5 September 2013

Zimbabwe: Go for Green Buildings, Architects Urged

Zimbabwean architects should lean towards making greener buildings that are ecologically sound and increase efficiency while at the same time moderating the use of building materials, energy and development space, a top architect says. Renowned architect James McComish of Pearce McComish Tarabuku Architects told a gathering in the capital to mark Skyscrapers Day on September 3 that buildings consume 40 percent of energy produced and green architecture could help reduce the environmental footprint of all buildings.

"Buildings consume 40 percent of the world's energy and we have to do everything we can to try and reduce that," he said.

"Architects must work very closely with engineers to conserve energy, particularly now when the country is experiencing serious power shortages."

His company has an impressive portfolio and designed the Eastgate Mall, Chinhoyi Provincial Hospital, Minerals Marketing Corporation of Zimbabwe building, Harare International School and many other buildings both inside and outside the country using environmentally responsive architecture to reduce energy use.

McComish said his firm used principles of natural heating, cooling and ventilation in the designing of the Eastgate Mall in 1996 in an effort to create a more sustainable form of commercial development.

"We preferred heavier buildings to conserve energy. We want to reduce energy consumption of buildings," he said.

"The Eastgate Mall only uses one-third of energy consumed by other buildings here in Harare. In addition, when the mall was built at a cost of ZW$300 million more than 60 percent of materials were sourced locally."

Skyscraper Day was originated to recognise and appreciate all the skyscrapers in the world. A discussion organised by the US Embassy Public Affairs Section sought to share experiences on green architecture as well as new trends in the design and architectural industry.

Green or sustainable architecture is defined as an approach that is designed to minimise the impact of building effects on the ecology and general environmental system.

Analysts say it involves an extensive array of factors ranging from the resourceful use of materials to careful consideration of function, climate and location.

"Green architecture is the way to go and just like in the case of the Eastgate Mall it can be used to control temperatures within the building without the use of costly air conditioning systems," said McComish.

Since the Kyoto Protocol was signed many countries around the world have concentrated their efforts on debating the value and responsibility of sustainable behaviour rather than reducing carbon emissions.

The Kyoto Protocol is an international agreement linked to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

The major feature of the Kyoto Protocol is that it sets binding targets for 37 industrialised countries and the European Community for reducing greenhouse gas emissions .

Developing countries, too, have also joined efforts to strengthen the global response to climate change by formulating and implementing national action plans.

Overconsumption of non-renewable resources and the accompanying pollution of water, land and the air still remains a major challenge from most countries when it comes to sustainable development.

Sustainable architecture proponents believe the green designs can help minimise environmental impact through designs that emphasise efficiency of heating and cooling systems, alternative energy sources such as solar hot water, appropriate building location, reused or recycled building materials and on-site power generation covering solar technology, ground source heat pumps and wind power.

They also recommend the use of rain water harvesting for gardening and washing, and on-site waste management such as green roofs that filter and control storm water run-off.

Skyscrapers Day was chosen in honour of Louis Sullivan the 'father of skyscrapers' who was born on this day in 1856.

Sullivan also coined the phrase "form follows function" to guide the principles of buildings being designed based on practical needs, rather than on aesthetics.

The tallest skyscraper in the world is the Burj Khalifa in Dubai built in 2010 which is 828 metre and has 163 floors.

The Carlton Centre in Johannesburg, built in 1973 and with a height of 223 metres and 50 floors is the tallest in Africa while the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe tower completed in 1997 with a height of 120 metres and 28 floors is the tallest in Zimbabwe.

In China, work is underway on what will be the next record-breaking 202-storey building. When complete, China's "Sky City" will be 2 755 feet high passing Dubai's Burj Khalifa by just 33 feet.

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