The art of designing energy efficiency

The art of designing energy efficiency

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Nareg Oughourlian, managing Director of Commercial at Alpin Limited, with a background in Mechanical Engineering.

Energy efficiency: Rome was not built in a day, or so the saying goes. In November 2021, the UAE pledged to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 and, in doing so, became the first Gulf state to commit to a timeline to decarbonise its economy and fully reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions.

Not that this happened out of the blue; the UAE has been heavily financing clean energy projects such as Masdar, Sustainable City, and the Barakah nuclear plant for over 15 years, inexorably pushing the sustainability envelope in the region and worldwide.

Internationally recognised guidelines require most companies to decarbonise 90-95% of CO2.

The country has always been known for its sky-high ambitions and impressive success rate, of that there is little doubt. However, the net-zero target marks a real turning point in the way things are done in the UAE and, more importantly, sets up a challenging and exciting target. It requires an exact drive for the future, challenged only by the limitations of sustainable development.

The previously held reliance on oil is changing, and the region is shifting towards alternative options. Shifting towards an ecological mindset remains at the core of any decisions that need to be made moving forward. The UAE is proudly leading the way in the region alongside the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Following the pledge to reduce emissions at the 2015 Paris agreement, many countries fell through on the promise to achieve short-term goals, but structurally altering the policies of a nation takes time, and changes are slowly and surely being made across the globe. In the UAE, winning the bid to host the COP28 global climate talks in 2023 further cements the seriousness and gravity of the 2050 target and, amongst other things, the future of green buildings and the built environment in the region.

Energy efficiencies and net-zero goals

Net-zero emissions are essentially focused on maintaining a balance between the greenhouse gases created and the amount that are taken out. In addition to reducing carbon emissions, there is also reliance on carbon offsetting or carbon removal.

Internationally recognised guidelines require most companies to decarbonise 90-95% of all CO2 emissions through internal abatement options to reach net-zero. For the remaining 5-10% of emissions, qualifying neutralisation activities can be used. Those neutralisation activities are not referred to as offsets, but instead include only activities that directly pull carbon out of the atmosphere, which can be done through Direct Air Capture, bioenergy with carbon capture and storage, improved soil and forest management, and land restoration. This is a contrast to the term ‘zero carbon,’ which concentrates on reducing existing carbon emissions to zero.

It is a well-known fact that the construction industry is a leading cause of C02 emissions, with 39% of global CO2 emissions attributed to building and construction. This means that any small changes within the industry can enormously impact the environment and climate change.

So, how can buildings reduce their impact on the environment? The immediate answer to these questions lies within the innovation of Low and net-zero Energy and Carbon Strategies. A net-zero building produces as much energy as it consumes on an annual basis. This energy balance is propped up by maintaining energy efficiency by the effective design of building operations.

 

Turkish construction firm goes carbon-neutral for sustainable future

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Daily Sabah via ANADOLU AGENCY, came up with this assertion that a Turkish construction firm goes carbon-neutral for a sustainable future. Let us see.

The above image is for illustration and is of Daily Sabah.

A project by Dorçe Prefabrik. (AA Photo)

 ISTANBUL JAN 11, 2022: The Turkish construction company Dorçe Prefabrik continues to conduct business based on environmental awareness and fair socioeconomic development by using natural resources for the benefit of present and future generations.

The construction sector is one of the sectors where natural resources are used the most. In addition to high energy consumption, heavy machinery and equipment also use fossil fuels.

For a sustainable world, Dorçe continues to work toward becoming carbon neutral by protecting environmental conditions, using recyclable and renewable materials and minimizing energy consumption and waste generation.

With the United Nations’ global principles and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the EU’s Green Deal carbon-neutral policy, the effect of the circular economy and technological developments via digitalization, the construction industry in developed countries is evolving into steel prefabricated modular structures.

Dorçe embodies the transformation with the “ISO 14064 Carbon Footprint Declaration Certificate.”

On July 14 last year, the EU approved the Carbon Border implementation, which was prepared with the aim of becoming the world’s first carbon-neutral continent in 2050.

Participating last year in the 26th U.N. Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26), which was held as a follow-up to the Paris Climate Agreement and the U.N. Climate Change Framework Agreement, the company once again demonstrated the importance and determination it attaches to this transformation.

