RIBA Journal reports on Sheppard Robson’s newly completed HQ built as the latest addition to the Masdar Research Institute. Jan Carlos Kucharek considers out that this building, which achieves laudable sustainability criteria at no additional cost compared to a normal speculative office building, can be seen as a mid-point in Masdar’s journey to sustainability. Mascar was laid out to a masterplan by Foster and Partners whose previous building, while designed to be sustainable, cost twice the budget (before the economic downturn) and imported many of the highly-engineered building components from elsewhere in the world. Sheppard Robson have achieved a building which met the carbon targets but without needing to import materials from around the globe. In doing so, the architects sought to achieve a cost-effective elegant solution using local manufacturing. As Kucharek points out, the next stage in the journey would be to develop and train local labour to create a construction industry that was truly sustainable. He concludes….
“By my reckoning then, two scenarios for Masdar’s build-out begin to present themselves, both involving additional expenditure. Either the use of unskilled labour is continued and a push made for off-site fabrication to get the requisite quality, or investment is made in the workforce to develop the skills that can be then carried forward into future projects; it’s only this way that, say, Masdar’s eight residential neighbourhoods which are likely to be procured via third party developers, stand any real chance of meeting sustainability demands. Also, given the UAE’s questionable reputation for guest worker treatment, the Estidama Pearl rating’s ‘social’ component – which covers worker rights and accommodation and which Masdar is signed up to – is a real step forward. If this thinking could be combined with a long-term programme of worker training and investment in those building the city, encouraging skills development and transfer across projects, a truly holistic model for Masdar’s construction becomes apparent. If this city is really about ground-up rethinks, Siemens could be the catalyst for a social and sustainable approach for the region that would be nothing short of game changing.”