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Wed 7 Nov 2007 04:00 AM

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Challenges ahead

While visiting Cityscape Dubai last month, Chad Oppenheim of US-based Oppenheim Architecture + Design said: "People have survived in the desert for thousands of years without the benefit of the technology we have today. They used ingenuity and worked with the environment instead of against it. Building glass refrigerators in the desert is...a challenge."

Challenges ahead

While visiting Cityscape Dubai last month, Chad Oppenheim of US-based Oppenheim Architecture + Design said: "People have survived in the desert for thousands of years without the benefit of the technology we have today. They used ingenuity and worked with the environment instead of against it. Building glass refrigerators in the desert is...a challenge."

In that one statement, Oppenheim summed up the single most important issue facing the building industry in the Middle East. We've addressed that challenge in MEA's two features this month. The first focuses on the UAE's quick-but-thorough development of an internationally congruent tool to assess building sustainability: LEED Emirates. The second feature, on the other hand, is an analysis of the benefits and detriments of aluminium in architecture.

Reinier de Graaf, partner and head of OMA's new office in Dubai, missed Cityscape due to illness, but he was more than happy to keep his promise to MEA by granting a phone interview after the event. He was keen to address Dubai's iconic architecture and the environmental unfriendliness of ‘greening' the desert.

Regardless of what statistics are cited or how passionate the debate, common sense tells me that in the middle of the desert, rinks for ice-skating, slopes for skiing and green grass for lounging represent energy inefficiency. Regulations for the construction and architecture industries are on the way, but until they're implemented, industries are left to set their own environmental agenda. While steps have been taken, there is more work to be done.

The Crown Estate's Savill Building, which was shortlisted for the 2007 Stirling Prize, is the subject of MEA's first international case study. The building itself is a symbol of sustainability as it was constructed using timber from the surrounding Forest Stewardship Council-managed Windsor forests.

In this issue, we've received exclusive access to information on A-cero's Wave Tower, a mixed-use structure to be built in New Dubai, which incorporates smart water technology. MEA is the first English language publication, anywhere in the world, to profile it.

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