Two Trends of Energy and Carbon Emissions in the Arab World

Karim Elgendy

Discussions on the environment in the Arab World have traditionally been limited to the negative impact of region’s fossil fuel exports on climate change. In recents years, a more regional discourse has emerged that also addressed the region’s water scarcity, rapid urbanization, environmental degradation, and the expected impact of global climate change and sea level rise on its most vulnerable regions.

Map showing emissions in countries of the arab world as percentage of global emissions. Copyrights: Carboun

However, such discussions often overlooked the region’s own energy and ecological footprints and the impact of its own energy use on climate change. In the past , such disregard may have been justified by the fact that the region had not yet experienced the kind of economic development and prevalent consumerism that was common in most of the developed world. Such justification was supported by the region’s historically low rate of energy use and carbon emissions. In fact, the Arab world which constitutes 5% of the world’s population, emits just under 5% of global carbon emissions according to World Bank data, and except for Saudi Arabia, no single Arab country is responsible for more than 1% of global emissions. The energy use of an average Arab person is still below the world average and less than half that of an average european.

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The State of Egypt’s Sustainability Agenda

Karim Elgendy

Two weeks ago, The English version of a leading Egyptian daily published an opinion piece on entitled “Our local ‘green’ agenda.” In his article, the author made a number of intriguing arguments that suggest that Egypt has a unique environmental agenda and a set of sustainability priorities that are different from the predominant global ones.  He also suggests that imported ‘green’ concepts fail to take into consideration ingrained conservationist behaviors that already exist in Egypt.

While I agree that each country must develop a local approach to sustainability which responds to its specific socio-economic and environmental needs, I found many of the author’s arguments to lack sufficient context, and was therefore concerned that the article could potentially result in an inaccurate representation of the state of sustainability in Egypt.

Cairo's Old City. Copyrights: Karim Elgendy

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Riyadh Tower Design adapts a Traditional Middle Eastern Shading Strategy

Image 1. A night view of the design showing the shading enevlope and the spiraling forms behind. Copyrights: Perkins+Will

Image 1. A night view of the design showing the shading envelope and the spiraling forms behind. Copyrights: Perkins+Will

In February 2010, the design for Al-Birr Foundation Headquarters in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, has been named as the winner of the 2010 Architectural Review / MIPIM Future Projects Awards under the ‘tall buildings’ category (Image 1). The unbuilt project, designed by Perkins+Will’s New York Office, was commissioned for Al-Birr Foundation, a non-profit organization aimed at alleviating poverty and caring for disadvantaged families and children.

The Design

Of the many features of the design of the 59, 000 sqm tower, perhaps the most interesting is how it was concieved as a sustainable urban tower that responds to the environmental characteristics and the microclimate of the city of Riyadh, which is a challenging climate to address given the extreme solar exposure and the heat conditions of Riyadh.

Faced with these climatic conditions and a deep plot of 1000 x 1200m, the projects’s designers response was to rethink the high rise typology in this context. The design’s most visible response to the climate is the building’s envelope which was designed as a large rectangular frame of brise-soleil enclosing the occupied parts of the building. This shading frame  was designed to respond to both the different amounts of solar radiation received by each elevation as well as the interior spaces behind it. To achieve this  result, a mapped shading mesh was devised to provide varying levels of openness for different locations of the different elevations depending on its solar exposure and its spatial/contextual influences. The result was an envelope that resembles a mesh of varying densities surrounding the building and simultaneously protecting and revealing the activities behind it.

This proposed design solution thus helps the building reduce its solar heat gain while maintaining its views towards the city (FIgure 1). In addition to this shading effect, the mesh-like dynamic treatment of the envelope has also helped animate the building’s expression with the dense and sparse zones of the facade adding a dynamic effect to what otherwise may have become a static pure form.

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The State of Energy Efficiency Policies in Middle East Buildings

Karim Elgendy

Energy use in buildings accounts globally for nearly 40% of global energy consumption and 36% of total energy-related carbon dioxide emissions. These percentages are almost equally split in two halves between the industrialized countries and the rest of the world (Price et al., 2005).

Our buildings use energy in two ways; first, to keep our interior environment comfortable through cooling, ventilation, and heating our spaces; second, to power the appliances that we have come to depend on such as home appliances, lighting systems,computers, and other office equipments.  To reduce this high percentage of energy use and the resultant carbon dioxide emissions, both sources of energy use in buildings must be addressed. The first energy use can be addressed by improving the building envelope’s efficiency in order to reduce the need to condition its spaces (cooling, heating, and ventilating). This method of conserving energy use includes a vast array of passive low energy design strategies that depend on the building’s environment and context. The second energy use can be addressed by improving the efficiency of appliances and equipment used inside buildings including improving the efficiency of lighting and dissemination of improved stoves for cooking in rural areas. Continue reading The State of Energy Efficiency Policies in Middle East Buildings

The Impact of Sea Level Rise on The Arab World

Karim Elgendy

In recent years much of the discussion about the impact of climate change around the world has caused a mix of anxiety and fear about the impacts this may have on human life and the environment. Many detailed studies have shown by using simulation models the impact of sea level rises on coastal cities around the world if sea level were to rise by a certain degree.  These studies showed that generally speaking, it was low lying areas and river deltas that were most vulnerable, especially when these deltas are densely populated.

Figure 1. Relative vulnerability of coastal deltas as shown by the indicative population potentially displaced by current sea-level trends to 2050 (Extreme = > 1 million; High = 1 million to 50,000; Medium = 50,000 to 5,000 (following Ericson et al.,2006). Source Nicholls, R.J., P.P. Wong, V.R. Burkett, J.O. Codignotto, J.E. Hay, R.F. McLean, S. Ragoonaden and C.D. Woodroffe, 2007

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