The firm considers the concept of sustainability from every angle, continuing its activities with a structure that adopts the U.N. principles and the EU Green Deal targets.

Using Building Information Modeling (BIM) in design, the firm targets reducing its environmental footprint, a zero-waste policy, a fully recyclable production structure, an employee-centered organizational structure, sensitivity to social problems, added value supporting social development in Turkey and other countries where it is active, and developing modular structure projects by benefiting from developing technology, digitalization, and research and development activities.

Sustainable steel structure

The “Workers Accommodation Camps” project, which started as an integrated worker accommodation facility for 4,000 people, was converted into a quarantine hospital by adapting to coronavirus pandemic conditions.

The Umm Slal COVID-19 Quarantine Hospital, which currently has a bed capacity of 4,000, can be increased to an 8,000-bed capacity if needed.

As part of the emergency and preventive measures taken by the Qatari government against the pandemic, the four-story hospital buildings were completed in a short time with the method of recyclable prefabricated light steel structures.

After the 2003 earthquake in Bam, Iran, the company met the emergency accommodation needs of the earthquake victims with prefabricated modular solutions in a very short time.

The modular housing units, which can be dismantled, reinstalled and easily transported, continue to serve as student dormitories throughout Iran.

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Lebanese architect offering an innovative approach to sustainable design

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The Lebanese architect offering an innovative approach to sustainable design is about how Lina Ghotmeh has caught the attention of Dezeen Awards for her building Stone Garden in Beirut. The story is by Lemma Shehadi in The National.

Architect Lina Ghotmeh. Hannah Assouline

For Lebanese architect Lina Ghotmeh, sustainable architecture should come from the ground of the city. “We need architecture that is anchored in its place and climate, not as an object that creates its own environment,” she tells The National. “I’m always relating the building back to traces of the past. I learn about the vernacular architecture and its relationship to the climate, and how to project that into the future”.

Her approach, which she has termed an “archaeology of the future”, has caught the attention of the architectural world, as well as Mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo. Within a month, Ghotmeh, 41, who lives in Paris, won two major architectural prizes. Last week, her Stone Garden building in Beirut was named Architecture Project of the Year at the Dezeen Awards 2021.

The discrete and slender concrete tower with residential flats was designed to fit the urban make-up of the city, while echoing layers of its history. “Stone Garden whispers the memory of Beirut, its history, its ground. It tries to offer an alternative way of constructing at height in a Mediterranean city and in a hot climate,” she says.

A facade of sand-coloured mortar with hand-chiselled lines evokes the eroded surface of Beirut’s prehistoric Pigeon Rocks on the city’s shores. Their immaculate straightness appears at once futuristic and organic. “The facade was combed as we comb the earth before planting, as a body emerging and narrating the city,” says Ghotmeh.

Yet these lines are also a nod to craft and its potential for sustainable construction. “The power of the hand is presented as an act of healing. When we build by hand, we are more aware of the impact that we may have on the environment,” she explains.

Meanwhile, the building’s open terraces and urban gardens mimic the city’s scars from the civil war. “They transform the scars into moments of life,” she says, “Large windows play along the elevation of the envelope, they open to the city and house lush gardens, bringing nature at the heart of residences.”

The Stone Garden is a discrete and slender concrete tower with residential flats and gardens. Photo: Laurian Ghinitoiu / Lina Ghotmeh 

The award’s jury praised the building’s “remarkable freshness and power”. They said: “This project is really poetic − it is talking about memory architecture, which is a hard thing to do in a multi-dwelling project. It is going to give a new platform for a seed of ideas in Lebanon.”

And that’s not all. Since 2016, Ghotmeh has been among the architects involved in Hidalgo’s project Reinventer Paris, which aims to transform the city into the first green capital of its kind. For this, Ghotmeh will be designing a wooden tower that hosts a sustainable feeding programme in the district of Massena.

“Ghotmeh is present in the debate about the future of the city,” says architecture critic Kaye Geipel, who was a jury for the Schelling Architecture Prize 2020, which was awarded to Ghotmeh in November for her contributions to the field of architecture. “[She is] a weighty voice in the large-scale project of Mayor Hidalgo, who wants to make Paris a green capital and exemplary for France and Europe”.

