, it might appear that the easiest solution is to do nothing at all.
Limiting the development of new construction, for instance,would reduce building sector emissions while slowing humanity’s encroachment on hazard-prone regions.
So, what can we do to manage the impacts of this inevitable development? The simple, if obvious, answer is to build wisely. But the more important point is to understand that sustainability and resilient construction are, in fact, totally compatible.
This becomes clear when we actually define these two ubiquitous terms. As its name implies, “sustainability” means designing systems to last in the face of stresses — systems that can sustain the planet, society and the economy. The definition of resilience is fundamentally similar. Encompassing far more than “rugged” design, “resilience” means designing to resist and, most importantly, rapidly recover from a disaster.
In essence, these two concepts, resilience and sustainability, have the same goal: ensuring long-term viability in the face of challenges.When we consider them in practice, their alignment becomes even clearer.
These investments can be as straightforward as storm shutters and stronger roof-to-wall connections or as stringent as elevated structures, concrete walls, and fireproof materials. Given the massive losses hazards will likely inflict in the coming century, resilient construction makes clear financial sense.
All of this is to say that the construction of a resilient built environment does not conflict with sustainability. In fact, it’s clear these two goals are more than harmonious — they are synergistic.
Even still, that doesn’t preclude the need to completely eliminate building sector emissions: We will still need to use the lowest emitting materials. To ensure that this happens, governments, industries and academia must collaborate. The potential solutions are myriad.
However, we’ll need more than just competitive, transparent markets. The development of innovative materials will also require a comprehensive array of investments, particularly around carbon capture, which is currently prohibitively expensive. In the case of concrete — which is a ubiquitous, affordable and resilient construction material — carbon capture will be essential to eliminating emissions.
Thankfully, the Biden administration’s latest proposal acknowledges these needs.
In addition to investing tens of billions of dollars towards resilient construction, the plan aims to improve the nation’s infrastructure by “fixing it right.”
Our research has already found that this kind of long-term, strategic approach inherently tends to produce resilient and sustainable outcomes by managing risk and minimizing construction actions. But above all, the plan prioritizes the procurement and innovation of low-impact construction materials, including concrete, which the nation will need to build resiliently.
As the world experiences unprecedented growth, balancing resilient construction and environmental sustainability can seem daunting. But upon closer examination, this trepidation is misplaced: Solutions to climate change can be cumulative, not zero-sum — and that’s especially the case with resilience and sustainability.
Ultimately, we can’t take the easy route and abdicate responsibility: A better future must be built. With the right investments, though, it can be both resilient and sustainable.
Randolph Kirchain, PhD, is the co-director of the MIT Concrete Sustainability Hub. His research focuses on the environmental and economic implications of materials selection and deals with the development of methods to model the cost of manufacture and the sustainability of current and emerging materials systems.
Franz-Josef Ulm, PhD, is the faculty director of the MIT Concrete Sustainability Hub. His research interests are in the mechanics and structures of materials. His research investigates the nano- and micromechanics of porous materials, such as concrete, rocks and bones and the durability mechanics of engineering materials and structures.
Research from the MIT CSHub is sponsored by the Portland Cement Association and the RMC Research and Education Foundation.
Laura Paddison in The Guardian. Oman plans to build the world’s largest green hydrogen plant that Renewable power is slowly replacing fossil fuel usage at all levels as a world trend shows the way. This article reporting such a piece of news that is as unnecessary as unproductive because solar, wind power is the future, and fossil fuels usage would be binned forever within the near future for good.
Oman plans to build world’s largest green hydrogen plant
Oil-producing nation aims plant powered by wind and solar energy to be at full capacity by 2038
Oman is planning to build one of the largest green hydrogen plants in the world in a move to make the oil-producing nation a leader in renewable energy technology.
Construction is scheduled to start in 2028 in Al Wusta governorate on the Arabian Sea. It will be built in stages, with the aim to be at full capacity by 2038, powered by 25 gigawatts of wind and solar energy.
The consortium of companies behind the $30bn (£21bn) project includes the state-owned oil and gas company OQ, the Hong Kong-based renewable hydrogen developer InterContinental Energy and the Kuwait-based energy investor Enertech.
