Towards more green buildings – An Open House Event at the EcoHaus

HALBAN With increased urban development worldwide and here in Oman in particular in the capital area, eco-friendly and energy-efficient houses are a timely and relevant topic to address. To advance an efficient knowledge transfer between the research institutions and the public, the GUtech EcoHaus project, led by Prof. Nikolaus Knebel held an Open House event recently. During a three-hour session Prof. Knebel showed and explained his latest building designs, which elaborate on the experience from the EcoHaus project and the concurrent research done on it. The housing projects discussed with the visitors were villas and a multi-storey residential project.

“Despite pioneering works through the TRC-funded five eco houses built in 2014, the knowledge about how to approach such a DESIGN task needs to reach out to home owners and architects even more.” said Prof. Knebel. Therefore, home owners and builders were invited to participate in the session and present their projects and plans followed by a discussion with Prof. Knebel and GUtech students about how to improve the designs and selection of construction materials to reach a more energy-efficient and eco-friendly architecture.

“The open day of the EcoHaus was great, the visitors were excited and curious. We showed them around the house and discussed proven strategies for recurring problems in our GCC region. It was insightful for the visitors but it was also great for me as student to revisit important concepts regarding renewable energies. I think it is a great idea to hold regular open days for the public and especially for school children,” said Ammal Al Kiyumi, UPAD student at GUtech.

World Water Day ce“We need to stop wasting water. The amount of fresh water is decreasing”

HALBAN Under the auspices of H.E. Ali Bin Mohammed Al-Abri, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Regional Municipalities and Water Resources, the World Water Day was celebrated at the German University of Technology in Oman (GUtech). During the event Eng. Salim Al Khanbashi from the Ministry of Regional Municipalities and Water Resources spoke about the projects of the Ministry and its achievements in protecting Oman’s natural water resources including the falaj system.

During an exhibition outside the GUtech Research Hall, a number of high school students from different schools showcased their thoughts and inventions which were then discussed within a panel of GUtech professors from the Department of Environmental Engineering and Applied Geosciences. For example, Tariq from Mohammed Bin Sheikha School showed his thoughts about the use of grey water in agriculture and for power generation.

“The amount of fresh water is decreasing. We need to stop wasting water,” said Umme Habiba, from the Bangladeshi School while thinking about the use of water in homes as well as in industries. Thinking about the development of desalination plants to increase the water consumption, she is concerned that desalination plants dump the remaining salt into the sea, which then harms the natural environment. In her everyday lives at home, she and her friends try to save water. Saving rain water in a tank and using it for irrigation and agriculture was another student project. The students also addressed climate change and its effect on water resources worldwide.

“Global warming is increasing worldwide. We need cleaner solutions for our planet,” said another female student from the Bangladeshi School Muscat. In her project she highlighted that hydroelectricity can be a cleaner source of energy, compared to nuclear power, fossil fuel or coal. A theatre play by GUtech theatre group presented the negative consequences of disposing plastic in the natural environment.

 

 

Circular Approaches – A series of spring lectures on sustainable architecture at GUtech

“Circular Approaches” is the title of a Spring 2019 Public Lecture Series offered by the Department of Urban Planning and Architectural Design at GUtech. Tomorrow’s public talk at 1.30 pm, held by Dr. Arnaud Evrard, who is a researcher, educator and earthen builder. He completed his doctoral studies in 2008 from the Ecole de Polytechnique de Louvain in Belgium focussing on the thermal properties of Lime-Hemp material. Prof. Arnaud’s talk will focus on circularity at the material level. Since 2016 he has worked as a builder for the rammed earthen pioneer Martin Rauch. He currently teaches at the ‘Architekturwerkstatt’ (Architecture Institute) in St. Gallen. The ‘Circular Approaches’ presentations deal specifically with how architects, builders and educators are incorporating circular strategies into their work.

“With the consequences of energy scarcity and global warming already upon us, the relevance of Circular Thinking in Oman is quite clear. As architects, we are responsible not only for proposing Approaches for these challenges, but seeing them as possibilities to innovate and elevate our practice” said Prof. Wayne Switzer from the UPAD Department.