Ghotmeh explains that her design approach stems from her upbringing in Beirut. “The city was like an open archaeology, it was always unveiling itself,” she says, “It made me think about our relationship with our ancestors, and the hidden cities that exist beneath us, but also the question of the ground.”

The unique pointed structure of the Stone Garden. Photo: Iwan Baan / Lina Ghotmeh

“In the past we thought about buildings as independent environments, climatised and full of glass that just sit there and ignore what’s around them,” she explains. “They could consume as much as they want. They don’t wear the traditions of their place. This is not sustainable, or durable or circular”.

When Ghotmeh began designing the Stone Garden in 2010, Beirut was a different place. “There was this beautiful creative community of designers, fashion designers, architects and chefs. It was a fertile and positive moment. The city’s identity had been developing with the works and voices of many artists and activists,” she recalls.

But today, the entire country is plagued by political deadlock and economic crises. Two of Ghotmeh’s projects in Lebanon, which includes a museum in the Bekaa Valley, have been put on hold. “The failed political system has been suppressing the extraordinary spirit of this city,” she says, “I remain hopeful that change will be possible towards a more just society and environment.”

A rendering of Lina Ghotmeh’s Hermes project. Lina Ghotmeh — Architecture

Nonetheless, a string of projects in France can further push her ideas on architecture and sustainability. She is working on a vast workshop building, called Precise Acts, for the luxury brand Hermes. “It is a low carbon, passive building that will be a benchmark in contributing into an ecological transition in France,” she says.

In the same vein, Ghotmeh is developing wooden housing for athletes for the Paris 2024 Olympics. Her designs for the National Dance Centre in the city of Tours will explore the relationship between dance and architecture.READ MORE‘The Anatomy of Sabkhas’ shows the UAE’s salt flats are a cause worth fighting for

Yet her dream building, she says, would be a public space along the Beirut coastline that would serve as a universal playground for all ages.

“It would be a joyful public space. It’s a new typology for a museum in a way, that’s not about the collection, but rather the collection of relationships and community making,” Ghotmeh says. “I’m always excited to develop new typologies. How do you really build a public space that’s not just a piazza or the space between buildings, where people find joy?”

Updated: December 6th 2021

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Challenges Facing the Cement Industry in the MENA Region

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The full version of this article titled ‘Musings on MENA’ could be found in the November issue of World Cement.  It is published by David Bizley, Editor of World Cement and is about all those Challenges facing the Cement Industry in the MENA Region.

Here it is:


Musings on MENA

Ahmad Al-Rousan, Secretary-General of the Arab Union for Cement and Building Materials (AUCBM), provides an overview of the challenges facing the cement industry in the MENA region.

It is a fact that the cement industry of the MENA region has, for the most part, fairly recent origins, with some exceptions being small scale and limited productivity operations in countries such as Egypt, Morocco and Syria.

Since the mid-1970s, the cement industry across the Arab world began to expand as demand for construction and infrastructure in these countries grew. At present, the number of companies and factories in operation has reached 171, with 32 additional cement mills. Design capacity for the region has thus reached 355 million tpy.

In recent years, prior to the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, demand for cement fell in several Arab countries as a result of difficult economic conditions and war; a number of factories were shut down or destroyed, and some projects were suspended or postponed. Currently, Egypt and Saudi Arabia lead the region in terms of factory numbers and production capacity. Cement consumption also declined during 2018 and 2019 in the GCC countries, across North Africa, Jordan, and Lebanon at rates ranging from 1.5% to 17%.

With the global spread of the COVID-19 pandemic at the beginning of 2020, measures such as factory closures and the halting of operations were seen across the world, including the MENA region, which lead to significant declines in both production and demand, with the decrease in demand exceeding 39%.

With a view to ensuring that factories continue to operate at an acceptable rate while maintaining preventive measures, AUCBM has circulated a roadmap that details the health measures to be taken in order to maintain the continuity of production. Many factories managed to endure this epidemic and have resumed their operations. Some countries recorded growth in consumption during the second half of 2020, such as Saudi Arabia, where sales increased by more than 20%.

