Fatma Al-Alawi


A Case Study of the Environmental Impact of Urban Development versus Historic Building Conservation Projected to a Post-Oil World

Advised by Jonathan Grinham and Holly Samuelson

Following a law passed in 2004 alleviating maximum building height, historic architecture in Kuwait City is under threat of demolition and replacement by high-rise buildings. The impact is twofold: the demolition of historic properties—many of which are the result of the 20th-century modern movement and are a local embodiment of the country’s “Golden Age” following the discovery of oil—and the consequent environmental impact—the loss of buildings that may have already been designed to adapt to climatic conditions by integrating passive design features, and the proactive depletion of embodied carbon stocks amid a local and global need to draw down carbon emissions.

This study looks to comparatively evaluate the individual performance and life cycle assessment of two commercial building developments: 

1. An existing building attributed to the said modern movement, which calls for a lower carbon capital investment.

2. A high-performance high-rise (eligible for LEED Gold certification), which potentially maximizes land use, and thus allows for increased economic productivity, and maintains low/efficient operational energy use per square meter.

The building energy simulations are evaluated on a present climate scenario, as well as carried out into a projected climate change scenario to assess resource use in a post-oil dependent world. The results identify a preliminary framework for policy makers to evaluate the trade-offs between historic designation/building reuse and high-performance urban development.

A black-and-white background photo of urban buildings is overlaid with a color image of an office interior with a person viewing a thermal imaging device aimed at a the window.