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News Highlights of the Week: February 16 – February 22, 2008

February 22, 2008

By James Murdock

An engineering firm based in the U.K. says it is designing a tower that will rise nearly twice as high as the Burj Dubai, The Architects’ Journal reported on February 20. Speaking at a construction conference in the Middle East, sponsored by the Journal’s sister publication MEED, a representative of Hyder Consulting said that his firm is working on a structure some 1,200 meters (3,937 feet) tall. “Andy Davids, Hyder Consulting’s director of structures, confirmed that the tower would be located in the Middle East region, but would not give any further details,” MEED wrote on February 14. Hyder is one of many consultants on the Burj Dubai, currently the world’s tallest building. The Burj, which is expected to be finished by the end of the year, recently surpassed 598.5 meters (1,964 feet) tall; its final height is rumored to be 818 meters (2,684 feet), according to MEED. If Hyder’s new project comes to fruition, it could get some super-tall cousins. “Other behemoths allegedly in the pipeline—but yet to emerge from the ground—include the Kingdom Holding Company’s proposed 1,600-meter-high skyscraper in Saudi Arabia’s Jeddah, dubbed the Mile High Tower,” the Journal wrote. (Its height would be just under the one-mile mark.)

Daniel Libeskind has urged architects to “take a more ethical stance” and reject working for “totalitarian regimes” such as China, Building Design reported on February 15. He made the comment earlier this month in Belfast, Northern Ireland, during ceremonies to mark the start of The University of Ulster Real Estate Initiative. “I love Chinese history, I’m a huge fan of Chinese literature and art,” Libeskind is quoted as saying, “but it bothers me when an architect has carte blanche with a site. ...We don’t know if is there a public process—who owns this place, this home, this land?” As BD noted, Libeskind’s remarks came amid efforts by other prominent figures to distance themselves from China. Britain’s Prince Charles has announced he will not attend the Summer Olympics out of protest for China’s treatment of Tibet, and Steven Speilberg has resigned as the Games’ artistic advisor. BD canvassed several leading British architects, including Will Alsop and Terry Farrell, for their own thoughts on working for totalitarian regimes. Although it didn’t quote Zaha Hadid, perhaps Britain’s most famous designer, BD noted that she “has designed a centre to honour a dictator in Azerbaijan, opening a wider ethical debate on working in countries with poor human rights records.”


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Two large developers in England are warning that the British government’s plan to make all new housing carbon-neutral by the year 2016 will fail, the U.K.’s Guardian newspaper reported on February 20. Unveiled in December, as the BBC reported at the time, the plan calls for increasing building regulation, publishing a “Code for Sustainable Homes,” which would include a green star rating for properties,” and the creation of “a draft Planning Policy Statement on climate change that will take into account carbon emissions.” Houses account for 27 percent of the U.K.’s CO2 emissions, the BBC reported, and the government is seeking a 60 percent reduction in its total CO2 emissions by the year 2050—a goal that will be aided by reducing carbon emissions from new housing to zero by 2016, through the use of more efficient construction processes and energy technologies. But a report issued this week, based on the experience of developers Redrow Homes and Bryant Homes at the housing project Stamford Brook, which aims to reduce CO2 emissions by just 25 percent, warns that the government will face a number of hurdles including the need for more skilled laborers familiar with green building techniques and increasing the supply of sustainable and eco-sensitive materials. In one example at Stamford Brook, the Guardian wrote, “paint with lower than usual carbon-based chemical compounds took so long to dry that mechanical driers had to be brought in. They also did not provide the high-gloss finish expected by potential buyers.” The National Trust, a preservation group that also contributed to the report, added “it is simply naive to expect all developers across the industry to deliver higher standards when there is virtually no enforcement. ... There is a serious risk that all the investment made by our development partners in Stamford Brook will be undermined when they attempt to replicate these standards on other schemes.”

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