After oil ushered in an era of excess, many people in the Middle East stopped building sensible homes adapted to harsh weather conditions. But a group of students from Oman are bridging the distance with a sustainable design with which even the most traditional Arab can identify. Here’s the thing: many homes in the Gulf region in particular have separate quarters for men and women (who aren’t a part of the family), making them rather large. Whether or not westerners agree with this, it’s a fact of life here – so the Higher College of Technology found a brilliant way to satisfy this requirement while slashing the home’s overall footprint by roughly two thirds. Then they added a slew of other sustainable features and a crown of solar panels, resulting in a super villa that is 100 percent powered by the sun and generates three times the energy it needs to run.
Mona Al Farsi, the HCT GreenNest Eco House project manager, told Inhabitat the students wanted to demonstrate that less is more. To that end, they rejected a few of the attributes common in Arab homes, which prioritize privacy above all. Instead of solid walls and curtains that suffocate the interior, they opted for shaded openings wrapped with vegetation and oriented towards the north to optimize natural light and ventilation. Al Farsi said this gives residents a moving framed image when they look outside as the seasons unfold and a greater sense of well-being as their connection to nature is thereby deepened.
The western wall is covered in greenery, creating a colorful habitat for pollinators and other creatures. Elsewhere on the site, which is located on the HCT campus in Muscat as an educational showcase that is now being incorporated into the architecture department’s curriculum, the students installed an insect hotel. They’re also growing food on site, including the citrus for which Oman is notorious. All around the house are shaded recreational areas that extend the living space, a particularly important feature for a people accustomed to entertaining many visitors.
About 60 percent of the home’s water is recycled for irrigation, a sensible conservation strategy further bolstered by low-flow fixtures. These are especially progressive features for homes in such a water scarce region. The rooftop PV array comprises 76 solar panels that feed energy to the city grid. Al Farsi says 50 panels would easily generate enough energy for a family of six.
GreenNest was the winning entry in Oman’s inaugural Eco House Design Competition. The students are required to monitor the home’s performance, in part to help the government transition to more sustainable housing that is also financially feasible. They are measuring temperature, humidity, energy generation and experimenting with different plants and crops as part of this year-long followup study. It’s not easy to find a sustainable home design modern Arabs can embrace (they’re not going to squeeze their families into tiny homes anytime soon). Now, after many years of searching, I think I’ve finally found a winning model.
Engineers behind the sustainable design of the new Agri-Hub Office Park in Pretoria, South Africa, looked to PENETRON crystalline technology for a durable solution. PENETRON products conform to international building standards and are a major force in the trend toward “greener” construction practices.
Situated at the foot of the Brondberg Ridge close to downtown Pretoria, the Agri-Hub Office Park features three multi-floor office blocks surrounding a central basement structure that houses a parking garage for 300 cars. The complex also has a conference center and coffee shop.
Designed by Royal HaskoningDHV, a Dutch engineering firm, Agri-Hub integrates state-of-the-art sustainable building technologies that comply with South Africa’s SABS SANS 204 environmental guidelines for sustainable construction. Highlights throughout the complex include: energy-efficient technology, such as high-performance windows and insulation in the walls and roofs of the main structures; the use of natural building materials; and solar lighting.
“Many new commercial developments in South Africa have made great efforts to comply with stringent ‘green’ guidelines,” notes Jozef Van Beeck, Director of International Marketing & Sales for The PENETRON Group. “It’s part of a growing awareness of the importance of sustainable construction – and the need for highly durable and non-toxic materials – to provide a natural and healthy environment for the tenants.”
With a total of 6,000 m2 (64,583 square feet) of office space aimed primarily at small and medium-sized companies, the Agri-Hub put a premium on durability for all the concrete structures. The contractor, JTSON Construction, specified the PENETRON System for all major concrete elements.
The concrete used in the post-tension parking deck and basement structure was treated with PENETRON ADMIX, which was added during mixing. PENBAR SW-55 waterstop was used to permanently seal all resulting construction joints. PENETRON crystalline topical material and PENECRETE MORTAR were used on the roof slabs of all three office blocks, the guardhouse and the guesthouse to provide waterproofing and concrete durability.
“Because PENETRON products are non-toxic and free of volatile organic compounds (VOC), extremely durable, and easy-to-use, our crystalline technology is increasingly part of sustainable construction efforts across the globe,” adds Mr. Van Beeck. “By substantially extending the life of concrete structures – and avoiding costly repairs – PENENTRON makes a tangible contribution to sustainable construction projects.”
The PENETRON Group is a leading manufacturer of specialty construction products for concrete waterproofing, concrete repairs and floor preparation systems. The Group operates through a global network, offering support to the design and construction community through its regional offices, representatives and distribution channels.
This design is rooted in the Genius Loci of its locality in New Zealand, overlaying Maori cultural concepts of creation and birth with sound passive design principles. This inspired the womb-like earth banked form, symbolising ‘Whenua’ (meaning both earth and placenta in Maori), and generated the outstanding environmental achievements of the building.
In 2014, the design received a 6 Greenstar Rating (highest possible) from the New Zealand Green Building Council making it one of only three buildings in NZ to receive this accolade, and is the only Greenstar rated early childhood centre in the whole of Australasia. It also won an Innovation Award from the NZ Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority and an Excellence Award in Sustainable Design from the NZ Property Council for its dramatic 69% reduction in energy usage and C02 emissions compared to a standard building. All of this is achieved passively without resorting to simply adding PV’s to generate electricity.
- BIM/IES and other environmental software used to test initial concept designs
- Passive design oriented to maximise solar gain in winter, eliminate mechanical cooling in summer by exposed thermal mass and PAHS design
- Classrooms fully daylit requiring zero energy in daytime
- Over 80% of steel was recycled steel
- 20% of concrete aggregate and 20% cement replaced by fly-ash waste product
- Over 70% of construction waste recycled
- All internal materials were responsibly sourced, featuring eco-label certification and low or zero VOC/formaldehyde
- IEQ very high – natural ventilation 2.5-6x building code min and low/zero VOC’s
- Buildings environmental features incorporated into childrens curriculum as teaching aids. Building user guide produced for owner, staff and children
- Travel schemes implemented resulting in 56% reduction in private car usage
- Portable water usage reduced to around 80% of standard building type
- Significant increase in biodiversity due to green roof and native planting