A smart city uses digitalisation-supported information and communication technology (ICT) in its diverse operational exercises, shares information and provides better governance.: Constructing materially smarter cities on Elkem.
Architect seeks pro-climate construction transformation to be generalised throughout the Middle East and North African regions of heavy urbanisation.
The above image is of Place Pasteur, Beirut.
The French-Lebanese architect wants to see her industry transformed by drastically reducing the use of concrete — a major CO2 contributor — using more local materials and reusing existing buildings and materials.
“We need to change our value system,” the 42-year-old told AFP last month.
The aim is to reduce the carbon footprint of the construction industry and create buildings that can better resist the impacts of climate change.
But it’s not an easy battle.
The industry accounts for almost 40 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to the United Nations.
Ghotmeh, who designed the Estonian National Museum and taught at Yale University, doesn’t advocate for fewer buildings — she knows that’s an unrealistic goal in a world with a growing population.
“That would be like saying ‘stop eating,'” she said.
– ‘Don’t demolish’ –
Instead, we should “keep what already exists, don’t demolish,” but refurbish and retrofit old buildings in a sustainable way where possible.
Building a new detached house consumes 40 times more resources than renovating an existing property, and for a new apartment complex that rises to 80 times more, according to the French Agency for Ecological Transition (Ademe).
Lina Ghotmeh’s ‘Stone Garden’ in Beirut uses traditional building techniques / © AFP/File
And where new constructions are needed, local materials and design should be used in a way that incorporates natural surroundings and saves energy.
Ghotmeh used more than 500,000 bricks made from local dirt for a new Hermes building in France, expected to open early next year.
The bricks also regulate the building’s temperature and reduce energy needs.
The building will produce as much energy as it consumes, by being made energy efficient and using geothermal power.
– ‘Circular thinking’ –
Architects must, early in the project process, “think in a circular way,” Ghotmeh said, choosing reusable organic or natural materials like wood, hemp, linen or stone.
This shouldn’t stymie the design process either, she insists.
“In Canada, we build wooden towers, in Japan too. It’s a material that is quite capable of being used for tall buildings,” added Ghotmeh, who will build a wooden tower in Paris in 2023.
Another key approach is to build lighter, using less material and fewer toxins.
Transforming the concrete jungle / © AFP
And then there’s concrete, the main material in so many modern buildings and perhaps the most challenging to move away from.
“We must drastically reduce the use of concrete”, she said, insisting it should only be used for essential purposes, such as foundations and building in earthquake-prone areas.
Some 14 billion cubic metres of concrete are used every year, according to the Global Cement and Concrete Association.
It emits more CO2 than the aviation industry, largely because of the intense heat required to make it.
Alternatives to concrete already exist, such as stone, or making cement — a component of concrete — from calcium carbonate. There are also pushes for low-carbon cement made from iron and steel industry waste.
– Beirut inspiration –
Building more sustainably often comes with a higher price tag — it costs more to double or triple glaze windows and properly insulate a house — but the long-term payoff is lower energy costs.
For Ghotmeh, it’s an imperative investment in our future.
It was her birthplace of Beirut that inspired her to become an architect, spurring a desire to rebuild the so-called “collapsed city” ravaged by war.
The wall of Ghotmeh’s ‘Stone Garden’ / © AFP/File
In 2020, she completed the “Stone Garden” apartment tower in the city, built with concrete covered with a combed coating, a technique often used by local craftsmen. She used concrete in the construction because of earthquake risks.
The building was strong enough to survive the port explosion in 2020 that destroyed a large part of the city.
And the city continues to inspire her today, even when it comes to climate sustainability.
“Since there is practically only an hour of electricity per day, all the buildings have solar panels now. There is a kind of energy independence which is beginning to take place, by force,” she said.
“Does it take a catastrophe like the one in Lebanon to make this transition?”
A visiting official says that hosting success sets new standards for future mega sporting events. The Qatar World Cup is the first edition of the significant soccer tournament ever held during December, and in the Middle East.
Qatar invested significantly in the mega-event, including revamping its national infrastructure. The sought-after ‘soft power’ implications start slowly but surely to show as the games unfold.
On the other hand, sustainable development requires, per the UN an integrated approach that takes into consideration environmental concerns along with economic development but, above all sustainability in the future. Will all those built-up infrastructures be of some use?
DOHA: Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bosnia and Herzegovina HE Dr Bisera Turkovic said that Qatar did an amazing work to welcome the world during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and succeeded in establishing an incredible and excellent infrastructure, indicating that the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 has set new standards for future sporting mega-events.
In her remarks to Qatar News Agency, Her Excellency pointed out that Qatar’s hosting of such a global event will inspire generations of young people to come to embrace each other and create a more tolerant world.
