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Green Thumbs Up: Egyptian village goes solar in an innovative way

Located 365 kilometers (227 miles) from Cairo, a visitor will find the Bahariya Oasis, a large depression in the desert sands consisting of a number of villages that flourish amidst the date palms and numerous natural springs.

Bahariya Oasis
الواحات البحرية

Bahariya Oasis
الواحات البحرية
Michael Hoefner

With the coming of a paved road to the oasis almost 40 years ago, came electricity, automobiles, television and the Internet. While agriculture is still an important source of income for many, iron-ore mines close-by provide jobs for many people in the area, and tourism is becoming another source of income for villages in the oasis.

But the modernization of Bahariya oases didn’t stop with the Internet and the exchanging of new ideas and technology. A company that started in Cairo in 2011, called KarmBuild has now grown enough to also have an office in Bahariya oasis.

Solar power allows the buildings to operate without relying on fossil fuels.

Solar power allows the buildings to operate without relying on fossil fuels.

KarmBuild has constructed the Tayabat Workers Village, providing shelter for 350 people, and powered by building-integrated solar panels. According to Inhabitat, KarmBuild says it is “the only company in Egypt to integrate solar technology into a building’s design”, using locally available natural materials to lessen the environmental footprint.

KarmBuild’s principal architect Karim Kafrawi says that for many people, solar panels are considered unattractive and seemingly “not practical in architecture integration.” But after seeing what has been done in the worker’s village, the company will be causing many of those people to change their minds.

The rooftop solar panels also act as  thermal roof protection.

The rooftop solar panels also act as “thermal roof protection.”

KarmBuild set out to make use of the plentiful sunshine, yet do so in such a way as to lessen the overall look of the utility often seen in solar panels. They did this by integrating the photovoltaic solar panels in such a way on the rooftops that they blend in with the natural stone walls of the village, while at the same time, acting as thermal roof protection.

Kafrawi told Inhabitat, “The idea was to create an architectural character that would smoothly blend into the natural landscape so that from a distance, this rather large building would be discreet, almost invisible except for the towering stone structures highlighted by the P.V. solar panels reflecting the sky and sun.”

The company also used sustainable construction techniques in the building of the village. In the region where the oases is located, sandstone is often removed when a building is constructed. But KarmBuild found that this natural resource was not only abundant but “structurally viable.” Using the sandstone was not only environmentally sustainable but actually cut construction costs.

KarmBuild emphasizes  environmental optimization techniques.

KarmBuild emphasizes “environmental optimization techniques.”

This type of construction using naturally available building materials, combined with solar technology will be a boon for the region, especially when it means that an alternative energy source is being used. KarmBuild says the “Karm” in Arabic refers to a fruitful vine, and indeed, this company is proving to be very fruitful and certainly deserving of a big Green Thumbs Up.

Last month, Digital Journal gave France a big Green Thums Up for the nation’s controversial step to reduce plastic pollution, by banning plastic cutlery, plates, and cups.

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We are deeply saddened to announce the passing of our dear friend Karen Graham, who served as Editor-at-Large at Digital Journal. She was 78 years old. Karen's view of what is happening in our world was colored by her love of history and how the past influences events taking place today. Her belief in humankind's part in the care of the planet and our environment has led her to focus on the need for action in dealing with climate change. It was said by Geoffrey C. Ward, "Journalism is merely history's first draft." Everyone who writes about what is happening today is indeed, writing a small part of our history.

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