Aesthetics Trumps Conservation?
If Qatar aims to reduce its carbon footprint by 2030, why do empty offices have their lights on at night? JustHere finds out.
A multitude of skyscrapers on one side and on the other, the sunlight reflects off the Arabian Sea, leaving an inimitable gleam on the surface of its water. There is no doubt why real estate developers would want to capitalize on such a view. Watch the same West Bay area transform dramatically in the evening as the darkness camouflages the waters of the sea while the buildings are awash in a dramatic display of lights, each seemingly competing with the others for the attention of passersby. This is where buildings around Doha get it all wrong.
While Qatar aims to reduce its carbon footprint by 2030, how would dressing up buildings in dazzling displays of light at night help contribute to this vision? “The beauty of a city is evaluated especially by lighting up its buildings at night. In Qatar, these lights serve the same purpose,” says Mohamed Jaber, Head of Electrical Engineering at KEO International Consultants. “However, buildings do not need to be lit up completely or all the time. Most people leave their workplaces by 6 or 7 p.m. in Doha, so lights could be turned off in their absence or else buildings can be partially lit up,” he adds. While this is a reasonable suggestion that may go a long way in reducing Qatar’s carbon footprint, many buildings continue to leave their lighting on, both indoor and façade, even late into the night.
Two such prominent buildings, which punctuate Doha’s West Bay skyline, are the Burj Qatar (Doha Tower) and the Tornado Tower, both primarily commercial buildings. Glass is not an ideal building material in countries with hot climate as it traps heat within the building and results in maximised consumption of energy. The Tornado Tower is an ideal example of this. This building’s façade, like most others in West Bay, is composed almost entirely of glass. According to Bob Stow, the MEP Manager of Tornado Tower, the building wasn’t particularly designed with any efficiency standards in mind. “We use double-glazed glass all over our building which does not allow as much heat to be trapped within the building. We have installed movement sensors wherever possible so that lights are not left on in the absence of people. However, tenants on each floor have the option of controlling the temperature and lighting in their space, so we are not responsible for all the energy consumption in the building. Moreover, we don’t really have any reason or incentive to introduce any changes to the amount of power we consume as a building nor are we really accountable to anyone,” he says.
While Burj Qatar’s façade with intricate Mashrabiya patterns certainly makes it stand out from its neighbours, it also protects the building and its occupants from the harsh desert sun. This also helps the building minimise its indoor energy consumption especially in terms of air conditioning since not much heat from the sun is captured into the building. “Since the building isn’t yet occupied to capacity, we are not able to indicate how much energy we truly conserve,” commented Jawad Bou Haidar, the Interior Architect of the Burj Qatar.
“The new laws being implemented by the GSAS (Global Sustainability Assessment System) to regulate energy levels in new buildings are an excellent initiative by the Qatari government. Building owners must be motivated by incentives to reduce their energy consumption levels. Many countries have been providing great incentives which encourage their citizens to comply with environmental protection initiatives. Only incentives and a certain awareness of their accountability to society can help bring about any kind of mass changes in attitude towards environmental protection,” added Jaber.