Liwa date farms benefit from some of the freshest ground water in the UAE. Copyrights: Google
Those who visit the Middle East and North Africa from more temperate climates are often struck with how hot and dry the region is, and how scarce its rainfall. Some wonder why cities became established here, and how they continue to exist despite the lack of renewable freshwater.
These concerns are not entirely groundless. Yet these cities’ existence is not in any way miraculous: it’s merely an example of what can happen if cities fail to strike a sustainable balance between growth and limited resources.
Continue reading How Sustainable is Your Oasis?: A Review of Water Resources in Middle East Cities
Guy El Khoury
From Electricity Concessions to National Grid
1885 is generally considered as the birth year of the electricity network in Lebanon. It is the year where the first concession for a network of gas lighting was established in Beirut when the city was still under Ottoman rule. Over the following decades, the development of the electricity infrastructure across the country was carried out by similar independent regional concessions.
Although the electricity network progressively expanded to cover major cities of the country, this scheme of infrastructure development failed to benefit all citizens and regions equally. Industrial development for example was only concentrated in areas where concessions provided reliable supply (Beirut suburbs and Chekka in the North).
It is only in the early 1960s that the improvement of access to electricity became a government priority. In fact, electrification was a key pillar of nation-building efforts spearheaded by president Fouad Chehab (1958 – 1964), who saw extending the electricity network to the entire Lebanese territory and unifying tariff schemes across the country as a guarantee for reliable and equal access to electricity for all citizens.
Continue reading The Power Sector in Lebanon
The notions of sustainable design and energy efficiency first entered global consciousness following the energy shortages of the 1970s and 1980s. Influenced by ideas of energy independence, many designers in Europe and North America sought ideas and strategies that could help create energy-efficient buildings and cities. As they searched for design solutions, some researched the environmentally responsive elements of traditional architecture, while others developed new solutions that employ modern technologies and high performance materials.
As the energy crisis subsided, the building industry in North America returned to business as usual, allowing its European counterpart – which emphasized technological solutions – to take a lead. But with the revival of global interest in sustainability – this time driven by both environmental and energy concerns – the dormant dialogue between the two approaches to sustainable design returned to play a role in shaping the global sustainability agenda. Oscillating between advocates of passive design and proponents of technological solutions, this dialogue continues to enrich the discourse on the future of sustainable design and development
National Commercial Bank in Jeddah (left). consists of a triangular 27-storey office tower juxtaposed with a six-storey, 400-car circular garage. The verticality of the bank tower is interrupted by three triangular courtyards ‘chiseled’ into the building's facade. The office windows are oriented towards these courtyards with an inward orientation typical of Islamic traditional design. This provides the interiors with daylight but prevents them from overheating. Copyrights: Wolgfang Hoyt/Esto. Shaded pathways within Masdar Institute for Science and Technology (right) Copyrights: Nigel Young
Continue reading A Review of Sustainable Design in the Middle East
In 2009, the American University in Beirut’s new student center was recognized as one of the American Institute of Architects’ Top Ten Green Buildings, the most prestigious profesional award for sustainability in the United States and one that is rarely awarded to international projects in the Middle East. The new student center is situated within the 73-acre campus of the American University in Beirut (AUB) and is named after Charles Hostler, the former US Ambassador and an AUB Alum. The student center is sited at the foot of a steep hill overlooking the Mediterranean sea and extends down to the Beirut Corniche, the capital’s grand waterfront boulevard (Image 1). The $30 million project was designed by the Minneapolis based VJAA together with the Lebanon based Samir Khairallah & Partners. The Stuttgart based Transsolar and the San Francisco based Hargreaves were part of the design team as environmental consultants, and Landscape designers, respectively.
Image 1. View of Charles Hostler Student Center as seen from the Hill above. Copyrights: Paul Crosby
Continue reading The American University in Beirut Combines Innovation and Traditional design