Ekaruna - - Cover Story -

Green en­ergy has been on the rise in de­vel­oped coun­tries for more than a decade now. And though it has been gain­ing ground in Le­banon, much ef­fort still needs to be ex­erted to im­prove peo­ple’s aware­ness and at­ti­tudes. The Ekaruna team caught up with some of the actors work­ing for a greener, more eco-friendly Beirut, and asked them about their con­tri­bu­tion to the bet­ter­ment of Le­banon’s car­bon foot­print.

It does not take long for any stranger walk­ing through the streets of Beirut to no­tice the huge amount of build­ings and tow­ers be­ing con­structed in al­most every neigh­bour­hood. Many of these devel­op­ments look fu­tur­is­tic, but some of them - if not enough yet - share an in­ter­est­ing and vi­tal as­pect; they are made to be ‘green’ and eco-friendly.

The 20| 30 tow­ers, de­vel­oped by Jamil Saab & Co in Achrafieh, are un­doubt­edly amongst them. 20| 30 was launched at the be­gin­ning of 2011 says Adel Imad, Project Man­ager at Jamil Saab & Co. “Many green tech­nolo­gies were adopted in these tow­ers, specif­i­cally the curved pho­to­voltaic ar­rays that cover around 1700sqm of the south façade. These so­lar pan­els con­vert sun­light into elec­tric­ity, serv­ing as an eco-power gen­er­a­tor for the build­ing’s com­mon ser­vices. In ad­di­tion, the in­tro­duc­tion of the ‘Net Me­ter­ing’, a new ser­vice from EDL, al­lows us to sell the ex­cess gen­er­ated power to the pub­lic net­work, which is di­rectly translated into a con­sid­er­able re­duc­tion of the build­ing elec­tric­ity charges, as well a re­duc­tion in CO² emis­sion on the city level. This does cer­tainly make the 20| 30 project the first res­i­den­tial build­ing to pro­vide that in Le­banon.” De­vel­op­ing such tech­nol­ogy does not come cheap, but “Jamil Saab & Co aims to be the pioneer in pro­vid­ing new and green tech­nolo­gies for res­i­den­tial build­ings,” says Imad. In that con­text, it is well known that in­tel­li­gent build­ing en­ve­lope is a ma­jor cor­ner­stone in the world of ‘Green Build­ing.’ The 20| 30 project was con­ceived us­ing only the lat­est and smartest en­ve­lope ma­te­rial, and the first el­e­ment of this en­ve­lope is the Zinc shell - an en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly ma­te­rial that is 100 per­cent re­cy­clable, very re­sis­tant to weather in­clement, with a very long life­span and that is main­te­nance free. The un­der­lay of the Zinc cladding sys­tem con­sists of lay­ers of wood, rock wool, and fi­bre nets, thus en­sur­ing a highly ef­fi­cient ther­mal and sound in­su­la­tion.

The sec­ond essen­tial el­e­ment of this in­tel­li­gent build­ing en­ve­lope is the glazed alu­minium sys­tem, the lat­est tech­nol­ogy in this field. It is com­prised of a min­i­mal alu­minium sys­tem, in­clud­ing two ther­mal breaks, fram­ing a low E - a sur­face con­di­tion that emits low lev­els of ra­di­ant ther­mal en­ergy - along with su­perb so­lar fac­tor high-per­for­mance dou­ble-glaz­ing.

The com­bi­na­tion of these two el­e­ments pro­vides high lev­els of per­for­mance through­out the year in terms of both ther­mal in­su­la­tion and so­lar con­trol, thus sav­ing heat en­ergy in the winter and at­ten­u­at­ing the heat trans­fer in sum­mer. Hence, trans­lat­ing in a sig­nif­i­cant re­duc­tion in CO2 emis­sions and cut­ting the oc­cu­pant’s elec­tric­ity bill in half.

“For fur­ther con­tri­bu­tion in re­duc­ing power con­sump­tion, and con­se­quently the car­bon emis­sions, we have in­stalled a Heat re­cov­ery VRV Air con­di­tion­ing sys­tem, al­low­ing for sub­stan­tial en­ergy sav­ings. While the AC unit is run­ning, heat dis­si­pa­tion of the out­door com­pres­sor is be­ing col­lected by the sys­tem, and serves to gen­er­ate hot wa­ter for do­mes­tic use - there­fore elim­i­nat­ing the need for tra­di­tional diesel hot wa­ter boil­ers,” Imad adds.

