Architect warns of Oman’s sustainability challenges

Royal Opera House in Oman.

Sustainable and eco-friendly architecture is a fast growing trend but in reality can pose certain problems for countries like Oman.

Richard Cave, architect, WATG, said a number of building industries do not exist in Oman (steelworks, concrete production), or even in the Gulf States, so it becomes necessary to import significant elements of most building projects.

“This naturally adds cost but also the desire to protect our environment with sustainable architecture by the implementation of a LEED or BREEAM programme is, increasingly, an instruction from an informed client. In reality this currently presents certain problems,” he said.

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The top three challenges, according to Cave, include: 1. Travel distances for imported goods exceed the acceptable distance leading to preferences for locally sourced material which can adversely affect design quality. 2. Many of the criteria in the LEED/BREEAM programme, which are easy to achieve, are not possible in Oman because the basic infrastructure does not yet exist: recycling, public transport network, potential for bicycle use. 3. Evaluation of the cost of reaching a Gold or higher standard without the potential for the easier criteria becomes prohibitive and leads to a reduction in achievable standard, or dropping the requirement for an environmental standard completely.

Other architects, however, think sustainability is catching on. Nasser Al Maqbali, VP-construction, Omran, said any project in Oman has to have an environmental impact assessment study before it is carried out.

Al Maqbali also said all of Omran’s projects are mindful of the sustainability factor. “Our last project was for the Asian Beach Games, where we used as much of local materials as possible, and that is part of our contribution to the nation and sustainability.”

Rohan Thotabaduge, principal architect-Oman, Atkins said materials used during working on the Bank of Muscat was  environmentally friendly. He added Atkins has been educating clients to being sustainable, and has found they are responsive to these new methods of working.

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