Oman is a small nation bordering Abu Dhabi on the Arabian peninsula; it has a long coastline and one of the largest populations of endangered Loggerhead turtles on earth. It also subsidizes energy and water, essentially arresting any kind of sustainable development. There’s no incentive to conserve something that comes for free – until now.
There’s a new architectural firm in town and they are laying the groundwork for a more responsible future and it starts now with the new GU Tech in Halban. The first German university on the peninsula, the new campus recently scooped Commercial Project of the Year at Oman’s 2013 Construction Week Awards.
Ernst Hoehler and Muhammad Al Salmy are the progressive brains behind Hoehler & Partner LLC in Oman’s capital Muscat. A team of committed architects, planners and engineers, the firm came to being in 2008 largely as a result of winning the award to design the GU Tech Campus.
Although Oman is not really equipped to incorporate renewable energy into the national grid and has focused very little attention on ecological urban planning, the US and German-educated team are deeply concerned about the nation’s future. After all, one day fossil fuel resources will run out, and future generations will be left to deal with it.
It hasn’t always been this way. As Al Salmy explains to The Times of Oman, Omanis were well versed in sustainable design about 600-700 years ago – as evidenced in various villages carefully constructed to make optimum use of prevailing winds and water resources.
GU Tech comprises the best of ancient Islamic design and contemporary materials to deliver an attractive, energy-efficient space with a decent amount of green space.
A state of the art air-conditioning system redirects cool air to an inner courtyard area, which is chilled a further five degrees by a curious system of sails – perhaps inspired by dhows, and grey water is purified and then used to irrigate the vegetation.
The facade resembles a mashrabiya screen which further mitigates solar gain, and energy efficient lighting conserves energy as well.
In all of their projects Al Salmy Hoehler & Partner LLC strives to make buildings “solar-ready” so that when Oman does implement a national grid that can handle renewable energy generation, these projects can simply plug and go without requiring a major retrofit.
“The nine jurors emphasized in particular the pioneering role of the project in the Sultanate in terms of overtopping the usual local standards with a modern, sustainable and state-of-the-art equipment and design,” according to the German Emirati Joint Council for Industry & Commerce (AHK).
“They highlighted as well the exemplary implementation of a modern architecture in a design which conveys successfully between traditional Omani architecture and a modern, clear and functional architecture.”
A fine design indeed. More please.
Images via Hoehler & Partner Facebook Page