But, the 20| 30 project is not merely about green tech­nol­ogy. More than 2000 square me­tres of ground floor land­scaped ar­eas in­clude wa­ter fea­tures, green lawn and veg­e­ta­tion em­bod­ies the build­ing, mak­ing it unique in its sur­round­ing.

Speak­ing of green tech­nol­ogy and its var­i­ous ad­van­tages when it comes to ef­fi­ciency, let’s dis­cuss costs. The govern­ment is pro­vid­ing a green loan at a very low-in­ter­est rate for build­ings with green tech­nolo­gies through the Cen­tral Bank, a good in­cen­tive for de­vel­op­ers through­out the coun­try.

Not with­stand­ing that more ac­tion still needs to be taken in view of trans­form­ing the city into a sus­tain­able one, the first and fore­most thing that Le­banon is in dire need of, is the im­ple­men­ta­tion of an ur­ban plan for the en­tire coun­try. “In the mean­time, Jamil Saab & Co will keep de­vel­op­ing projects in line with its new strat­egy, and we can as­sure you that we will make them as green as pos­si­ble, and seek the rat­ing of the US Green Build­ing Coun­cil,” says Imad.

The US Green City Coun­cil spe­cialises in green build­ing ed­u­ca­tion and de­vel­oped a 100 points stan­dard­i­s­a­tion sys­tem to judge the green ra­tio of newly built tow­ers, the LEED (Lead­er­ship in En­ergy and En­vi­ron­men­tal De­sign). These points cover a wide range of ini­tia­tives, from so­lar pan­els, green­ery, rain­wa­ter recycling sys­tems to dou­ble-glaz­ing. If a score of 40 points or higher is achieved, a build­ing is con­sid­ered green. There are three dif­fer­ent lev­els to de­scribe their car­bon emis­sions and over­all eco­logic as­pects, sil­ver, gold and platinum. Of course, in­spec­tions are put in place to prove and cer­tify the grade of each build­ing, and make sure they de­serve the ap­pel­la­tion.

How Green is the Fu­ture of Beirut?

It does not seem that ev­ery­one is con­fi­dent about the fu­ture stand­ing of Beirut as a green city. “Green build­ing in Le­banon was al­most un­heard of when we started in 2009,” ad­mits Nader Nakib, pres­i­dent of ‘G’, an as­so­ci­a­tion that pro­motes sus­tain­able devel­op­ment. ‘G’ is re­spon­si­ble for the de­cree that al­lowed de­vel­op­ers to ben­e­fit from a close-to-0% loan for green tech­nolo­gies. “More peo­ple are turn­ing to green op­tions

Water­front City

each year, try­ing to get the LEED cer­ti­fi­ca­tion for ex­am­ple, but it is mostly lux­u­ri­ous build­ings that are ben­e­fi­ci­at­ing from these tech­nolo­gies since the di­rect cost is too high for the ma­jor­ity of small de­vel­op­ers. It is a shame since on the long run the sav­ings out­weighs the orig­i­nal price, but this con­cerns the in­hab­i­tants of the build­ing, not nec­es­sar­ily the com­pany that de­vel­oped it.” Gil­bert Tegho, CEO of e-Ecoso­lu­tion, a sus­tain­abil­ity-con­sult­ing or­gan­i­sa­tion, adds “Iron­i­cally, to­day, some de­vel­op­ers will choose to ‘go green’ for fi­nan­cial rea­sons rather than en­vi­ron­men­tal ones, which does not mat­ter for the ul­ti­mate out­come. And, even though, green build­ings are still scarce in Beirut. When con­sid­er­ing the coun­try’s eco­nomic and po­lit­i­cal sit­u­a­tion and the ab­sence of laws on the mat­ter, it ap­pears to be go­ing rather well. There are not much green build­ing per say, but you can find many green fea­tures in some of them.”

The ul­ti­mate goal of build­ing green is un­doubt­edly the cre­ation of sus­tain­able cities. But, what does it mean for a city to go green? Ac­cord­ing to Gil­bert Tegho, “it is a very com­plex con­cept with parameters hav­ing to do with ev­ery­thing from ecol­ogy, trans­port, man­age­ment of space, qual­ity of life, health to ed­u­ca­tion. It is all about im­prov­ing life through the hu­man, eco­logic and so­cial as­pects of a city.” No city has achieved that stage yet, but some are on the way. “The Mas­dar City project, in Abu Dhabi, is sup­posed to be en­tirely eco-friendly, but there is still a lot to be done, and giv­ing that much of the tech­nol­ogy needed is re­cent and costly, it needs enor­mous in­vest­ments,” says Nader Nakib. “But you can find projects of sus­tain­able com­mu­ni­ties in Le­banon since it is eas­ier to work on smaller level ar­eas.”