The idea of circularity can be traced through many philosophies and belief systems and has over time also become a way for a society to understand aspects of their culture – from the economy, agriculture and environmental health. This concept, of continuous feedback and renewal, emphasizes a comprehensive view on our existing and finite resources. Within the field of architecture and construction, this means separating building from the consumption of limited resources and from processes which are harmful to humans and our environment.

Circular building reimagines this process as a regenerative loop: buildings which are made from existing or recycled materials, buildings which produce energy and filter water, buildings which can be disassembled or re-purposed after their initial usage has changed.

Germany in Sketches: A Visual Journey by Omani Students – An Exhibition on 9 April

An exhibition at the German Embassy in Muscat

MUSCAT A sketchbook is a common possession for architecture students worldwide. The Department of Urban Planning and Architectural Design (UPAD) of GUtech will showcase a large number of student works at the German Embassy in Muscat on the 9th April 2019 at 2 pm.

In November last year, a group of twelve UPAD students and Prof. Gazmend Kalemi conducted a field-trip in collaboration with Beuth University in Berlin and RWTH Aachen University, GUtech’s partner university in Germany. The study tour was sponsored by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD). “Drawing is a vibrant way of engaging with people and our natural and built environment. During the excursion, we followed the long tradition of travelers attempting to capture different places and atmospheres with their pencils and sketchbooks, collecting visual experiences and to bring them back to their home countries,” said Prof. Gazmend Kalemi, who initiated and supervised the two-week field trip. He added that the importance of advanced design software cannot be denied, but so-called free-hand drawings are essential to understand the environment. “While drawing, we spend considerable time in the physical field to enhance our perception and memory. Drawing involves internalising the object, feeling it in our being and starting a dialogue with it. It is, of course, a way of thinking with the hand,” said Prof. Gazmend.

Appreciating the students’ and professors’ efforts, the German Ambassador to Oman, Thomas Schneider, emphasized the vivid partnership between Germany and Oman: “Not only does our Embassy building itself stand as an example of a successful Omani-German partnership in the field of architecture – projects such as the exchanges  between GUtech und RWTH Aachen contribute to lasting, lively relations between people as well as between institutions”.

The students’ first destination was Berlin, Germany’s capital, located in the north-east of Germany, with a population of 3.6 million inhabitants. “Berlin is well-known for its rich history and architecture. It is a treasure to observe and draw. The arts scene and its diversity are significant and a magnet for young people,” said Prof. Gazmend. The group visited various historical sites, where they experienced how the old meets the new architecture, such as Alexanderplatz, Museumsinsel and Reichstag. The group also worked together with students from Beuth University. In spring 2016 students from Berlin, supervised by Prof. Gerd Sedelies, had visited GUtech and various sites in Oman producing beautiful sketches. “Now we have spent time working together and exchanging our experiences in Berlin. Another highlight was an invitation to Oman’s Embassy in Berlin where we enjoyed Omani hospitality and generosity. At RWTH Aachen University we worked intensively on a small urban design project, experiencing the morphology and the urban identity of the city and its surroundings, which is very different from Muscat. Of course, for Omani students the diversity in culture, people and life in Germany and in Europe was a new and challenging experience. I think after this trip Germany and European culture will be viewed differently by our students and this will reward them both on a personal as well as a professional level” said Prof. Gazmend Kalemi.

The students and Prof Gazmend extend their thanks to the German Embassy in Muscat for showing their sketches at the Embassy. They are also grateful that the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) provided them with the opportunity of a memorable drawing and sketching experience.

If you wish to attend the opening of the exhibition on 9 April, please register by e-mail to L-vz1@mask.diplo.de or by phone call to 2469 1218 ext. 819 with your name, e-mail address and/or mobile number.