In addition to the above, the challenges facing the cement industry of the Arab world can, at this stage, be summarised as follows:

  • Some of the measures taken to combat the COVID-19 pandemic still constitute an obstacle to factories, especially those involving reductions in the number of workers on site.
  • The tough economic conditions faced by many Arab countries and the suspension or postponement of numerous planned projects (especially in the GCC countries), though the execution phase of some of these projects has already started this year.
  • Decreased market demand for cement, occurring naturally as a result of the difficult economic conditions and ongoing conflict in the region.
  • Security problems and ongoing conflicts in some countries.
  • Recent expansions of cement factories in some countries created large production surpluses, which were compounded by the fact that some countries already export cement (Algeria and Saudi Arabia, for example).

The increase of cement consumption in the MENA region, primarily requires the existence of construction and infrastructure projects, which the Arab world still needs. It is true that modest consumption growth has been recorded in some countries since mid-2020, but these rates continue to fluctuate due to the absence of constant and continuous projects.

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Sustainable construction must consider the whole business operation

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Imagine a sustainable construction company: what do you picture? Luke Deamer provides an answer such as Sustainable construction must consider the whole business operation . . .

Luke Deamer

Often our first thought is to imagine a construction site. With COP26 now wrapped up, perhaps we think of zero emission piling rigs and construction equipment. Perhaps we picture innovative low carbon cements, or designs that make use of off-site construction. In fact, it can be easy to forget all the other operations of a construction company. Yet other parts of our businesses, such as HR and finance, have a big impact on sustainability. It’s time to start thinking outside of our projects.

There is still a lot of work to be done on site projects. But solely focusing sustainability improvements on site processes limits what we can achieve. Likewise, only focusing on environmental accreditations and innovations means we miss opportunities to improve social and economic sustainability. We need to think bigger. Every business function, from procurement to IT, has a role to play in improving sustainability.

This was the challenge addressed in a research collaboration between Keller and the University of Surrey’s Centre for Environment and Sustainability. Together, they assessed the sustainability of every process carried out across a construction company. This investigation covered everything from annual leave policies to the way piling rigs are washed down in maintenance yards. The results were surprising – it turns out nearly every process has an impact on sustainability.

Some of these impacts are more obvious than others. Take how HR processes impact social sustainability. It is probably no surprise that key processes impact employee education and diversity, equity and inclusion. But HR also has other impacts. For example, by controlling the company car scheme, HR can have a big impact on carbon emissions and air quality. Likewise, through managing subsistence allowances on site, HR have an impact on reducing hunger and improving the health of employees.

We see these same hidden impacts across other functions as well. As it turns out, many are of these impacts are positive. IT use firewalls to help prevent online discrimination and harassment. Procurement help reduce modern slavery in the supply chain through pre-qualifications and audits. Finance help cost out climate risks and opportunities, as well as planning for green capital expenditure. By diving into individual procedures, method statements and policies, we can reveal these additional sustainability impacts.

So, what does this mean for construction companies?

Firstly, we need to look outside our site projects. This means encouraging all functions to investigate and improve their own sustainability impacts. Across environmental, social and economic sustainability, functions are often surprised by what they can impact.

Secondly, once we know about these wider impacts, we need to capture them. Sustainability reporting shouldn’t be restricted to sites and maintenance yards. Likewise, companies shouldn’t stop at carbon or diversity reporting. As important as these metrics are, we impact far more areas of sustainability. There are great things going on already, we just need to make sure we record them.

Thirdly, we need to look at the process level. Too often, we just focus on pushing sustainability from the top-down. There is still a place for corporate targets and metrics, but great sustainability reporting is meaningless unless we know how we can improve those metrics. To make these improvements, we need to look at the individual tasks we all carry out. It’s these individual changes to key procedures, approaches and policies that actually make a difference. No matter what function or role we’re in, we can drive actual change from the bottom-up.

Finally, everyone has a part to play in improving sustainability. We all have a different impact on sustainability, but we can all do something about it. Everyone, from site operatives to the finance team, can improve company sustainability. Sustainability is not someone else’s problem. It’s an opportunity for us all.

Luke Deamer is a doctoral practitioner in sustainability with Keller