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Words Alia Fawaz

As we enter a new era of sustainable living, there are more and more attempts being made to reduce our carbon footprint. Scientists have warned us about the negative consequences of climate change, and now we have to think about how sustainability can be cleverly integrated and practiced in all aspects of our lives. One sector that is showing a major shift in this direction is construction. Buildings account for over half of global energy use and are responsible for 20 percent of CO2 emissions worldwide. This is why a sustainable approach in the construction industry is crucial.

Artist’s Impression of the Nanjing Green Towers once completed (2018)

Today architects, engineers, contractors, and building owners around the world are beginning to incorporate green design and construction into their projects. This practice embraces a wide range of elements, the aim of which is to enhance the so-called triple bottom line (TBL): social, environmental, and financial performance. However, the reality is that green construction is still a challenging task to put into practice, and for a number of reasons. One is the concern for extra cost, as green construction is seen as non-profitable for investors. Other reasons are the lack of public awareness and the lack of political support, especially in the developing world.

Green is cost-effective
There is a misconception about green buildings with respect to cost. Research and evidence have shown that green buildings don’t necessarily cost more than conventional ones. This is especially true when environmental strategies are integrated into the entire process from the very beginning. Decisions taken at the beginning can impact the long-term value of a building and its return on investment. Green buildings don’t have to mean costly fully-fledged green roofs (i.e., a garden installed on the rooftops). A simple tweak in a building’s design can save on energy use and take advantage of on-site light and air.

 

The two towers will host 1,100 trees from 23 local species and
2,400 cascading plants and shrubs

Cascading plants bring life to this building’S faÇade

The GCC countries, because of their soaring temperatures, are among the world’s highest consumers of electricity, thanks to air conditioning. They have already started to aggressively implement wall and roof insulation in new buildings, which can reduce energy consumption by up to 30 percent. Insulation can be done for both heat loss and for heat gain, so bills can be saved on both heating and air conditioning. Other cost-saving features include LED lighting, double-glazing windows, solar panels, and rainwater harvesting systems, to name just a few. Rainwater harvesting means collecting rainwater from roofs and then storing it in a tank. The collected water can then be used for other purposes such as toilets and sprinkler systems. More aesthetic and gaining lots of momentum lately are green walls. These are self-sufficient vertical gardens that are attached to a freestanding frame or to the exterior or interior of a building. More and more green walls can be seen in new developments in Lebanon and around the Middle East.

Growing evidence is proving that going green has a host of advantages, both cost-wise and for reducing the carbon footprint. While some green construction technologies cost more upfront, companies reap benefits in the long run. In addition, sustainable construction technologies are constantly being advanced for wide-scale and more affordable distribution, meaning that it is only a matter of time before they will become a conventional practice for buildings and houses.

A Gorgeous façade of greenness at the Quai Branly Museum in Paris, France

A breath of fresh air for China
Some new buildings are so green on the outside that they are even called “Vertical Forest,” as is the case with Nanjing Towers, an upcoming development in the Nanjing Pukou district of China.

Scheduled to be completed in 2018, the Nanjiing Vertical Forest project will consist of two towers hosting a total amount of 1,100 trees from 23 local species and 2,500 cascading plants and shrubs to cover a 6,000-square meter space. It will be a vertical forest that will help to regenerate local biodiversity, which can provide 25 tons of CO2 absorption each year and produce about 60 kilograms of oxygen per day.

Designed by the Milan-based Stefano Boeri Architects, the two towers will stand 656 feet tall and 354 feet tall, respectively. The taller tower will contain offices, a museum, a green architecture school, and a rooftop club, while the shorter tower will house a rooftop pool and a 247-room Hyatt Hotel. No doubt once completed these green towers will be a breath of fresh air for a country known for being the world’s deadliest in terms of outdoor air pollution.

 

A Fine example of green contemporary high-rise living in Sydney, Australia