With urban sprawl reshaping the capital’s skyline, more and more property developers and buyers are looking to go green.
by Ahmed Mansour
Egypt’s skyline has undergone a dramatic transformation as satellite cities grow and expand offering highly sought-after alternatives to the crowded and increasingly polluted capital. With investor interest on the rise – and a spike in demand for suburban properties – that transformation is set to continue with real estate developments in existing suburbs and in newly-announced locales driving exciting growth in the real estate sector.
Along with the boom in property development comes a growing demand for more sustainable living spaces, following the global trend of green building when it comes to designing and building new properties. The concept is still fairly new in Egypt, but it is quickly catching on as contractors realize it actually offers a cheaper option.
The recent Design, Build, Breathe (DDB) conference in Zamalek aimed to raise awareness of sustainable construction practices and promote the concept that green buildings are cheap, rewarding, and essential. Dubbed the First Integrated Annual Conference on Eco Building Solutions, it was powered by Schaduf, the nation’s leading enterprise providing urban green solutions like green walls, roof gardens and other eco-products.
Green building is the practice of increasing the efficiency of buildings and their use of energy, water, and materials, and reducing building impacts on human health and the environment. The concept is applied in many low-income countries around the world, allowing residents to make money by either using the products they grow on their premises or by selling them.
“What we are aiming for is to spread the idea across the country and make people realize that caring for the environment when it comes to building is not a luxury, but it is essential,” says Sherif Hosny, CEO of Schaduf Egypt. “We have experts from all over the world to share their experiences regarding how to build green buildings at the least cost. Our main aim is to raise awareness and spread our ideas not only in Egypt but across the globe.”
Schaduf aims to empower and sustain Cairo’s low-income communities through rooftop farming, effectively providing inspired urban green solutions that elevate the quality of life through social and environmental change. “We do so by crafting sustainable spaces that adapt to diverse communities’ needs. Our state-of-the-art products include rooftop farms, roof gardens and vertical wall gardens, as well as a multitude of eco products and solutions,” Schaduf says.
And Schaduf’s efforts have started to pay off, with more and more people starting rooftop farms or gardens on their balconies. “I’ve been applying the green building initiative on the roof of my villa for the past four years, and it’s quite rewarding,” says Shadia Hagez, who lives in Sheikh Zayed. “In addition to the fact that I have my own personal supply of cucumbers and carrots, this way I tend to avoid all the health hazards that come with buying them from people that use poisonous chemicals. My green rooftop helps me save money and cleans up the air – and I do believe that it’s very important.”
In Sheikh Zayed, specifically in the Third District, various government bodies, among them the Ministry of Environment, are promoting green buildings in an attempt to limit energy consumption. They are using solar energy as the main source of electricity, putting in green rooftops on government-owned buildings and making sure that everyone can benefit by selling the food they produce. To encourage residents, the ministry is working to lower taxes on green buildings. More and more people are beginning to adopt the DBB strategy in their buildings, especially in downtown Cairo and 6th of October.
“The Ministry of Environment has always been interested in green and sustainable buildings, and we have been working really hard to convert most of Cairo into green areas,” says Sherif Abdul-Rahim, general manager of technology at the Ministry of Environment. “We started applying it in Sheikh Zayed in 6th of October City by using solar energy and swapping normal lightbulbs with energy-saving lightbulbs,” he adds, noting that the initiative also tackles the issue of recycling to save resources and money.
Headlining the recent DDB conference — which was held under the sponsorship of Environment Minister Khaled Fahmy with the participation of the Scientific Research Academy — was architect Stefano Boeri, the mastermind behind the Milan Vertical Forest green towers. The former editor in chief of international architecture and design magazines Abitare and Domus spoke about the experience of Milan, Italy in green buildings. A vertical forest essentially entails tall residential, sustainable buildings that have a mixture of large and small trees planted on all balconies in the building, accompanied by thousands of shrubs and floral plants. The idea here is that such greenery in the heart of cities will help absorb dust in the air and de-pollute the environment.
Hosny also discussed the worldwide trend toward green buildings and the future of sustainable building in Egypt with local pioneers in sustainable buildings. The event also hosted global, regional and local leaders in sustainable buildings.
On the agenda were the latest environmental and developmental solutions in the field of sustainable buildings such as solar energy, turning rooftops green to cleanse the air, using the crops grown to generate revenue and using leftover building material for the construction of other buildings. Schaduf also brought together government officials, architects, real estate technology providers and academics.
The conference spotlighted the latest technology and research, and steps the government, civil society, and the private sector should follow to improve the quality of living and sustainable building in Egypt and the world, with models from around the world in areas of green buildings and sustainable development.
“Few people realize that recycling actually allows the builder to save money, and also helps save the environment,” says Hosny, giving the example of using construction waste, which is usually costly to get rid off, to construct new buildings. “It’s a win for both sides.”
“We understand that the people will never stop building, and that populations are increasing – what we are offering are the best ways to save money and resources and still have top-of-the-line standard buildings that are giving back to the environment instead of destroying it,” says Hosny.
“We’re going to be visiting all the universities and teaching students about the easiest and most effective way to turn a building into a green one, and how to build one from scratch,” Hosny says. “We will also make sure that we host a lot of conferences around the country with experts from all over the world. We are in desperate need of the energy that most of the people are wasting, and I believe it’s about time to start applying this idea.”