Foster + Partners in Jordan: What’s Sustainable About a Green Airport?

Queen Alia Airport green airport masdar jordan
Inspired by palm trees, Masdar City architects will expand Queen Alia Airport, to become a “green” airport in Jordan.

A couple of months ago, fellow Green Prophet writer Tafline Layline wrote a blog about the dubious green credentials of Fosters + Partners projects across the Middle East. The architect firm behind ambitious green projects such as Masdar City may be claiming to “design energy efficient, socially responsible buildings” she explained, but they are feeding the ‘bigger, better, more’ mentality which is damaging our planet. Tafline explained that they weren’t challenging our constant urge to grow and consume, and with price tags in the billions were they really sustainable?

Everyone knows that a green building is only as green as those living inside- so unless you change the behaviour of people and they way they treat resources in every aspect of their lives, than what it is the point? And that’s exactly what I was thinking when I heard about Foster + Partners plans for to green (and expand) Jordan’s Queen Alia Airport, which is expected to be completed sometime in 2011.

Putting aside the whole issues of whether there are such things as ‘Green Airports‘, the designs have been put together to allow the airport to “grow without disruption over the next 25 years”. In fact, the new terminal incorporated into the plans allows the airport to accommodate nine million passenger every year- this is three times the number of passengers it currently provides for.

It also hoped that this will eventually go up to twelve million passenger per annum. In sum, the green airport is all about growth and allowing the airport to expand its not so green operation of jetting people across the world on their holidays. So is this all just green-wash to justify unsustainable growth?

jordan green airport

Well, its hard to tell as there are various features which are genuinely environmentally-friendly. Inspired by palm trees, the roof will be covered in photovoltaic panels to generate renewable energy from the sun and conserve water by collecting rainwater and night time condensation. Gaps in the ‘palm leaves’ will encourage natural ventilation to cool the building and the roof will also conserve heat while the courtyards will contain water pools to reflect natural light.

However, this $600 million project, which is relatively cheap compared to Foster + Partners’ other flagship projects, is still very expensive to become a model of sustainable architecture. And it’s an airport. So should we really be hailing projects which expand airport capacity as green or sustainable?

I guess it all comes down to two old questions: If expansion is inevitable, should we be happy that it is occurring within green limits? Or, as many would say, is the green agenda being co-opted to justify unjustifiable growth?

::Foster + Partners website

More on green or unsustainable projects in the Middle East:
What’s Sustainable about Masdar’s Foster+ Partners?
Dubai’s Burj Khalifa will tower in darkness during Earth Hour
Saudi’s National Prawn Company Comes Up With An Ecologically Sound Shrimp Idea
Middle Eastern LG Electronics Design Competition Concludes with Iranian Eco-Friendly Winner, Ali Kajuee

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3 thoughts on “Foster + Partners in Jordan: What’s Sustainable About a Green Airport?”

  1. Grounded says:

    We need to define the problem — are there reliable statistics that tourism is what is driving increased air travel? Can we locate different types of air travel onto a spectrum of unsustainability?

  2. Arwa says:

    No worries Tafline. Hopefully challenging them will help us in the ME thinking more deeply about what sustainability really is, and make sure that we don’t get fooled into okaying airport expansion because they stick on some solar panneling..


  3. Hi Arwa: I’m so glad you picked up this story again. It’s crucial to keep challenging the greenwashers who are really only interested in ensuring the security of their own bottom line.

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