Her Excellency said: “The whole world was watching the Al Bayt stadium for the opening ceremony. I am happy that I was present as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bosnia and Herzegovina, from the Western Balkans and a European country. The opening was a great global event for the first time to be held in an Arab country. Qatar has emerged into a modern, prosperous state, whose citizens enjoy opportunities and security, thanks to the wise leadership of HH the Amir, following the footsteps of HH the Father Amir.”
HE stressed the need to develop the culture of tolerance and respect, as highlighted during the World Cup opening ceremony, saying: “This is the first World Cup taking place in an Arab country and in a Middle Eastern country. It is a great chance for people to get to know a different culture and to learn about one great religion in the world.”
“The more we know the better chance we have for progress and stability in the world. Qatar offers open hand to all who want to come and witness what the Qatari nation achieved in such a short period of time offering unity of basic values and appreciation for difference with full respect of their own culture and religion,” Her Excellency added.
HE Dr. Bisera Turkovic indicated that previous World Cup hosting countries were not subjected to smear campaigns as Qatar was, saying: “Other countries did not receive such scrutiny when hosting global sporting events, even though those countries had many more things that could be criticized.”
Her Excellency explained that Qatar once again stresses that there is more that can unite people rather than divide them, and as sports are a healthy part of societies, it should remain clear from political influence, struggle to dominate, and imposition of bad habits such as alcohol and drugs.
The Bosnian official expressed her happiness that a Bosnian folklore group was present to take part in the world cup festivities at Katara Cultural Village for this truly global event.
HE Deputy Prime Minister pointed out that there are strong fields of cooperation between Bosnia and the State of Qatar, including political, economic, and cultural cooperation that is based on friendship and fraternity. This has been maintained through the exchange of visits between officials of the two countries at the highest levels and documented by the signing of many agreements and bilateral cooperation protocols. Her Excellency expressed her hope to see economic cooperation expansion during the coming period in all sectors.
Her Excellency added that the government of Bosnia and Herzegovina has been working hard to attract public and private investment from Qatar through having more connectivity between the two countries, enabling direct flights with Qatar Airways, and increasing rights and security for Qataris in ownership of the real estate in Bosnia.
The Middle East seems to be facing the heaviest delays in construction and infrastructure, or so it is held in
There is still much construction left in the gleaming steel and glass building of Qatar’s Doha Corniche (Google Maps street view picture above), which has stood incomplete and abandoned since 2010. The reasons should not be very different from those elaborated on below.
Major construction projects in the Middle East run the highest risk of overruns in costs and delivery, with claims on derailed projects now averaging $154 million per project.
Now in its fifth edition, HKA’s annual CRUX Insight Report sheds light into the state of disputes in the major capital project and infrastructure sector. For its analysis, the global consultancy analysed claims and disputes on 1,600 projects in 100 countries for the period up to July 2022.
The analysis paints a worrying picture for project owners, contractors and other stakeholders. Globally, the combined value of claims stood at $80 billion, while cumulative delays added up to a staggering 840 years.
On average, costs claimed in disputes amounted to $98.7 million per project and more than a third of their capital expenditure (35% of CAPEX). From a time perspective, losses faced are even heavier. Claimed time extensions averaged 16.5 months – equivalent to 69% of the original planned project duration.
“Based on first-hand investigations by our expert consultants around the world, the report puts a number on the huge toll of project overruns on the global economy, our industry and project stakeholders,” said Renny Borhan, CEO of HKA.
According to the report, the Middle East is the world’s most challenging region for realising construction projects, with delays averaging 22.5 months or 83% of schedule duration. The average sum in dispute ($154 million) was more than a third of project expenditure (36% of CAPEX).
In the region, HKA’s experts assessed 380 projects in 12 countries, with the majority of projects in three segments: commercial buildings, onshore oil and gas, and transportation infrastructure.
The prime causes of claims and disputes in the Middle East have been relatively steady for years. Since the first edition of HKA’s CRUX Insight Report, change in scope has topped the list.
“This chief cause is one seen in all regions. Projects are tendered and launched when designs are still immature. Change is inevitable in major construction projects and unless managed, inexorably leads to a wave of claims mounting into disputes,” explained Toby Hunt, a partner at HKA.
Scope change is followed by design information that was either issued late or incomplete, contract interpretation issues, and failure in contract management and/or administration.
Hunt: “Many of the dominant causes of claims and disputes in the region are design-centric and stem from lower levels of maturity in the construction and engineering industry.”
