Building 'green' mosques: an emerging MENA trend

Building 'green' mosques: an emerging MENA trend
Building 'green' mosques: an emerging MENA trend

The idea of creating green, environmentally friendly and sustainable mosques in Islamic countries has been gaining ground, as modern governments and private research firms begin determining how to ward off climate catastrophe and reduce greenhouse gas emissions for the future.

In past years, reports were coming out about the first sustainable mosques of their kind: for instance, the Khalifa Al Tajer Mosque building in the UAE, which got a lot of attention in 2013.

Currently, The Guardian is reporting on a Moroccan project to boost sustainability at 600 mosques around the country. The plan is to renovate all of these mosques by March 2019 -- part of a goal to promote clean energy sources in Morocco.

Elements of the renovations include LED lighting, new solar water heaters and other types of solar systems to harness renewable energy.

“We want to raise awareness and mosques are important centers of social life in Morocco,” Jan-Christophe Kuntze, a professional involved in the project, told The Guardian. “They are a place where people exchange views about all kinds of issues including, hopefully, why renewables and energy efficiency might be a good idea.”

With so much of this building going on, a consensus is developing on what goes into a “green mosque.” For example, this article on The Eco-Muslim talks about gardens, solar panels and eco-workshops as “things every green mosque should have.”

Gulf News Journal talked to Sami Khoury, an engineer at Carrier Johnson + CULTURE who has worked on sustainable mosques or, as they're known in the UAE, "masjids." Khoury has experience working for the Al Maabar Development Company, now called Eagle Hills, on managing the design and construction of a Masjid in Aqaba, Jordan designed by Dar Al Omran, a well-known architecture firm in Jordan.

“Some features include solar panels for powering the building in the desert climate, which is very suitable for generating high volume of electricity,” Khoury said. “Applying green roof areas to the buildings and planting it to boost its green design features … another idea is to recycle the run-off water from the ‘ablution ritual’ of washing the hands and feet, and reuse it for watering the plants, as to not have it run off into the sewer systems. In general, this is considered ‘grey water’ that can be used for landscaped surroundings.”

In some cases, he said, international collaborations have boosted results, such as when German architects included vertical elements in minarets of an Eco-Masjid proposed in Abu Dhabi to create wind turbines.

Khoury said the challenges of these projects vary.

“Applying water recycling and solar systems would be manageable; however, creating green roofs and designing wind turbines and integrating them in structures of the Masjid is a more difficult task if we are talking about existing buildings and retrofitting,” Khoury said. “So it is all relative.”