Once online, the plant will use renewable energy to split water in an electrolyser to produce green hydrogen, which is able to replace fossil fuels without producing carbon emissions. Most will be exported to Europe and Asia, said Alicia Eastman, the co-founder and president of InterContinental Energy, either as hydrogen or converted into green ammonia, which is easier to ship and store. The facility aims to produce 1.8m tonnes of green hydrogen and up to 10m tonnes of green ammonia a year.
Oman currently relies heavily on fossil fuels, generating up to 85% of its GDP from oil and gas, but its fossil fuel reserves are dwindling and becoming increasingly costly to extract. In December 2020, the country published its Oman Vision 2040 strategy, a plan to diversify the economy away from fossil fuels and increase investment in renewables.Advertisement
Green hydrogen could play an important role, said Eastman, thanks to the Oman’s combination of plentiful daytime sun and strong winds at night. “Oman is one of the places in the world that I’ve called the ‘future renewable superpowers’,” said Michael Liebreich, the founder of BloombergNEF, “because what you really want [to produce green hydrogen] is very cheap solar and very cheap wind.”
While electrification is the most efficient way of decarbonising most sectors, it’s limited when it comes to energy-intensive industries such as steel, chemicals, aviation and shipping. Green hydrogen will be vital to help fill these gaps, said the International Energy Agency in its report published this week, which called for an end to fossil fuel investments if governments are serious about climate commitments.
A wave of net zero-emissions pledges has already led to a slew of hydrogen strategies, including from the European Commission in 2020, which predicted the share of hydrogen in the EU’s energy mix would rise from 2% to 14% by 2050.
Yet green hydrogen currently makes up less than 1% of global hydrogen production. The majority is still produced using fossil fuels such as gas and coal, in a process that emits about 830m tonnes of carbon annually, equivalent to the emissions of the UK and Indonesia combined. “Blue hydrogen” is a cleaner version, as emissions are captured and stored, but it is still produced using gas – and is seen by some oil companies as a way to keep using fossil fuels.
One of the stumbling blocks for green hydrogen has been cost, partly because of the huge amounts of energy required. But as renewables and electrolysers become cheaper, and fossil fuel prices rise, costs could fall by up to 64% by 2030, according to research from the consultancy Wood Mackenzie.
“Most green hydrogen products will not be competitive for at least another decade,” said Falko Ueckerdt, a senior scientist at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, who sees the Oman project as “a sign that investors anticipate large future demands for hydrogen-based fuels after 2030”.
Oman’s proposed plant is just one in a slate of green hydrogen mega projects planned globally. Eastman said InterContinental Energy has a number of other plants in the works, including a 26GW wind and solar green hydrogen plant in the Pilbara, Western Australia. If constructed, this $36bn (£25.5bn) plant would be the world’s biggest energy project. The first phase is expected to be online by 2028.
In March, the renewables company Enegix Energy announced the construction of a green hydrogen plan in Ceará state, north-eastern Brazil. Once built, which the company estimates will take about four years, the plant would produce more than 600,000 tonnes of green hydrogen per year from 3.4GW of wind and solar power.
“People are upping the gigawatts, and they should,” said Eastman, “there’s so much room in the market.”
At its heart, this means designing our businesses, infrastructure and manufacturing processes to be more resilient. Businesses must harness the power of data and insights to allow teams to collaborate closely and more effectively.
This is not a theoretical challenge. The world is faced with a race against time to meet the huge demand for new housing from an ever-growing population, estimated to hit 10 billion by 2050, according to data from the UN. This means that about 13,000 new buildings must be built every day just to keep pace with demand.
If this was not daunting enough, the fact that 30 per cent of all the world’s waste every year comes from the construction industry reveals the true complexity of the challenges ahead.
We must do more, better and with less, if we are going to be successful.
There are 17 SDGs in total and they include providing access to renewable energy; building resilient infrastructure; promoting inclusive and sustainable industrialisation; fostering innovation; making cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable; ensuring sustainable consumption and production patterns; and taking urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts.