“The high-risk, low-margin contracting model rules in most parts of the Middle East. Risk allocation is skewed by heavily amended standard forms of contract with onerous terms on payments and liability. Often poorly drafted, they tend to include additional bespoke clauses that may have been designed to address problems that arose on previous projects, but conflict with other provisions of the current contract. Claims and disputes over contract interpretation ensue.”
Issues more specific to the region include foreign contractors’ reliance on (poorly) translated versions of Arabic contracts, and a relatively high competition for prestige projects – which results in over-ambitious bids.
Meanwhile, the growing skills deficit (exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic) is putting pressure on delivery, with builders and contractors struggling to recruit skilled employees. However, across the board, deficient workmanship was a far more significant cause of contention in Europe and the Americas than in the Middle East and other regions.
With construction and capital infrastructure activity buoyant in the region as national economies drive their diversification and investment visions, Haroon Niazi, co-leader of HKA in the Middle East, said that lessons being learnt from overruns should be captured and shared among the construction and engineering community across the region.
“Understanding the multiple reasons for distress on capital projects can help project promoters and the construction and engineering industry better mitigate problems on projects, and ultimately help them achieve better project outcomes.”
A smart city uses digitalisation-supported information and communication technology (ICT) in its diverse operational exercises, shares information and provides better governance.: Constructing materially smarter cities on Elkem.
In 2050 close to 70 percent of the world’s population is expected to live in cities and the need for efficient infrastructure will increase. Did you know that the materials used on satellites and space applications play a crucial role in enabling smart and safe cities of the future?
There are different definitions of what a smart city actually is. As a general interpretation, however, consensus seems to align around that the term says something about the degree to which traditional networks and services are made more efficient with use of digital and telecommunication technologies – for the benefit of its inhabitants and businesses
The smart cities put data and digital technology to work to make better decisions and improve the quality of life for example by providing commuters with real-time traffic information, an asthma patient with information on high pollution areas or live usage load in city parks.
This is important, as a study by the World Bank has found that for the first time in history, more than half of the world’s population lives in cities. The study estimates that 70 million new residents will be added to urban areas each year, indicating that more than 68 percent of the world’s population will live in cities by 2050.
Smart cities use Internet of Things (IoT) devices, like sensors, lights, and meters to collect and analyse data. The cities can then use this data to improve infrastructure, public utilities and services, and more.
IoT is the concept of connecting any device to the Internet and to other connected devices (IBM, source).
Cities are also important for value creation and according to the World Bank, 72 percent of competitive cities outperformed their countries in terms of economic growth. In other words, we need the cities and their value creation.
The rapid urbanisation will increase demand for services in urban areas exponentially and put pressure on population centres. In this future scenario, efficient, smart cities can represent a part of the solution.
Elkem has delivered metals and materials for the construction sector for several decades and play a key role in how cities are becoming better, smarter and more efficient.
Elkem’s silicon, ferrosilicon and Microsilica® are materials used to enhance properties and reduce emissions in the production of metals and concrete for the construction sector, and Elkem’s silicones are among other things used as sealants for flexible joints between construction materials, as well as for waterproofing windows, doors and facades.
In addition, silicones also have a wide range of usages within electronics.
“The extreme resistance of our materials, combining thermal and fire resistance as well as chemical stability, make silicones materials outstanding for long-term applications, where you either do not want to or cannot change materials frequently. This is the reason why silicones have become the material of choice in aviation, aerospace and automotive industry”, says Yves Giraud, global business manager in Elkem Silicones.
“For example, if you launch a satellite, you will not be able to change and inspect the materials every three years. The materials must be stable over a 15-year period in a very challenging environment. Another example is 5G antennas, which will become increasingly important as smart infrastructure, where Elkem’s material solutions are vital to protect critical functionalities and to reduce the need for maintenance and inspections for our customers”, says Giraud.
Another example is 5G antennas, which will become increasingly important as smart infrastructure, where Elkem’s material solutions are vital to protect critical functionalities and to reduce the need for maintenance and inspections for our customers”, says Giraud.
With increased demand for new energy solutions and smart applications, the role of cables is also becoming more important. To meet demand, manufacturers are looking for safer, more reliable, sustainable and innovative solutions.
Silicone rubber insulated cables provides both heat and fire resistance, and present high mechanical properties. The materials therefore contribute to protecting our lives in the cities.
Another effect of smarter and more efficient cities is that the need for sensors and intelligence gathering equipment will increase. This is relevant, among other applications, on car windows, which ensure that the lights are switched on when it gets dark, or in buildings, enabling exterior doors and gates to automatically open when approached by people.
“We believe smarter cities are one of several drivers that will increase the need for safe products that lasts. The use of silicones in smart application is a great reusable alternative, and is also of significant sustainability value, generating energy and saving CO2 emissions nine times greater than the impacts of production and recycling”, says Giraud.
