A house that drives home a lesson in conservation

Bahrain World Trade Center is the world's first skyscraper that integrates wind turbines as a source of power. (AFP)

In the run up to the 40th World Earth Day this Thursday, National Geographic Abu Dhabi (NGAD) has kicked off a campaign to educate the public on the importance of saving power, water and recycling by creating a life-size "efficient house".

Visitors to the Marina Mall, Abu Dhabi, can walk through the Al Beit Al Mithali (efficient house) and learn how simple lifestyle changes and shifts in daily habits can be beneficial not just to themselves but also to the environment.

"The project will teach people what they can do at home in order to save the Earth by conserving energy, water and recycling. For a country like the UAE, saving water in particular, is very important, so the efficient house will teach them how to do so," Rohit D'Silva, General Manager, NGAD, told Emirates Business.

He said the move was driven by the necessity of expanding awareness programmes beyond traditional means such as radio, television and the internet.

"People should be able to relate to it also as that always drives home the point more strongly," he said.

"Through the efficient house we are telling people that they don't have to give up their present luxuries and lifestyle. They just have to adopt a few good habits that will help save the environment in the end.

"We wanted to emphasise the point that it is a simple thing to do. So when people see an energy-efficient house that uses the same appliances and things they use at home and is still saving water and power, it drives home the point more effectively, because they can relate to it," he added.

The campaign is only running in Abu Dhabi at the moment, but D'Silva hopes to expand it into the other emirates by next year.

He said NGAD chose to launch the conservation campaign in the run up to the World Earth Day as one of the key pillars of the channel is to inspire people to care about the planet and Earth Day allows them to raise awareness about the environment and the planet through their programming and promotional efforts.

NGAD is now in talks with various schools in Abu Dhabi to organise field trips to the efficient house for its students. "Children have very impressionable minds and when they see how easy it is to save the environment by adopting a few good habits at home, they will grow up with that awareness and culture," he said.

Another key highlight of the channel's multimedia campaign is a fun, interactive online initiative that encourages people to 'take a pledge' on one of the efficiency tips promoted by Al Beit Al Mithali.

The user simply selects the efficiency tip they are most likely to implement and then takes a pledge on it on the channel's website, where it is officially recorded. Users can also share their pledge with friends and invite them to take a pledge of their own.

A virtual format of Al Beit Al Mithali is also available online on www.natgeo tv.ae/earthday, where users can access information on how to make their home more energy-efficient.


- The National Geographic Abu Dhabi channel is featuring Earth Day specials all this week. Going green with mega-green technology will be shown every night at 9pm UAE time and repeated at 4pm the next day until Saturday

Designs for a sustainable future

With the joint challenges of a finite supply of fossil fuels and growing concern about the carbon emissions they produce, entire industries, governments, organisations and individuals around the world are looking at ways to reduce the amount of greenhouse gasses pumped into the atmosphere.

Today, environmental sustainability efforts focus on utilising natural resources including the wind and the sun as sources of power, and on creating new fully sustainable developments, with the aim of creating new designs for an environmentally sustainable future.

National Geographic Abu Dhabi turned the spotlight on some of the new buildings and technology advances that may be a new design for the planet's environmentally sustainable future


Sun engine

For decades, solar energy has been the energy of the future. But some say the future is now. Across the globe, teams are racing to build the first major plants of the 21st century, in a race to bring solar energy online.

Las Vegas in Nevada is a city of lights in the darkness of the desert, but lighting the Vegas Strip for one day uses more than four and a half million kilowatts of energy. During the day, as millions of air conditioners kick in to keep the desert heat at bay, this city needs all the energy it can get. Until now, most of the energy required to power Las Vegas has come from traditional energy plants running on coal and gas fuel. But because these resources are finite, expensive and polluting, using energy from an entirely free, completely clean and infinitely renewable source – the sun – is the ideal solution for Las Vegas and other cities around the globe.

At Nevada Solar One, one of the first major commercial solar plants to be built in almost two decades, its only fuel is the rays of the sun. But to qualify for entry onto the Nevada state power grid, the plant must show it can generate a minimum of 18MW of electricity and deliver it onto the grid. To do that, the final section of the plant's centrepiece must be completed – a massive solar field. Covering 141 hectares, it generates enough electricity to power 13,000 homes in cities such as Las Vegas.

Power towers

At the majestic Bahrain World Trade Center, which rises on the shores of the Arabian Gulf, two 50-storey glass "sails" rise up more than 240 metres into the sky.

What makes this building unique is not its height or beauty, but its green technology. This architectural marvel, built in 2008 by the multinational architectural firm Atkins, is powered in part by a revolutionary new means for a building this size – wind.

Bahrain World Trade Center is the world's first skyscraper that integrates wind turbines as a source of power. The three wind turbines, which are located on three stacked bridges between the Trade Center's two towers, are mounted on vertical poles and can turn to face wind from different directions. The towers resemble two tall sails, featuring an elliptical shape, like an airplane wing. The tapering shape of the towers means that they funnel more wind to the lower turbine and less wind to the higher one – making all three rotate at roughly the same speed, and therefore yielding approximately the same amount of power.

These innovative turbines spin as a clean energy source, and create about 1,300-megawatt hours of electricity every year. That is the annual equivalent of approximately two million tonnes of coal or about six million barrels of oil.

And it is not just the wind turbines that add to the building's green credentials. To combat the harsh Arabian sun, double-glazed tinted windows reduce 85 per cent of the heat absorbed into the building; while efficient air conditioning systems slash the cost of cooling the building in the searing heat. Furthermore, high-efficiency fluorescent lighting on each floor further reduces energy consumption.

Overall, the building consumes roughly half the energy of other skyscrapers in the area, sending a clear message about the feasibility of environmental sustainability, especially in a region synonymous with oil.

Ultimate skyscraper

With temperatures rising around the world, one green superstructure may alter the way we build the future.

The One Bryant Park building in New York City, designed by Cook+Fox Architects, is not only one of the tallest buildings in the city, second only to the Empire State Building, but it is one of the most energy efficient skyscrapers in the world – a significant step forward in a city known for its massive energy consumption.

Constructed from more than 22,680 tonnes of steel and over 8,000 panels of crystalline glass, One Bryant Park towers 365 metres above Manhattan's streets and combines a series of unprecedented green features. To begin with, many of the materials used to build the $1 billion (Dh3.67bn) tower were sourced from within an 800km radius of the site, cutting transportation costs and energy use. What's more, the most basic building materials are largely recycled, and all steel is at least 60 per cent recycled.

For ventilation, a state-of-the-art system takes in air, cleans it and circulates it through the tower, before expelling it back out into the city. For the building's water supply, an advanced reclamation system collects all rainwater that falls onto its roofs, storing it in large grey-water tanks. The water is then reused throughout the tower.

Covering the building is a crystalline façade which helps keep the heat out, lowering dependence on air conditioning. In addition, it allows more natural light to enter office spaces, reducing the need for artificial light and electricity. Overall, the building reduces both energy and water consumption by 50 per cent.

Whether it is harnessing the natural power of the wind or the sun, or rethinking the way that modern buildings are designed, green solutions for energy and in architecture have proven to be workable and efficient alternatives to traditional and unsustainable options. As people wake up to the real threats posed to the future of life, green technology may serve as a new design for the environmentally sustainable future.


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