Sept. 4 - Sensitive to criticism over its high carbon dioxide emissions, Qatar has opened its first ultra-low energy villa to show a new commitment to environmental sustainability. The oil-rich emirate hopes the development in capital Doha will pave the way for more sustainable properties to be built in the desert nation. Jim Drury reports.
An oil rich nation where energy is extremely cheap, Qatar historically has had little incentive to curb its use of fossil fuels..but now, it's trying to shed its image as the world's largest per capita carbon dioxide emitter. And in the capital Doha, this is ground zero - Qatar's first ultra-low energy villa. Dr Alex Amato is head of sustainability at the Qatar Green Building Council. SOUNDBITE (English) HEAD OF SUSTAINABILITY AT QATAR GREEN BUILDING COUNCIL AND PROJECT SUPERVISOR, DR ALEX AMATO, SAYING: "The climate in Qatar is an extremely difficult one to deal with. Not only because we have extreme temperatures here, but we also, for part of that hot season, have very hard humidity as well. So, basically it's that this super insulated, super air tight envelope and this application in Qatar is really the concept." Rows of solar panels on the roof power the home, while triple glazing and sun shading devices help mitigate temperature extremes. Inside, low energy lamps and automated light control systems improve energy efficiency. It's been built alongside a conventional villa, and both homes' emissions are being compared over the next six months. Architect Diaa Al Masry admits it will be tough to convince Qataris to pay more money to have a sustainable home built with expensive, imported materials. SOUNDBITE (Arabic) ARCHITECT SPECIALISING IN GREEN BUILDING CERTIFICATION SYSTEMS, DIAA AL MASRY, SAYING: "One of the challenges is that specific materials and systems are unavailable, such as materials that are environmentally friendly or green. But, things are not too bad. The situation is improving over time." Qatar's wealth is largely generated by plentiful oil and gas supplies. But in 2008, according to the World Bank, the country also emitted ten times the world average per capita of carbon dioxide emissions. If the experiment succeeds, Qatar hopes sustainable development will catch on and help the country deflect its environmental critics.