Developing nations were justifiably jubilant at the close of COP27 as negotiators from wealthy countries around the world agreed for the first time to establish a dedicated “loss and damage” fund for vulnerable countries harmed by climate change.
It was an important and hard fought acknowledgment of the damage – and of who bears at least some responsibility for the cost.
But the fund might not materialize in the way that developing countries hope.
I study global environmental policy and have been following climate negotiations from their inception at the 1992 Rio Earth Summit. Here’s what’s in the agreement reached at COP27, the United Nations climate talks in Egypt in November 2022, and why it holds much promise but very few commitments.
All decisions at these U.N. climate conferences – always – are promissory notes. And the legacy of climate negotiations is one of promises not kept.
This promise, welcome as it is, is particularly vague and unconvincing, even by U.N. standards.
Essentially, the agreement only begins the process of establishing a fund. The implementable decision is to set up a “transitional committee,” which is tasked with making recommendations for the world to consider at the 2023 climate conference, COP28, in Dubai.
Importantly for wealthy countries, the text avoids terms like “liability” and “compensation.” Those had been red lines for the United States. The most important operational questions were also left to 2023. Three, in particular, are likely to hound the next COP.
1) Who will pay into this new fund?
Developed countries have made it very clear that the fund will be voluntary and should not be restricted only to developed country contributions. Given that the much-trumpeted US$100 billion a year that wealthy nations promised in 2015 to provide for developing nations has not yet materialized, believing that rich countries will be pouring their heart into this new venture seems to be yet another triumph of hope over experience.
2) The fund will be new, but will it be additional?
It is not at all clear if money in the fund will be “new” money or simply aid already committed for other issues and shifted to the fund. In fact, the COP27 language could easily be read as favoring arrangements that “complement and include” existing sources rather than new and additional financing.
3) Who would receive support from the fund?
As climate disasters increase all over the world, we could tragically get into disasters competing with disasters – is my drought more urgent than your flood? – unless explicit principles of climate justice and the polluter pays principle are clearly established.
Acknowledgment that countries whose excessive emissions have been causing climate change have a responsibility to pay for damages imposed on poorer nations has been a perennial demand of developing countries in climate negotiations. In fact, a paragraph on “loss and damage” was also included in the 2015 Paris Agreement signed at COP21.
Seasoned observers left Sharm el-Sheikh wondering how developing countries were able to push the loss and damage agenda so successfully at COP27 when it has been so firmly resisted by large emitter countries like the United States for so long.
The logic of climate justice has always been impeccable: The countries that have contributed most to creating the problem are a near mirror opposite of those who face the most imminent risk of climatic loss and damage. So, what changed?
At least three things made COP27 the perfect time for this issue to ripen.
First, an unrelenting series of climate disasters have erased all doubts that we are now firmly in what I have been calling the “age of adaptation.” Climate impacts are no longer just a threat for tomorrow; they are a reality to be dealt with today.
Second, the devastating floods this summer that inundated a third of my home country of Pakistan provided the world with an immediate and extremely visual sense of what climate impacts can look like, particularly for the most vulnerable people. They affected 33 million people are expected to cost over $16 billion.
The floods, in addition to a spate of other recent climate calamities, provided developing countries – which happened to be represented at COP27 by an energized Pakistan as the chair of the “G-77 plus China,” a coalition of more than 170 developing countries – with the motivation and the authority to push a loss and damage agenda more vigorously than ever before.
Finally, it is possible that COP-fatigue also played a role. Industrialized countries – particularly the U.S. and members of the European Union, which have traditionally blocked discussions of loss and damage – remain distracted by Russia’s war in Ukraine and the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and seemed to show less immediate resistance than in the past.
Importantly, for now, developing countries got what they wanted: a fund for loss and damage. And developed countries were able to avoid what they have always been unwilling to give: any concrete funding commitments or any acknowledgment of responsibility for reparations.
Both can go home and declare victory. But not for long.
Real as the jubilation is for developing countries, it is also tempered. And rightly so.
For developing countries, there is a real danger that this turns out to be another “placebo fund,” to use Oxford University researcher Benito Müller’s term – an agreed-to funding arrangement without any agreed-to funding commitments.
In 2001, for example, developing countries had been delighted when three funds were established: a climate fund to support least developed countries, a Special Climate Change Fund, and an Adaptation Fund. None ever reached the promised scale.
Writing prior to COP15 in Copenhagen in 2009, Müller boldly declared that developing countries would never again “settle for more ‘placebo funds’.” I very much hopes he has not been proven wrong at Sharm el-Sheikh.
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