Climate change is a significant issue for the UAE and the wider Gulf region. According to research conducted by the Stockholm Environment Institute’s US centre in 2010, the UAE could lose up to 6 per cent of its 1,300-kilometre stretch of coastline by the end of the century because of rising sea levels. This is a significant impact when you consider that 85 per cent of the population and more than 90 per cent of the UAE’s infrastructure is within several metres of sea level in low-lying coastal areas.
Furthermore, a joint report in 2015 by the International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena), the UAE-based Masdar Institute and the UAE Foreign Affairs Ministry’s directorate of energy and climate change found that increasing renewables to 10 per cent of the country’s total energy mix, and 25 per cent of total power generation, could generate annual savings of $1.9bn by 2030 through the avoidance of fossil-fuel consumption and lower energy costs.
Resolving these concerns and achieving targets will require new and innovative ways of doing things.
In practice, that means technology must enable customers to design and make products, buildings and even entire cities that promote healthy, resilient communities.
But what does that mean for the UAE?
Tapping into new opportunities
The UAE has a significant construction market, but like many places around the world, it is one that is faced with the challenge of tackling waste and high vehicle use. It can prepare for a new future by adapting to emerging technologies that have the potential to deliver a better life for its communities.
This will be done by helping designers and engineers to gain insights into the impact of everyday decisions about materials and energy use.
Technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) based generative design and the Embodied Carbon in Construction Calculator (EC3), a tool that gives builders and designers information about the embodied carbon impact of building materials during the materials selection process, are already enabling customers to use resources more efficiently and productively, thereby saving money and reducing carbon emissions.
Technology must also be used to further enhance people’s ability to adapt, grow and prosper alongside increasing levels of automation.
The power of the cloud really came to the fore in 2020 as millions of people worked remotely due to the Covid-19 pandemic. This technology helped school children to attend classes from home, and helped construction teams on different continents continue to collaborate in an effective and productive manner that allowed projects to be completed.
These factors, coupled with newer, three-dimensional (3D) design tools, make everything from products to building design far easier to create in ways that reduce waste while saving on time and cost.
Generative design, which is an iterative design process that can mimic nature’s evolutionary approach to create unique designs, is becoming increasingly prevalent within industry. Designers input their set of conditions for a project into a computer and then an algorithm will automate the process by going through many different permutations of the design to find the form that is best suited to the requirements.
There is no one technological solution to the problems we face, but by adopting a more sustainable approach that encompasses a broader range of technologies, these challenges can be overcome.
The future of the construction sector hinges on how swiftly players adapt to newer technologies says Jihad Bsaibes, president and CEO of Amana Contracting and Steel Buildings in an eye-opening article on the ongoing digitalisation symbolised by the click and mortar analogy. It is about the acceleration of technology in construction in the GCC countries.
Click and mortar: The acceleration of technology in construction in the GCC
May 19, 2021
The opportunities and headwinds created by Covid-19 have forced the construction sector to accelerate its digitisation targets. Digital transformation is imperative for offsetting pandemic-induced delays and cost overruns and achieving future sustainability and profitability in a dynamic market.
The World Economic Forum estimates that within 10 years, full-scale digitisation could unlock savings between $700bn and $1.2 trillion in design, engineering, and construction.ADVERTISING
Due to these disruptions, the convergence of manufacturing, technology and construction has emerged as a key trend. The future of construction will largely depend on how effectively players use technology to build better: safer, quicker and greener.
One example of how technology is disrupting construction are digital twins. A digital twin simulates tangible assets on a virtual platform using data. Working from a single, integrated digital model enables architects, structural engineers and builders to test scenarios and develop optimal solutions.
Similarly, modular construction – that involves manufacturing modules constructed off site and put together on site later – decreases the need for workforce by upto 30 per cent, potentially reduces material waste by 30 per cent and improves the work safety environment by up to 70 per cent compared to traditional construction.
Digitisation assists with strategic decision-making and helps construction companies tide over project disruptions during situations such as a changeover of employees. It massively cuts down underlying paperwork, which means available resources can be utilised more efficiently to analyse project-critical information such as material availability and status. According to a whitepaper from Oracle Construction and Engineering, materials can account for up to 40-50 per cent of project cost, and control up to 80 per cent of the project schedule.