 

(c) Text & Photo GUtech: Prof. Gazmend Kalemi and Dr. Manuela Gutberlet

 

 

 

 

The Institutional Standard Assessment of OAAA was conducted at GUtech

HALBAN The Oman Academic Accreditation Authority (OAAA) conducted the visit for the Institutional Standard Assessment of the German University of Technology in Oman (GUtech) last week. An international panel of higher education experts visited the university and conducted interviews with GUtech staff members. “Valuable contributions were given by representatives of the Board of Governors, Board of Directors, staff and students of GUtech as well as a number of external stakeholders including employers of our graduates, internship hosts, scholarship providers  and most important are our GUtech alumni,” said Dr. Alma Enriquez, Head of Quality Assurance and Planning Department of GUtech. The OAAA panel members were highly experienced experts from Australia, Austria, Portugal and Oman. The Standards Assessment determines GUtech’s ability to meet OAAA internationally benchmarked external standards and criteria. GUtech already went through the OAAA’s Quality Audit in 2013. The report of the audit is published online on OAAA’s website.

“The OAAA Quality Audit report already confirmed the high quality of GUtech, its programmes and its facilities. Now we are going through Institutional Standards Assessment, which looks into the details of nine different standards,” said Dr. Armin Eberlein, Deputy-Rector for Academic Affairs. He added that GUtech found the preparation for this event useful in strengthening quality processes. Within a few months, the OAAA will provide GUtech with a detailed report of its findings.

The Oman Academic Accreditation Authority (OAAA) initiated a review and revision of the institutional standards which govern the accreditation of higher education institutions in Oman in 2011. Once a university has been accredited, the university is required to go through Standards Assessment every five years in order to maintain their accreditation status. The Standards Assessment is an extensive audit covering every aspect of the operations of an institution.

 

Wadi clean-up organised by Applied Geosciences students

HALBAN Fourteen female students from the German University of Technology (GUtech) conducted a 10-day fieldtrip to explore and study the geology of Oman. They were guided by Prof Dr. Gösta Hoffmann from Bonn University in Germany. Prof. Dr. Gösta is a geosciences expert in the field; he has run several international projects and has been granted the national research award for his work by The Research Council (TRC). The fieldtrip logistics were professionally organised by Golden Highlands, the leading geo-tourism company in Oman.

For the students the trip was a once in a lifetime experience. Most of them have never camped outside before. Another breath-taking experience was the mountain scenery the students saw when travelling in 4-wheel cars along small gravel roads through the mountains. “Driving through Wadi Bani Awf was amazing, extraordinary and exciting for me,“ said Alaa al Mahdouri, 7th semester Geoscience student. One of the better known spectacular places that the group visited was Wadi al Abbyad. Prof Gösta explained: “Wadi al Abbyad is special for a variety of reasons: it is a perennial river, meaning it flows all year. Because of this there are very special animals and plants. Furthermore, it is an extraordinary place in terms of geology. It is probably the best place in the world to actually see the interior of the planet earth. In other countries such a place would already be recognised as a National Park. As far as I know such initiatives are under way but at the moment the place has a severe issue with rubbish. People come here for picnic and leave everything behind. Luckily the younger generation is aware of the problem and the group of 14 female GUtech students started a wadi clean-up.” Aziza al Jahwari lined out: “I felt so bad to see all this rubbish in such a wonderful place. I felt much better when we started to collect the rubbish.” Shatha al Gahfri asked “Until we do not care about our planet and until when will people think this is a normal behaviour? If everyone takes his own rubbish and takes a little bit more, we will solve this issue.”

As part of the field-trip, the group of students collected 237 kg of rubbish. Most of the items collected were clearly related to picnic activities, a problem that can be easily solved. „It is the second clean-up organised by Golden Highlands, after a beach clean-up last year with the professors from the German Geological Association (DGGV).” said Prof. Dr. Gosta. “It is our company’s responsibility to keep these places and our country clean. We therefore are an eco-friendly tour company in Oman. We try to minimise the amount of rubbish during the trips as much as possible. We do not distribute soft drinks in cans and water in plastic bottles. We provide solutions for refill and the customers use one mug through the trip. This mug they even take home as a souvenir. We also avoid plastic bags when shopping for groceries but use our own re-useable Golden Highland bags. Funny enough, people want to buy our bags as well instead of using plastic bags. We might even think of a business opportunity here,” said Mansoor al Shabibi, CEO of Golden Highlands.

