In the third series of “Faculty at the Forefront,” held at The American University in Cairo (AUC), titled “AUC’s Sustainability Projects: How Can They be Applied on a Wider Scale?” Khaled Tarabieh, assistant professor of sustainable design, Department of Architecture, discussed AUC’s sustainability projects in a visit to the green roof at AUC’s faculty housing and to the environmental chamber in the Environmental Sciences Lab.In Egypt, where green buildings are rare, AUC has provided a model for the country through its faculty housing, which is currently pursuing certification as the first building in Egypt to pursue the LEED certification from the United States Green Building Council. The building embeds green concepts in its design and structure including solar water heaters that provide 100 percent domestic hot water for the whole building; environmentally friendly, non-CFC cooling refrigerants for air conditioners; a green roof that allows residents to practice rooftop farming; and LED light bulbs, which consume less electricity than regular light bulbs and last up to 10 years.
The green roof at AUC’s faculty housing is part of the LEED Certification Program and the LEED Lab initiative, which are both part of the “Sustainability in Architecture Design” course.
“The faculty housing is an open classroom and educative model for us,” said Tarabieh. “When I teach sustainability and architecture design students, they visit the building, look at what’s there and see how everything has been installed. It’s valuable information for them.”
According to Tarabieh, the faculty housing building serves a dual purpose. “The building provides people who live there with a greener community and healthier environment, and — at the same time — the University saves on energy,” he said. “The goal in constructing a green building is to achieve better performance not just in terms of energy and water efficiency, but to also improve the quality of life and provide more learning opportunities for the AUC community about green living.”
AUC is the fourth university in the world outside the United States to host such a program that trains the students on the hands-on practice of green buildings.
The environmental chamber in the Environmental Sciences Lab is a result of a joint venture research project between AUC and King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) in Saudi Arabia. Tarebeih explained that the current methods of the majority of wall construction assemblies in Egypt result in a substantial thermal bridging between the harsh hot external environment and the internal less ventilated indoor spaces leading to excessive heat loads and thermal discomfort. “Therefore,” he said, “a conscious effort is needed to develop the current architectural specifications and construction methods of the typical wall assembly in a way that improves the overall thermal characteristics of the external walls both for new construction as well as retrofit application.”
The system is composed of two main chambers simulating the indoor and outdoor environments to test wall and window assemblies. The benefits of environmental chamber testing are not limited to evaluating a product’s function and performance, but also to validate fenestration design and research and align it with market applications. “In addition, it provides quality assurance and allows for the development of energy efficient and cost-effective buildings,” said Tarabieh.
AUC is internationally recognized as a green and environmentally responsible University. It is the only higher education institution outside of North America that has been named to The Princeton Review’s 2015 Guide to Green Colleges. For two consecutive years, AUC has ranked in the top third worldwide in the University of Indonesia’s GreenMetric World University Ranking.
“AUC’s initiatives have heavily encouraged ground-up tactics to minimize energy use in the community,” said Tarabieh, who anticipates that this approach, coupled with actively disseminating information on green technologies, can inspire a new approach to sustainability on a large scale. “That’s the beauty of what we do at AUC — developing the know-how and disseminating it. That’s our goal, to be sustainability pioneers.”