Real-time material information acquaints construction planners with information about what material will be available for installation so that construction crews can continue to operate efficiently and without unnecessary or unplanned work disruptions.
Similarly, collaborative technologies aid workflows by giving access to each stakeholder in the development of a project. Each party can create, review and modify data in real-time both onsite and from remote locations, thus making it possible to track and control processes, from design and construction to signoff and completion.
Enterprise resource planning or ERP systems can automate the different project components and activities. These systems help manage day-to-day activities such as accounting, procurement, project management, risk management and compliance, and supply chain operations.
Two recent projects showcase how new technologies are being deployed in the construction sector. One such project currently underway is the 365m-high Ciel Tower, set to become the world’s tallest hotel when inaugurated in 2023. The other is a management hotel by The Red Sea Development Company (TRSDC). BIM and Revit (from Autodesk) were used for the design development and structural design of Ciel Tower to simplify and speed up otherwise complex tasks. The design team also used software for renders and 3D visualisation tasks.
The pandemic may trigger consolidation across the region, resulting in fewer players. Technology adoption will be vital in meeting customer expectations better and faster.
While it is crucial, technology adoption comes with its own set of challenges, key among them liquidity concerns and availability of the right kind of human resources. As industrialised construction and technology adoption increases, there is a growing gap between the supply of talent and the digital skills needed. This requirement will be a significant challenge in Saudi Arabia’s growing construction sector. However, once set in motion, those who embrace digital transformation will reap the rewards.
Analysis: Saudi Arabia’s Brand New Futuristic City
By Ramanath Jha
In 2017, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman, announced the launch of the nation’s futuristic and fully automated business zone, NEOM. This hi-tech business hub, to be located in the Tabuk province in the northwestern part of Saudi Arabia along the Red Sea coast, is to be established at a cost of US $500 billion (INR 37.5 lakh crore). The region has been selected in view of its relatively mild climate. Most of Saudi Arabia has a desert climate with extremely oppressive day temperatures of above 45° Celsius. The project’s total area is slated to be 26,500 square kilometre and will link Jordan and Egypt via Saudi territory. The project is expected to generate 380,000 jobs and contribute US $48 billion (INR 36,000 crore) to the kingdom’s GDP by 2030.
More recently, in Jan 2021, the Crown Prince also announced that, as part of the NEOM project, a zero-carbon city called ‘The Line’ would be set up. The Crown Prince labelled the city project as a “civilisational plan that puts humans first”. ‘The Line’ is crafted as a linear city for one million people, running 170 kilometre long, with a width that would be walkable in five minutes. It is anticipated that people from all over the world would be drawn by the city’s excellent environment, state-of-the-art infrastructure and superior quality of life.
‘The Line’ is not designed to be a conventional city but a futuristic one. A city’s usual amenities such as schools, hospitals, and gardens will be carefully crafted in view of the residents’ expected proclivity towards the availability of top-quality education, health, and recreation. Additionally, the city would position itself as a top tourist destination. The Saudi administration also seeks to dispel any misgivings about the governance model that ‘The Line’ would follow. The entire NEOM area, including ‘The Line’, will be a free trade zone with its own tax structure and an autonomous legal system.
The technological and environmental plans of the “zero cars, zero streets, and zero carbon emissions” city have drawn the most attention. Drawings of ‘The Line’ show the city infrastructure and services arranged in three layers. The top layer, above ground, will be a pedestrian layer. It will be supported by two underground layers. The one immediately below ground will be the service layer of physical infrastructure. And further below the service layer will be the spine layer for transport. Project proponents stated that “High-speed transportation, utilities, digital infrastructure and logistics will be seamlessly integrated in dedicated spaces running in an invisible layer along The Line”. The high-speed transit is being designed to reach people anywhere in the city within 20 minutes. Alternately, people could walk to conveniences within five minutes. Artificial intelligence will have a critical role in the city. ‘The Line’ would be powered by 100 percent clean energy, rendering the city pollution-free, healthy, and sustainable. The city would be run totally on smart city technologies. Robots will play a key role in the areas of security, logistics, home delivery, and provision of care.