“The clean-up was very successful and I am very happy that this initiative was organised by the students themselves”, concluded Prof Gösta. The logistics for the wadi clean-up was supported by Golden Highlands. Mansoor al Shabibi: “As the leading geo-tourism company in the country, operating for more than 10 years now, we know that the deserts, mountains, wadis and beaches are the unique resources that our business is based on. People come from all over the world to see and study these places. If we spoil them, we lose our unique selling point. Besides that, we harm our own country.”

Mubarak al Harrasi, group supervisor of Golden Highlands said: “I am happy to be in company with the students, these are open-minded ladies, I feel like their brother. We usually cater for international guests, but it is a very rewarding job to show our local people the beauties of the country. On these trips we usually travel to very remote areas that most people have not believed to exist in Oman.”

GUtech students win the third place in the AAPG Imperial Barrel Award

HALBAN Five Applied Geosciences students have won the third place in the prestigious AAPG Imperial Barrel Award semifinals that were held at GUtech in the past days. The students who are studying in the their final year in Applied Geosciences had to solve different geological tasks in groups such as analyzing a data set including geology, geophysics, production infrastructure, and other relevant materials for an oil exploration in the North Sea. “Our GUtech team with Anwaar, Jahina, Omer, Sara, and Shihab won the third place which is a great success, they worked very hard and achieved results that normally can only be expected on the level of Master Students,” said Prof. Dr. Wilfried Bauer, Head of the Department of Applied Geosciences. The Department of Applied Geosciences has been hosting the annual event for the first time. On the second day, all students from competing universities participated in an excursion through the Oman Mountains, led by Prof. Dr. Wilfried Bauer and Prof. Dr. Ivan Callegari, where they had a chance to study typical reservoir and source rocks of the Arabian Platform and their structural styles in the field.

Each team had to deliver their results in a 25-minute presentation to a panel of industry experts and professors. Students had the chance to use state of the art technology on a real dataset, receive feedback from an industry panel of judges, network with potential employers in the audience, and win cash awards for their school. The judges selected the winning team on the basis of the technical quality, clarity and originality of presentation. The AAPG Imperial Barral Award is a hands-on opportunity for students to experience the creative process and the high-tech science that is the foundation of the Energy Industry today.

Students from Sultan Qaboos University (Oman) won the first place followed by the Lebanese University (Lebanon). The winning team will participate in the final competition to be held in Texas (USA). Students from King Abdulaziz University, Hashemite University, the University of Jordan, Kuwait University, United Arab Emirates University and Yarmouk University participated in the competition.

(c) GUtech/ Dr. Manuela Gutberlet and AGEO Department

Intelligent Technologies in the Construction Sector

“The Construction Industry meets University for Innovation”

MUSCAT The third joint SAP-GUtech/OES Industry workshop highlighting challenges and opportunities of the digitalization of the construction industry was held at the Crowne Plaza Muscat Convention and Exhibition Centre yesterday. GUtech assumed the task to set-up a SAP NextGen Chapter in 2018. SAP has been facilitating a SAP Dual Training for 25 SAP selected students.

“The construction industry contributes with 9% to the Oman’s GDP and is the country’s largest employer. The sector has a huge potential for job perspectives related to Intelligent applications. Our intention with this workshop is to create solutions that enhance socio-economic growth values for society and for its citizens,” said Heiderose Moossen, Manager Vocational Training and Industry Relations, GUtech, TSSC Department and main organizer of the event. Especially Building Information Modelling, Augmented Reality, the Internet of Things, in-memory and graph computing could provide new business value and operational excellence.

To link the academia and the industry, GUtech has set-up a NextGen Lab in collaboration with SAP last year. “We wish to listen to students, our future employees and build up their skills for the future,” said Mohsen Al Lawati, Accounts Manager at SAP who introduced SAP to the audience. The construction industry is one of the least digitalized sectors worldwide,” said Mohsen Al Lawati.

Challenges and opportunities of digitalization for the construction industry are diverse, including empowering females and reducing the gender gap in the construction and engineering field. “We female architects would like to go to the construction site” said Rafia Al Bahlani, a young architect who works for Atkins. Intelligent technologies could facilitate more female employment opportunities in operations.

