Architects stay unified in tackling climate change

Shawn Baldwin for The New York Times

Designers at the World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi unified on saying 'yes' to fight global climate change, but the fight doesn't have to be ugly or even comfort restricting.

The fight is all about community living, returning to the good old days and the good old cities, which functioned on interaction and interconnection, and in the words of Lord Richard Rogers, "beauty and function combined is one of the great drives of sustainability."

A superhero among urban planners and designers, Lord Rogers is a British architect, who has in his portfolio iconic buildings such as the Pompidou Centre in Paris, the Millennium Dome, the Lloyds Bank in London and the terminal four of Madrid Airport. His message to Abu Dhabi? Build a city that everyone can enjoy. "There is a direct link between social inclusion and a beautiful environment. If you live in a slum, life will be very difficult and it will brutalise you," said Lord Rogers. With population growth expected to reach 80 per cent by 2050, and the threat of climate change, which may lead to death, poverty, migration and wars, future urban planning must be sustainable. One element of sustainability that Lord Rogers emphasised on was public transport. Individual cars are not just big polluters and "infesters" of carbon emissions, but they also slow down the economy, as people get stuck and waste hours in heavy traffic.

"In Mexico City the congestion is bringing the traffic to a standstill and this will happen in Abu Dhabi too if the public transport is not developed," he warned. Gerald Evenden, also an architect and senior partner at Fosters and Partners in UK, could not agree more.

"When cars dominate, people become second," he said.

"Even well designed, electric cars will create congestion."

For Evenden, who is involved in the urban design of Masdar city, the cities of the future look more like the cities of the past. This means that the city must be built, sustainably, for a community, not a bunch of individuals, with easy access to public transport, pedestrian walkways and attractive public spaces.

"When designing sustainable buildings, two big elements must be considered the orientation and the shading of buildings," added Evenden.

For Masdar, he proposed two such types of buildings a high rise structure that absorbs light and disperse it indoors to create evermore pleasant spaces for people, and low buildings, ideal for homes, with lots of shading that keep them cool and reduce energy consumption. For the award-winning architect, author and professor of architectural engineering, Susan Roaf, who has conducted a lot of research and studies in the Middle East, this is not good enough.

Back in the 60s, western travellers coming to the Gulf used to say that the best way to cool off in summer days was to hide in mountain caves and beat the drum to scare off the heat.

Anecdotes apart, Roaf pointed out that back then, people's houses here were built in such a way that it kept them cool enough. "Leed buildings do not save energy, they are just more efficient consumers of air conditioning," she said.

Leed certified buildings are supposed to use resources more efficiently when compared to conventional buildings, but they concentrate primarily on the efficient use of fossil fuels, rather than sustainable alternative energy sources.

1 comment:

  1. Climate change is already happening and represents one of the greatest environmental, social and economic threats facing the planet. Well thanks for this wonderful post! Architects offer a great big help.