It is expected that the city infrastructure would cost between US $100 to 200 billion (INR 7.5 to 15 lakh crore). Investments are planned to be drawn from the US $500 billion allocated for NEOM, the Public Investment Fund (PIF) which is the Saudi’s sovereign wealth fund, and local and global investors over 10 years. Construction on the project’s first phase has already begun. NEOM Bay, some hotel complexes, and luxurious apartments have been completed. In 2019, the NEOM Bay Airport was inaugurated. A huge complex of palaces for the Saudi king, prince, and royal family members has also been started.
NEOM and ‘The Line’ are projects with a larger objective. As the world moves towards a non-oil-based future, Saudi Arabia, as the largest producer of oil, finds its economy threatened unless it finds alternate sources of wealth creation. Global trade and tourism would be the key areas for Saudi’s new economy. NEOM, backed by ‘The Line’ as the first fully automated city, could emerge as the leading global destination. In this, there is commonality between Saudi Arabia and the other gulf countries. Bahrain (Economic Vision 2030), Oman (Vision 2040), Qatar (National Vision 2030), UAE (Vision 2021) and Saudi Arabia (Vision 2030) are all seeking to diversify their economies and reduce dependence on oil.
Information on many areas in regard to ‘The Line’ are scarce. However, based on the material available, a broad assessment is possible. Firstly, the history of megaprojects in Saudi Arabia has not been happy. “The Saudi landscape is already dotted with failed or abandoned megaprojects”. Furthermore, such projects do not always turn out the way they are planned. Adverse turns in the global economy, cost overruns, and reduced financial returns on investment are some of the most common failings. Even if the above cited observations are dismissed as speculation, the fact is that this urban endeavour incorporates certain technologies that do not exist. Robot maids, dinosaur robots, and flying cars are still in the making. Neither are high-speed transits today capable of speeds of 512 kilometre per hour, which the city would require for end-to-end travel in 20 minutes.
Furthermore, irrespective of whatever kind of city one builds, a city’s foundational philosophy ought to remain the same. The quality of a city rests on its economy, its environment, and its equity. A city that overstates one to the detriment of the others imbalances itself and over time becomes unsustainable. The project proponents have talked profusely about the economic, technological, and environmental angles, but nothing is known about how equitable the city would be and who could afford to live there.
NEOM and The Line, as cited earlier, would be governed by a set of laws different from Saudi Arabia. But given the nature of the Saudi polity, where some of the governance practices are among the most regressive, uncomfortable incongruities for residents may surface. Since the city is looking for people to move in from the rest of the world, such concerns may not enthuse populations to move in. Saudi Arabia is not very kind to dissent; hence, very few voices of disagreement from inside the country have emanated. Some have mildly sought to remind the Saudi administration that there is no point spending billions of dollars on a totally new venture when the already existing Saudi cities were in a state of disrepair and needed fixing.
The Saudi administration highlights its environmental concerns and is planning to build a totally eco-friendly city. As the Crown Prince said, “Why should we sacrifice nature for the sake of development? Why should seven million people die every year because of pollution? Why should we lose one million people every year due to traffic accidents?” However, this does not seem to be practiced on the ground. The city’s construction is cutting “through its surroundings, forcing its way through tough terrain rather than embracing natural features such as the coast line.”
The Saudi administration also faces criticism on account of the attempt to evict the 20,000-strong Howeitat tribe from its centuries-old homeland that falls within the territory of NEOM. The tribe is resisting eviction. When leaders of the tribe protested, several from the leadership found themselves behind bars. The most vocal critic of them all, Alya Abutayah Alhwaiti, lost his life. The negative publicity was sought to be countered through a public relations exercise, crafted by an American PR company. However, much of the disquiet around the project remains.
Originally posted on globalrhythmz: The music Aziza Brahim makes reflects both the sorrow and the hope of these people. She grew up in one of those camps in the Algerian desert, along with thousands of other Saharwai who were removed from their homes in the Western Sahara. The refugee camp was the place that formed…
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