“Architecture says so much,” said Andrew Whalley, the chairman of Grimshaw, who described his recent visit to the pavilion as a kind of immersive theater. “When I was in the courtyard, under the shade, there was quite a good breeze, and it was 20 degrees cooler than at the rest of the fair. You look up at the sunlight dappling between the PVs [photovoltaic panels], and you start to understand how we really can build more sustainably.”
He noted that this type of built narrative could provide a valuable example as we approach a global tipping point: “The next decade is absolutely critical for mankind. If we get it right, we can still have a healthy planet for our children and grandchildren.”
Likewise, almost every national pavilion, big or small, contains sustainable elements, often showcasing high- and low-tech ideas you have never heard of or supercharged versions of those you have. The Czech pavilion extracts water vapor from the air; Azerbaijan’s pavilion features an air cushion roof to cool high temperatures; the giant cones of Austria’s pavilion draw from the Arab tradition of cooling wind towers. Morocco’s pavilion is constructed of rammed earth, a welcome alternative to carbon intensive steel or concrete. Singapore’s eye-popping entry features 80,000 plants from 170 different species, many arranged as hanging gardens.
And the entire fair — not just its pavilions — is aiming to be sustainable, relying primarily on solar farms and other renewable resources for energy, and recycling much of its water, whether it comes from ground runoff or bathrooms. All buildings that the United Arab Emirates has constructed are at least LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold rated, while during build-out, organizers worked to recycle construction waste whenever possible and to, for example, embed roadway asphalt with a mixture that includes recycled tires.
“Very little is going to waste, and everything is being built with an eye to the future,” Mr. Al Khatib declared. “This is the most sustainable expo in the history of expos.”
Perhaps more sustainable than any strategy, most of the fair (unlike virtually any World Expo in the past) will be recycled, becoming a new neighborhood located strategically between the city’s airports and transit hubs and easily accessible via metro. (Unlike the United Arab Emirates’ buildings, most national pavilions will be broken down.)
Mr. Al Khatib said: “Most expos leave a building or a zone behind. For us, we are actually leaving a city. Our buildings are to be converted to commercial spaces, residences, hospitals, clinics and schools.”