Sharjah is looking ambitious right now, building on the success of cultural institutions like the Museum of Islamic Civilization and the Sharjah Biennial and (perhaps belatedly) developing its tourism appeal.
One of the leaders in this trajectory is Bee’ah, Sharjah’s waste management company; it’s been doing good by encouraging recycling, including recycled materials for art and small-scale manufacturing; it runs the Bee’ah School of Environment (BSOE) with school programmes that have reached over 174,000 children across the emirate; its major projects include massive waste-to-energy plants; and it has commissioned a new sustainable, renewable-energy powered headquarters designed by Zaha Hadid Architects.
Now there’s the news that Foster+Partners is to transform a giant landfill and waste processing site with a new sustainable masterplan for the redevelopment of Bee’ah’s Waste Management Centre.
Located in the Al Saj’ah district of Sharjah, the site is on a plot next to the company’s headquarters; it houses a complex of recovery and recycling facilities that are among the largest in the world, with more due to be added. Much of this has grown on an ad hoc basis, so presumably Foster will be tasked with providing an integrated, planned revamp of the site.
Some of the facilities there are actually due to become redundant when the city reaches its ‘zero waste to landfill’ target by 2020 – Sharjah intends to be the first city in the Middle East to send absolutely no waste to landfill (currently it’s able to divert some 67 percent of waste away from landfill and into recycling, energy production and other resources).
Bee’ah has a vision of a world where clean energy is generated sustainably and utilised both sparingly and efficiently by employing innovative technology, and who could argue with that? The plan for the site demonstrates the commitment of Bee’ah to a circular economy model through which the emirate’s resources are retained by the community via waste diversion, reclamation, and recycling, creating both jobs and materials from which society directly benefits.
Giles Robinson, Senior Partner at Foster + Partners, said the deal was something of a meeting of minds – “we have been deeply impressed by their vision to go far beyond what might be considered the standard transformation of a landfill site”. And there’s likely to be value in the project as a demonstration: “we believe that this vision, as interpreted though our masterplan, represents a wonderful opportunity to demonstrate just what can be achieved at sites like this which feature in every industrialised nation on the planet”.
Khaled Al Huraimel, Group CEO of Bee’ah, put this explicitly: “through strategic partnerships with some of the world’s most innovative, creative and forward-thinking companies such as Foster + Partners we are confident that we can apply this approach elsewhere, bringing sustainable development in new markets and promoting a circular economy in communities that are ready and willing to commit to resource recovery.
“In this way, we will play a substantial role, regionally and globally, in accelerating the pace of change as we move towards a more sustainable future.”
Bee’ah has already established a reputation that it is turning into economic ambition. It’s already consulting for cities and municipalities across the MENA region, and already has a regional office in Saudi Arabia. The new 7,000 sq m headquarters building (above and below) will be a gorgeous, fluid sweeping wave, inspired by the sand dunes (not many of those in the immediate vicinity, as it happens) and designed as a model for sustainability as well as productivity. It is of course fully powered by renewable energy, and it will have educational facilities and exhibition spaces.
The two main ‘dunes’ house the public and management section (entrance lobby, management offices, auditorium, and visitors’ education centre and gallery for more community engagement and outreach) and the administrative section (departmental offices and staff café). The two connect via a central courtyard that forms an ‘oasis’ inside the building, enhancing the natural ventilation and maximising indirect sunlight to the interior spaces.
Construction of the HQ complex began earlier this year and completion is set for the end of 2018. By contrast, the Foster + Partners ‘masterplan’ project is impressively light on detail at the moment and no schedule has been made public.