Sustainable Architecture Designs from World Over at Expo 2020

  • March 11, 2019

It cannot be emphasized enough on how much Expo 2020 Dubai is serious about Sustainability – one of the key themes of the event.

As per the Expo 2020 goals, sustainable building materials are a very important aspect of generating solutions at the event. Further, the depletion of natural resources is being kept to a minimum during the construction phase, with a strong emphasis on sustainable building materials and a commitment to retain 80 per cent of permanent construction post Expo.

Where does one start on Sustainability solutions for buildings in Dubai?

The severity of Dubai’s summer has made its people to become highly dependent on air conditioning.

But keeping cool comes at a cost. During the summer months air conditioning is responsible for 60% of peak electricity demand in Dubai, and the UAE government has named it as a factor behind why the Gulf state has one of the highest levels of energy consumption per capita in the world. From citizen-led initiatives to constructing a giant renewable energy plant, there's an ongoing battle to meet and mediate demand.

Before air conditioning was used everywhere, Emiratis were more than capable of staying cool, through local-style architecture which protected people from the harsh climate without the need for electricity.

These traditional building techniques were sidelined as the city moved towards a contemporary vision wrought of concrete, steel and glass. But as Dubai prepares for Expo 2020, national pavilion announcements show a revival of low-tech sustainability is underway.


Designed by Clemens Russ, an architect at Vienna-based Querkraft, the Austrian pavilion at Expo 2020 in Dubai utilizes traditional Gulf building methods that its architects believe could reduce energy consumption by 72%.

The Austrian pavilion at Expo 2020 utilizes a passive, naturally ventilated system inspired by a "barjeel" wind tower - an architectural feature which can trace its roots back 5,000 years according to Shatha Al-Mulla, head of the research and studies unit at the Architectural Heritage and Antiquities Department of Dubai Municipality.

Al-Mulla says a wind tower in Dubai usually has four open sides at the top, with an interior dividing panel facing the wind. "When wind hits the tower, it enters the building through two sides," she explains, and "because it's cooler air than inside, it pushes the hot air (up) through the other two sides." It can mean the difference between 30 degrees outside and feeling 20 degrees inside, she adds.

The Austrian pavilion will be constructed of intersected concrete cones, prefabricated and cut to different heights. Six centimeters of rammed clay with strong heat storage properties will cover the walls, and the cones will have ventilating domes at their apexes allowing in light.

Using Dubai's day-night temperature swing, at night entrances at the base and the apexes will open, allowing cold air to flow between the cones, releasing heat from the walls and floor, and storing cold energy there instead. During the day entrances and apexes will close, locking cool temperatures within.


The Spanish pavilion, designed by Madrid-based amann-canovas-maruri, also takes a conical approach, with 17 tents above a large open-plan exhibition space. "These tents will have the form of solar chimneys," says architect Nicolas Maruri.

Solar chimneys utilize the heat of the sun on the side of a structure, drawing hot air out of the top of a building while allowing cool air in at the bottom - a natural ventilation method has been around for centuries.

"What we first tackled was the idea of reducing energy consumption without using much technology," he adds. Parts of the exhibiting space will be buried up to 4.5 meters (15 feet) underground to reduce heat transmission, and the architects hope to use some recycled materials and wood.


Michiel Raaphorst, founding partner at V8 Architects and part of a consortium behind the Dutch pavilion, says "because the conditions are so harsh you really need to refer back to traditional technologies of natural ventilation and to building mass for heat accumulation."

The Dutch pavilion seeks to harness the power of the sun to create a biotope: a self-contained natural environment.

The pavilion arrives at a time when enterprises in Dubai are trying to boost the emirate's homegrown food supply. Inside the biotope, V8 Architects say they will use solar power to condense moisture out of the air, producing water. A giant cone of vegetables will produce oxygen, while on the dark inside of the cone mushrooms will grow, producing carbon dioxide to feed the vegetables.

"It's always making one inclusive system," says the architect, adding they hope to feed visitors with produce grown in the pavilion.

Large parts of the pavilion will be constructed from rented steel sheet piling (a material used in excavation or earth retainment and, per the architect, in abundant supply in Dubai). Once the Expo ends, it simply returns to the supplier. "For every component we have found an afterlife," he says.

"(The pavilion is) inspired by Dubai, by the harsh conditions, but also a very actual movement," Raaphorst adds. "We use too much from the earth, and we should give back."


It will be interesting to watch the construction projects take off in the next few years in Dubai with sustainability possibly turning into a mandate.

Sustainable City, the ambitious project of Diamond Developers, a $354 million city with driverless cars, greenhouses, and solar-powered villas is expected to be complete by end of 2019.

Until then, residents of Dubai will settle down in well-planned communities in the most convenient locations at their homes, found to be in the affordable range for their liking.

(Source: Global Gateway, CNN Style)