Expo 2020: Sustainability Pavilion aims to make a change in people's lives

John Bull, director of Expo 2020's Terra - The Sustainability Pavilion. — Photo by Neeraj Murali
John Bull, director of Expo 2020's Terra - The Sustainability Pavilion. — Photo by Neeraj Murali

Dubai - Terra director John Bull makes a responsible personal choice by turning himself into a vegetarian


Anjana Sankar

Published: Mon 7 Jun 2021, 11:07 PM

Last updated: Thu 24 Jun 2021, 7:37 PM

Solutions to a sustainable future do not always emerge out of science labs or policy decisions by governments. What makes a true difference to planet earth are the conscious life choices that people make.

John Bull, director of Terra – The Sustainability Pavilion, believes that is the legacy and ultimate success Expo 2020 Dubai aims to bring about.

“What we hope to do is open people’s eyes to the impact of their choices and the powers they have within to bring about a change,” said Bull.

Bull has already walked the talk on ‘responsible personal choices’ by becoming a vegetarian.

“One change I have made since I started this project is that I have gone vegetarian. I have cut meat out of my diet,” Bull told Khaleej Times in an exclusive interview.

Elaborating on his work, Bull, who hails from the UK, said, "It has been challenging and exciting. I have been feeling the importance of what we are doing here, and how privileged I am to be contributing to it."

Terra is of the three thematic pavilions at Expo 2020 Dubai. Opportunity and Mobility are the other two pavilions that visitors to the world fair can experience, when Expo 2020 officially opens in October this year.

Terra — designed by the UK-based Grimshaw Architects — is built to be net-zero for both energy and water. It features over 1,000 photovoltaic panels that form a roof canopy and ‘Energy Trees’ act as solar panels tracking the path of the sun.

Sustainability is not only a feature built into the building structure — everything inside the pavilion is also ‘as sustainable as humanely possible’.

“For instance, the café inside Terra won’t be serving beef. Not because beef is inherently a bad thing, but because its footprint on Earth is significant.”

He said the café would not serve ‘intensively farmed’ food items. “We can, instead, sell quinoa or local plants that grow in the desert. We are showing that by making deliberate choices, we can create a better future.”

Sustainability Pavilion at Expo 2020.
Sustainability Pavilion at Expo 2020.

Choices impact Earth

Speaking about how the Terra pavilion can influence people, he said a survey conducted after the pavilion was temporarily opened up in January this year, showed that 90 per cent of people would rethink their choices after visiting the pavilion.

“Around 100,000 people visited Expo 2020. One of the most important things that came out of the premiere is that over 90 per cent of the people who came into Terra told us they are going to change some behaviours as a result of their experience.”

Growing food at home, cutting down on single-use plastic, not taking many trips, thinking about consumption habits — these are some of the changes people wanted to make.

“Isn’t that amazing? If we continue that, when we have millions of visitors here…if we can change 90 per cent of them, what an amazing thing we are doing here,” said Bull.

Certified by LEED – the highest environmental certification – Terra building combines technology and creativity to inspire people to think differently.

The building is designed to be 100 per cent self-sufficient in energy.

One of the core galleries in the building is a ‘laboratory-of-future-values'.

“In that lab, we are going to find many examples of ideas and innovations that will show the power of human ingenuity. We want to show the potential of change if we act together.”

Bull says dialogue is at the heart of the Terra experience, especially at a time when the world is facing a pandemic.

“To me, Expo 2020 is important because it is happening at a critical time… at a pivotal point for the world. We all are thinking about the future, and what we might do differently.”

“The greatest thing is people coming together and the converging of the minds,” said Bull.


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