Prof. Dr. Nafaa Jabeur from the Department of Computer Sciences at GUtech said in his presentation on the “Intelligent Construction from the Sky” that there are many opportunities for the application of drones in the construction sector in Oman. These opportunities include enhancing operations while facilitating communications between decision-makers and workers, monitoring the daily progress of the construction site, 3D modeling, volumetric measurement, thermal imaging, optimizing costs for project management and maintenance, reducing health and safety threats, to improve the quality of work.

Jobin George, Business Development Manager from Bauer Nimr Oman introduced the application of the SAP Business One Software in Project Management. Bauer Nimr has been using SAP to streamline operations and to simplify processes, multiple cost units and to optimize the overall user productivity while creating more transparency.

The Industry workshop closed with an open forum and a discussion, where the audience discussed and collected their vision on challenges, opportunities and the way ahead for Intelligent Technologies in the Construction Sector. Most feared is the high investment for systems, that digitalize and re-engineer operations of an organization and support its Project Management processes. However, these systems can also help save money: ARAMCO logged in their accounts 80 Mio USD / anno by introducing a customized SAP systems, that run its operations streamlined, efficiently with regard to cost and time savings. The opportunities would be found in safer construction sites, raise skill levels, gender equality, as site progresses can be monitored by women from their office desks. Eventually smart industries will become the norm and facilitate life and work quality for blue- and white collar employees alike.

(c) GUtech; Text & Photo: Dr. Manuela Gutberlet & Heiderose Moossen

Students receive German language certificates

HALBAN A group of eleven GUtech students has successfully passed the German language certificate, Language Exam A1 of the Goethe Institut, the German Language and Culture Centre. “The certificate is the first internationally recognized German language certificate that has been issued by the Goethe Institut,” said Myriam Steinbock, German lecturer at GUtech.

Studying German is part of the curricula at GUtech; students study the language for three semesters. However, the language of tuition at GUtech is English.

The 90 minutes exam evaluates the speaking, writing and listening skills of students. Some students had the chance to already practice their language skills in Germany. Although English is widely used in international companies and at universities, it is an asset to speak and communicate in German on a daily basis. GUtech fosters exchange between Germany and Oman, especially through its German partner-university RWTH Aachen University. Each year a number of GUtech students from various departments participate in language courses, laboratory courses or field-excursions to Germany.

German is one of the most important languages worldwide and the most spoken language within the European Union. Around 103,5 million people are German-native speakers in Europe; German is the official language in Germany, Switzerland and Austria.

Photo Exhibition on the Aga Khan Award for Architecture opens

‘Architecture is an approach to solve a problem’

HALBAN Under the auspices of Farrokh Derakhshani, Director of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture, the Department of Urban Planning and Architectural Design (UPAD) of GUtech has opened a special photo exhibition about the Aga Khan Award for Architecture on campus today. The exhibition has been sponsored by Argan Towell.

“Architecture is an approach to solve a problem,” said Farrokh Derakhshani, Director of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture, in his opening speech while adding that architecture is a way of changing and impacting the life and well-being of people. He has been associated with the Award since 1982. Farrokh Derakhshani trained as an architect and urban planner at National University of Iran and later continued his studies at the School of Architecture in Paris (UP1). His main field of specialisation is contemporary architecture of Muslim societies. He has served as a jury member at various international competitions, schools of architecture and collaborated on a large variety of publications on architecture.

Some of the awarded architecture and urban planning projects that are on display in the exhibition are the ‘Issam Fares Institute’ in Beirut (Lebanon), ‘the Superkilen’, a public space in Copenhagen (Denmark), the Friendship Centre in Gaibandha (Bangladesh), a rural training centre inspired by an archaeological site and the Tabiat, a pedestrian bridge in Tehran that connects two urban parks. “This exhibition shall inspire students to submit and participate in an architecture competition,” said Prof. Nikolaus Knebel from the UPAD Department.

The Aga Khan Award for Architecture has been given to a total of 116 projects since 1977. The award is given every three years to projects that set new standards of excellence in architecture, planning practices, historic preservation and landscape architecture. Through its efforts, the award seeks to identify and encourage building concepts that successfully address the needs and aspirations of societies across the world, in which Muslims have a significant presence. The current prize fund is a total of US$ 1,000,000. The exhibition at GUtech is open to the public and will run until April.