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Letters to the Editor

by ArabianBusiness.com staff writer  on Monday, 23 July 2007

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Glass Facades in Middle East – how great thou art
Posted by ROMI SEBASTIAN, doha, qatar on Saturday 28 August 2010 at 11:07 UAE time
Edited by ArabianBusiness.com

Particularly in the last few decades, Architectural language has given more importance to the ‘transparency’ and ‘lightness’ of building spaces- driving the world towards a flattering glazed built environment.


The question I then pose is this; to what extent fully glazed buildings, in particular the ones that claim to be ‘green’ and ‘sustainable’, are actually concerned about the environment?

Glazed facades were initially possible only due to the development of powerful cooling systems; otherwise these buildings would have been inhabitable, especially in regions such as the Middle East. Forgive me for not elaborating on the enormous amount of energy required to run the air-conditioning to compensate for the added heat loads through glass. A building enveloped with glass acts like a solar cooker. Remember, that the property of glass is to allow in heat (short waves) and not allow reflected heat (long waves) back out. For this very property, Glass has been used in the western world (cold regions) to allow passive solar heating. In this part of the world, where methods of keeping the heat out and preventing its transfer are required, architects instead celebrate with glass.

Architects have freed themselves from any kind of environmental constraint in the design of glazing and consider the engineering body of men to assume responsibility for maintaining the internal conditions desired for habitation. Ferraris are beautiful cars- a perfect balance between beauty and technology, but do not claim to be ecological or environmental friendly while they are sold. The same analogy – some glass facades are outstanding in terms of beauty and innovation, but we need to think twice before calling them environmentally friendly.


I wonder why Glass is considered to be a material that symbolises ‘progress’ in the Middle East whereas traditional and practical materials like mud, clay, limestone are often related to concepts of backwardness and poverty. This impractical dissociation between materials and the environmental context of a region causes a slow degradation of the architectural expression prevalent in the Islamic world. Even the local builders often ignore simple concepts of how they can make their lives more comfortable within a living space. Consider the circumstances of walking out at midday. The first move of ours is to place our hands in a natural but strategic way above our eyes to cut off the direct harsh sunlight and reflected heat from the hard landscape we walk on. Our eye is the only transparent part of our body and the most fragile. We take measures to protect it. Glass in the similar manner, is the most transparent and fragile part of any building. Why don’t we protect it and shade it from the sun in the similar manner?

One can also imagine the amount of water, equipment and manpower required to just clean off all the settled dust on the thousands of square metres of glass and solar panels on all buildings in the Middle East! Nowadays, tenants spend a lot of money on the interior layouts, in order to cut down the harsh light and heat coming in through the huge pans of un-shaded exterior glass.


Some Architects have justified the use of glazing facades for ventilation purposes in the Middle East by their use of colourful sketches showing red and blue arrowed air movements. Unless properly analysed and calculated, these sketched arrows of air movements make no sense at all. Architects assume that laws of physics must obey architecture’s will, i.e, air will force itself magically through glass openings as sketched on paper. Glazing designs for ventilation purposes must be designed only after Stack and Coanda effects of air have been carefully studied and simulated through measured data in a particular built setting. There have been reports of Sick-building syndrome, where occurrences of unexpected buoyancy and reverse air movements have taken place.

I agree that the invention of Glass, after the fire; has been the most important technological innovation in mankind’s history. I would even attest to the fact that the Chinese lagged in scientific finding and advancement just because it was satisfied with its ceramic and clay – glass was not manufactured and found useful by the Chinese till much after the Egyptians and Mesopotamians. It drastically reduced their scientific enquiry; with the absence of microscopes, magnifiers, refractors, beakers, spectacles, tubes, mirrors etc.

Glass is indeed important- but we need to interpret its usage logically and with an understanding of ecological imperatives, especially in the building industry. The requirement for architecture to contribute to the social and environmental sustainability now charges architects with a responsibility that goes beyond a simple design brief. I call upon architects to avoid creating these unwanted Glass monsters, in terms of comfort and energy usage.