These com­mu­ni­ties, a neigh­bour­hood in Down­town Beirut and Water­front City in Dbayeh have started to de­velop them­selves with that goal in mind. They are work­ing on hav­ing as many com­modi­ties avail­able as pos­si­ble such as schools, nurs­eries, and play­grounds, so as to re­duce the need for transportation, and thus use less en­ergy.

Through­out Beirut, a few projects are un­der­way to ini­ti­ate the trans­for­ma­tion such as the cre­ation of pedes­trian-friendly ar­eas, the up and com­ing hype in bi­cy­cle transportation, the open­ing of Horsh Beirut to the pub­lic, among oth­ers. How­ever, all this is still not enough.

“There are fewer and fewer trees, when plant­ing more trees should be one of the main ob­jec­tives of a sus­tain­able city,” af­firms Nader Nakib. In­deed, more trees mean a smaller car­bon foot­print, and Beirut has very few parks when tak­ing its size into con­sid­er­a­tion. This is why peo­ple like Gil­bert Tegho are push­ing for the sup­port of sus­tain­able com­mu­ni­ties and districts first. “You start with a district like it’s the case in sev­eral places al­ready, and hope­fully the other ones sur­round­ing it will slowly be­gin to im­i­tate it. In this way, you start to tend to­wards an ac­tual sus­tain­able city.”

Slowly but Surely?

Ad­vo­cates and cam­paign­ers of a greener to­mor­row seem to agree that the over­all sit­u­a­tion is im­prov­ing, but slowly. With­out fur­ther im­pli­ca­tion from the govern­ment, it is hard to fore­see an en­tirely green Beirut in the com­ing years, but the evo­lu­tion of eco-friendly tech­nolo­gies and the sen­si­ble ed­u­ca­tion of the pub­lic will surely pro­mote the idea and work at keep­ing it at the fore­front of peo­ple’s minds. “The tech­nol­ogy is get­ting bet­ter, cheaper and more avail­able. They are now work­ing on some win­dows that work in the same way as pho­to­voltaic pan­els. That would mean that every build­ing could pro­duce its elec­tric­ity all year long. Of course we will have to wait un­til they find a way to make these win­dows af­ford­able,” Gil­bert Tegho says. But once this type of win­dow is avail­able at an af­ford­able price, the ways in which tow­ers are built will change, and the life of their in­hab­i­tants will find it­self con­sid­er­ably en­hanced. This is, of course, par­tic­u­larly true in Le­banon, where elec­tric­ity is a huge prob­lem for the ma­jor­ity of the pop­u­la­tion. The rain­wa­ter recycling tech­nol­ogy would also, if im­proved, con­sid­er­ably al­ter peo­ple’s lives. The no­tion of green tech­nolo­gies be­hind build­ings chang­ing our way of life has a bit of a sci­ence fic­tion feel to it, but it is al­ready oc­cur­ring in some parts of Beirut and be­yond. The 20| 30 and other tow­ers, the few ex­per­i­men­ta­tions of sus­tain­able com­mu­ni­ties or districts, and the de­ter­mi­na­tion of peo­ple from NGOs and in devel­op­ment com­pa­nies to make green build­ings the norm are a good sign which one should hold on to. One of the rea­sons for this is that, in the words of e-Ecoso­lu­tion, “true sus­tain­abil­ity re­volves around three key as­pects: eco­nomics (profit), en­vi­ron­ment (planet), and so­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity (peo­ple), known as the triple-bottom-line or the 3Ps.” If one can cre­ate eco-friendly tow­ers, de­velop a sus­tain­able neigh­bour­hood and im­prove the life of the in­hab­i­tants while gen­er­at­ing profit, there is no rea­son to think that it will be a tem­po­rary trend that will be for­got­ten even­tu­ally. The more the pop­u­la­tion gets in the know on these new ways to both save money and en­hance their life­style, the more they will fight to make them nat­u­ral and ac­cepted.

20|30 Tow­ers - Vladimir Djurovic Land­scape De­sign

Water­front City

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