News / Middle East

UN Constructing Green Schools in Gaza

Self-sufficient buildings will be environmentally sustainable

The UN will build 20 environmentally-friendly schools in Gaza, combining traditional Middle Eastern design principles with modern technology.
The UN will build 20 environmentally-friendly schools in Gaza, combining traditional Middle Eastern design principles with modern technology.

The United Nations relief agency in the Gaza Strip is planning to build 20 “green” schools in the Palestinian territory. The head architect on the project says the self-sufficient buildings will be environmentally sustainable, while providing dignity for refugee students.  

The project's organizers outlined their plans recently in Durban, South Africa.

Overlooked

The Palestinian territories are often left out of the discussion on climate change. According to the International Energy Agency, the territories rank 137th on the list of the world's carbon dioxide emitters - polluting slightly less than Iceland and slightly more than Madagascar.

But, after years of conflict, the area has significant development needs.

High ceilings in the green school are designed to move hot air up and away from the students below.
High ceilings in the green school are designed to move hot air up and away from the students below.

“We have about 240 schools," says Robert Stryk, program support coordinator of UNRWA, the United Nations relief agency working in the Gaza Strip. "These 240 schools, they provide education for about 230,000 children and we have about 40,000 children which are on waiting lists because, basically, we can't care for them.”

To tackle the problem, UNRWA is building the 20 green schools - using low-cost, environmentally-sustainable technology - which will pollute less and conserve more.

Ideal testing ground

The buildings can provide for 800 students each and cost about $2 million.

The architect behind the project, Mario Cucinella, says the difficult living conditions in Gaza make it an ideal testing ground for sustainable projects.

“I think the challenge in Gaza, which is one of the most extreme areas in the world, it's very difficult," he says. "It's like a window on a future disaster. Everybody talks about what will be the future: too many people, an explosion of demographic problems, difficulty to access natural resources, difficult to get energy, difficult to get water, so everything is already in Gaza.”

Trees on the roof of the green school help control temperatures inside. (Courtesy Mario Cucinella Architects)

In a place where 90 percent of the available drinking water is not safe to drink, the schools will catch rainwater which is purified through a system of sand and planted tree roots.

Where summer temperatures reach 40 degrees Celsius, the buildings will sit on what Cucinella calls an “air lake,” which is a bed of gravel that allows the cooler air from the ground to circulate. And the classrooms will be built with high ceilings which let the hot air move up and away.

The broad columns that support the structure are filled with excavated earth, another low-tech device for controlling temperatures.

Combining old with the new

Cucinella says the design combines new technology with basic construction elements that have long been used in the Middle East.

“I like to think the school that we designed is, in one way, a look at the past as a reference - so, how people were able to deal with climate conditions for centuries without any electricity - and a look at the future, because we are able to use some really high-tech, specific technology to run the building better than before,” said Cucinella.

UNRWA says the first school will be completed in the next 12 months, but that more financing and technical expertise are needed to complete the full project.

The green building plans are part of UNRWA's broader reconstruction projects to help rebuild, following the Israeli ground offensive in Gaza that killed some 1,400 Palestinians nearly four years ago.

You May Like

Obama Reaffirms Commitment to Ukraine

Following White House meeting with President Poroshenko, US leader offers additional security assistance to Kyiv, stresses support for diplomatic solution in Ukraine’s conflict with Russia More

Photogallery Global Audience Watches as Scots Go to Polls

People were almost equally divided over a vote for independence, watched closely by Britain's allies, investors and restive regions at home and abroad More

China to Invest $20B in India Amid Border Dispute

Border spat between armies of two countries in Himalayas underlines mutual tensions despite growing commercial ties highlighted by Xi Jinping's high-profile visit More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctionsi
X
September 18, 2014 2:28 AM
A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctions

A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Belgian Researchers Discover Way to Block Cancer Metastasis

Cancer remains one of the deadliest diseases, despite many new methods to combat it. Modern medicine has treatments to prevent the growth of primary tumor cells. But most cancer deaths are caused by metastasis, the stage when primary tumor cells change and move to other parts of the body. A team of Belgian scientists says it has found a way to prevent that process. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Mogadishu's Flood of Foreign Workers Leaves Somalis Out of Work

Unemployment and conflict has forced many young Somalians out of the country in search of a better life. But a newfound stability in the once-lawless nation has created hope — and jobs — which, some say, are too often being filled by foreigners. Abdulaziz Billow reports from Mogadishu.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid