Moshe Safdie’s Habitat ’67 designed for Montreal World Fair a model of sustainable living. Image via Wikipedia.
Sustainable building is gaining some speed in the Middle East, but at a pace that is powerless against escalating climate damage. The Gutman Visitation Center’s Living Building in Jerusalem and Qatar’s LEED certified convention center offer good examples of what can and should be done, but we can only hope that influential architects and developers will do more to voluntarily adopt better building standards.
Moshe Safdie, born in Haifa in 1938, immigrated to Canada and graduated from McGill University in 1961. His architectural career commenced with “Habitat ’67,” designed for the Montreal World Fair, and has developed steadily since.
Although based in Canada and the United States, Safdie set up an office in Jerusalem in the 1970s and played an integral role in developing the old city and linking it with the new city. He has since participated with Modi’in, Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum, and the Rabin Memorial Center not to mention a score of other projects worldwide. While within the Middle East Safdie’s impressive architectural design has done much to advance peace and honor history, his recent projects abroad are even more impressive given their commitment to promote climate stability.
The United States Institute of Peace recently reported that construction of one such project, its headquarters on the Northwest corner of the National Mall in Washington D.C., has been completed. According to the website, the building is expected to be fully operational in 2011 and will nurture efforts to “prevent and resolve international conflicts, promote post-conflict stability and development, and increase conflict management capacity, tools, and intellectual capacity.”
Moshe Safdie and Associates won a competitive bid against 50 other architectural firms to build the “peace building.” The President of the US Institute of Peace says “we are certain, however, that Safdie’s experience, reputation, and creativity working with the project in Washington D.C., and around the globe, will serve this project well.”
Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design
In addition to its peaceful motives, the building is LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Certified. This refers to the United States Green Building Council’s voluntary building standard that can be achieved at four different levels: Certified, Silver, Platinum and Gold.
To achieve certified status, the peace building was built on the site of a converted parking lot with a green landscape and shade trees, protects and conserves water, improves energy performance, and will reduce waste and encourage recycling when completed. Though not the most ambitious LEED certification, Safdie’s design takes an important step in the right direction.
Video of Moshe Safdie at TED talk in 2002 (from the archives)
Egypt and the United Arab Emirates both have official Green Building Councils, while other Middle Eastern countries are either emergent or prospective GBC members. Although Israel does not promote LEED, the SI-5281 standard developed in 2005 essentially serves the same purpose.
However, we think that if respected architects like Moshe Safdie insist upon green building materials and methods in the Middle East as well as abroad, lesser known architects and developers will necessarily follow suit.
Read more on green building in the Middle East:
Green Building Takes Off in Turkey
Green housing construction gets underway in Israel, creates jobs in Negev town of Yeruham
Elias Messinas Builds On Green Education From Israel and Practice in Greece