For the next two weeks the eyes of the world will be on Qatar as it hosts the COP18 United Nations Climate Change Conference. Some 17,000 delegates from 194 nations are descending on its capital, Doha, to discuss ways to improve and enforce global agreements on reducing carbon emissions.
The talks are taking place at Qatar National Convention Centre (QNCC), one of the largest such facilities in the region, which includes an Exhibition Hall that is constructed according to the US Green Building Council’s Gold Certification standard for Leadership and Environment Design (LEED).
The QNCC is a member of Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development, which is determined to place sustainability at the heart of everything it does.
“The idea is if you want your building to be sustainable, there are a lot of credentials for that and criteria you need to follow to indicate that you are environmentally responsible when you are designing and constructing your building,” says Mr Jassim Telefat, Technical Director of Qatar Foundation’s Capital Projects. “All of our developments will play a major role in minimising the carbon effect by using sustainable technologies.”
Founded in 1995, Qatar Foundation’s sprawling campus lies adjacent to the QNCC, and houses nine world-class educational institutions, including branches of Georgetown University, HEC Paris and University College London. Its master plan was designed by renowned Japanese architect Arata Isozaki, and the site is home to a collection of breathtaking buildings, with many others at the planning stage. For Jassim Telefat, who began working on the project a decade ago, it has been quite a journey.
“In the beginning the iconic building was Qatar Academy, which was really the starting point,” he reflects. “And then the idea of creating the master plan came onto the scene, and the area started to expand until it reached almost 15 million square metres.
“I remember the days when I was going alone to the site, pouring the concrete and being heavily involved in the supervision teams for the construction. There was a very small group of people managing the projects, and today we are talking about an army of engineers, more than 300, and there are more than 50 live projects on site. So it’s totally different than that time when we were working on only two buildings, and now we are working on massive construction activities and developments.”
Every one of the buildings now at the planning or development stage is designed with the environment in mind. The 1,200 bed student housing project is nearing completion, and aims to achieve platinum LEED certification. Mr Telefat is justifiably proud of its innovative features.
“The tiles that we have in the students’ rooms have 55 percent glass content of plasma screens that used to be in televisions, and when they don’t function anymore we use the glass in the tiles as recycled content,” he enthuses. “We call this post-consumer use of the materials. We have solar panels in the roof, and we are involving some technologies so we can purify the water that we consume for showers and daily use, to reuse it again for irrigation and for fire protection. These things we pay close attention to, so we can be more sustainable.”
Qatar Foundation’s master plan is a live document that can be adapted to incorporate state-of-the-art advances in sustainable technology. The latest innovations are included at the conceptual stage of each new building and, increasingly, emphasis is placed on ensuring that the site as a whole reflects the Foundation’s environmental ethos, while aiding the nation’s journey towards a knowledge economy.
“We are conducting some very sophisticated studies now to see how we can make an energy management system so that, if we start to integrate solar panels within the campus, we could have a centralised way of managing solar panels. So, for example, if I don’t use the energy generated from one building I can still utilise it in other places. This project is under implementation and will go live next year. Technology is evolving, and we really need to harness it when we are constructing and designing our facilities.”
There are 13 buildings currently under construction which will be registered separately with the US Green Building Council and, if each of them is certified, this will represent the largest collection of platinum LEED certified buildings in the world on a single site. Jassim Telefat is intimately acquainted with the details of each one, yet he maintains that he does not have a favourite.
“Most of our projects are really unique and beautiful,” he says. “I won’t say that one project is better than the other because each one is different. To be honest, every project that I work with is like one of my babies. If you tell me, talk to me about your son or your daughter and who is really the one that you love more, it’s a very difficult question. I can’t tell you who I love more than the other. Everyone really has its unique experience, and everyone is unique in character and unique in behaviour.”
Construction of the first FIFA Qatar World Cup 2022 stadium will soon commence on the Qatar Foundation site, with the Qatar National Library already underway. Each of the new edifices is indeed unique, but they share a similar characteristic through being designed with sustainability in mind.