Beautiful; but Architects speak with their buildings, not with their words.


ROMI SEBASTIAN
Architect and Environmental Designer
Management approaches of the Arab world- something to learn from?
Posted by ROMI SEBASTIAN, doha, qatar on Saturday 28 August 2010 at 10:18 UAE time

Have people noticed there is a conspicuous neglect in the study of the Arab world on issues such as project and knowledge management?

I consider the Arab world a very interesting case for studying economical growth. Its fuel resources provide power to most of the world and acts as a magnet not merely for highly rewarded expatriates from the west, but also workers from much of the underdeveloped world. This region contains the world poorest and richest countries. So, why is it that approaches in management by Arabs are not given focus even though their economies are prominent and fast growing? Is there a different way of looking at marketing and business in the Arab world?

Efforts to study and develop Arab management techniques are neglected mainly because its economical growth is considered temporary, by the west and other developed nations. There is a notion that a product like crude oil represents an unusual case of temporary prosperity. Somehow, the Arab techniques and traditions of knowledge are considered’ undeveloped’ and not stable enough to be learnt from.

Unlike during the industrial age where the operating styles of the western world made them winners, the information age certainly seems to be demanding otherwise. Unlike the west in the past, the Arab world openly welcomes foreign capital, foreign enterprises and world class expertise that in turn create high-quality jobs. It primarily aims at an integrated, harmonious regional prosperity unlike the western industrial concept of functioning where countries are sensitive to its borders and prefers domestic capital and growth. One also has to remember that the private capital drives this part of the world unlike nation-state governments. Entrepreneurial initiatives are very much encouraged than any direct government initiatives.

Very few Arab clients are ultimately happy with western paradigms of management and business. Often managers from the west are forced to mould themselves away from the standard western guidelines, as they simply fail to function in the Arabic context of accomplishing any kind of business or work. Their capitalistic and individualistic approach of dealing is diminished by the Arabic context of nurturing business through interpersonal relationships and social networking.

One possible barrier to efficient management in this part of the world is due to the fact that knowledge sharing is almost nil. Due to the over-reliance on foreign workforces- professionals are not given long-term contracts leading to job insecurity and in turn lack of willingness to share information and inculcate team-spirit. Foreign professionals of all grades, refrain from knowledge sharing mainly because of feeble training sessions, less rewards for spreading awareness, discrimination in the work place. There exists negativity between Arab and non-Arab workers. Also, the most regular knowledge sharing activities among the elite are one to one discussions, informal gatherings that are based on mere verbal communication. The Arab culture does not prefer a formalized and documented knowledge sharing approach.

Will there come a time where the Arab management approach will precede this multi-national arena of guidelines? I may not be wrong in assuming that the Arab world has always yearned for unity in governance while enjoying the benefits and drawbacks of a common language and religion. Known for their authoritarian, consultative and familial style of management - it will be interesting to see whether other countries evolve a similar approach to management in the future. In fact, current leading textbooks on management have already added another extra dimension to the importance of social networking and relationships to allow business to thrive. After all, management is a social activity.





ROMI SEBASTIAN

Architect

Doha,

Qatar

00974 33299314
Gulg Air giving stranded passengers free air ticket as gesture of goodwill
Posted by Linda Moor, Bahrain on Saturday 29 May 2010 at 07:37 UAE time
Edited by ArabianBusiness.com

Dear Sir
With reference to your article "Gulf Air offers free ticket to stranded passengers" by Andy Sambidge 19 April 2010, I would like to know where, and from whom, he obtained this information of a goodwill gesture. As one of those passengers stranded I have written to Gulf Air only to receive a reply that this is not the case. I sent a copy of your e mail but this was not commented on. I am sure that I am not the only passenger who has queried this.
Missing of Prince in a plane crash.
Posted by Liaquat Khan, Chitral, Pakistan on Sunday 28 March 2010 at 08:54 UAE time


Deeply grieved over the sad missing of Prince. Pray and sympathy to the family.

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