SHARJAH — Budding architects here have blueprinted an innovative range of eco-friendly mosques their mentor hopes will help conserve water and electricity. It will also lend itself well to the UAE climate.
Thirty-eight students of the School of Architecture at the American University of Sharjah have picked for their concept a virtual site at Masdar City in Abu Dhabi — promoted as the world’s first zero-carbon zero-waste city — and work to the ambition of making it the template for mosques of the future in the UAE.
“A lot of water and electricity is used in mosques as it is free and there is no incentive to use them rationally,” Dr Ahmed Mokhtar, who guided the students, told Khaleej Times. He is Associate Professor of Architecture at the school.
The mosque is designed to use no electricity from the grid: it relies on solar panels, wind towers, geothermal cooling, shading devices, wind turbines and natural ventilation.
The students have analysed the capital’s weather data in working out an appropriate design strategy — one that suits the cool to temperate winter conditions and hot and humid summer conditions in the emirates.
“We decided to focus on mosques because of the number of mosques that are in the UAE, the cultural significance associated with it and the fact that it is pedagogically reasonable to design a green mosque,” Dr Mokhtar said.
“This design will give an opportunity to save more energy,” he added. “It needs to be developed more as it is just an idea. However, it is a concept that can be implemented and I am planning to speak to government officials to implement the design.” Dr Mokhtar teaches Environmental Energies and focuses on ‘green’ buildings.
“The initial design phase was tricky, as it was a new approach to us,” said Najeeb Ghyas, a third-year architecture student. “However, as we progressed through the project and started to put the environmental factors to use, many formal opportunities were created. In the end, each group had an innovative, sustainable design.”
The structure includes large openings that encourage natural ventilation during winter uses the minaret for wind capture. Roofs are oriented to maximise the capture of solar energy by integrated solar collectors that run absorption chillers during summer.
“The project was focused on developing a mosque within the constraints or freedom of green design,” said Daniel Dias, another third-year architecture student. “It was not simply just putting in an environmental control system, but also designing how these systems could be integrated into a mosque. For example, we decided to make the minaret have an opening that faced a direction that allowed for ventilation. Many of these systems had to be integrated functionally and aesthetically, which was a real challenge, and the overall outcome was quite successful.”