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Sprawled across Doha’s Corniche, the newly-launched National Museum of Qatar (NMoQ) has opened doors for public to celebrate the nation’s past, present and future. Based on Jean Nouvel’s ambitious design, the project resembles a desert rose – rosette formation of crystals found in hot arid climates. True to its design inspiration, the museum’s exterior takes its form from several disc-like structures interlocked together.

Since its opening in March 2019, NMoQ has made headlines in national and international media. The project has been endorsed by Time Magazine among 2019’s 100 greatest places to visit, and yet we know so little about its sustainability credentials. Did you know that 50% of the NMoQ’s building materials have been derived from recycled sources? Or that 98% of the waste generated during the museum’s construction had been diverted from landfills? The project has also received 4 Star rating as per Global Sustainability Assessment System (GSAS) – MENA’s first performance-based green certification system developed by Qatar-based Gulf Organisation for Research & Development (GORD). And this is just the tip of the iceberg, as NMoQ boasts many more green features right from planning and design through to construction management and building operations.

Here are some key sustainability credentials achieved by the National Museum of Qatar:

1. Energy efficiency
NMoQ has benefitted from a smart low-carbon energy hierarchy to ensure energy efficiency in every step of its development. Starting from its passive design, the building’s façade is sufficiently insulated with high-performance glazing while the interiors are supplemented by thermal mass to minimize energy use for cooling purposes. The upper interlocking discs provide passive shade to protect a significant part of the façade from direct sunlight, which substantially reduces indoor cooling needs. To reduce energy consumption that goes into cooling, CO2 sensors are used to adjust fresh air volumes according to the occupancy levels. Sophisticated heat recovery units reuse outgoing cool air while also pre-cooling the incoming warm air. Similarly, through displacement ventilation method, fresh air is introduced at low levels occupied by visitors and exhibits while the upper levels are only passively cooled, hence reducing energy consumption.
2. Material procurement
To reduce its carbon footprint during construction phase, 20% of the project’s building materials were extracted, processed and manufactured regionally, precisely within 800 km of the museum’s site. These materials included grout, palm tree, sand, waterproofing membrane and concrete mix. In the same vein, 50% of the project’s building materials, such as concrete mix, gypsum board and metal products, were derived from recycled sources. The steel that forms the structure of crystal-like discs comes from 25% recycled content and can be recycled at the end of the building’s lifecycle.
3. Low-carbon mobility
Providing multiple options for urban connectivity, the museum features bicycle tracks and pedestrian walkways. Encouraging mass transport as a low-carbon alternative to private vehicles, NMoQ’s precinct provides easy access to metro stations and bus stops. Furthermore, priority spaces are allocated to eco-friendly vehicles such as electric and hybrid cars. Owing to its significance in mitigating climate change, urban connectivity is one of the eight key categories of GSAS framework that investigates macro- and micro-level aspects for a multidimensional focus on sustainability.
4. Native flora
Plants used for landscaping across the museum have been carefully chosen to match the region’s dry climate. Selection of native flora not only requires minimal hydration but is also representative of the museum’s geographical context. Pomegranate trees, date palms, herbs and Qatar’s national Sidra tree are some of the native plants grown in the museum’s botanical garden.
National Museum of Qatar

The lagoon created outside the National Museum of Qatar stores stormwater, which can be repurposed for secondary use.

National Museum of Qatar

Plants grown for NMoQ’s landscaping match the regional dry climate. Hence, they require minimal hydration and result in water conservation.

5. Drip irrigation system
As opposed to conventional methods of watering, plants grown throughout the museum are supplied with drip irrigation system. By providing water directly to the roots, this sustainable watering method reduces the amount of water evaporated through the soil surface while also ruling out the possibility of water waste. Water supplied through drip irrigation system is retreated and reclaimed from other uses.
6. Urban heat island effect
Urban heat island effect is a term used to describe temperature differential of urban and rural areas. In contrast to the natural landscapes, cities are warmer due to modification of land surfaces and secondary heat produced from the built environment. One way to mitigate the heat island effect is introducing green roofs or light-colored facades that mimic the natural surfaces of the geographical context. This explains why NMoQ interlocking discs have been given a light color, which reflects more sunlight and absorbs less heat. By default, this also means less energy consumption for indoor cooling.
7. Water retention
Apart from landscaping areas which provide easy drainage of stormwater, the museum’s lagoon collects rainwater from impenetrable surfaces and roof structures. With a total capacity of 17,500 m3, the lagoon provides an attenuation basin, storing stormwater to protect the site from flooding. Water stored within the facility is then reused for secondary purposes. Low flush sanitary fittings in kitchens and toilets of the museum have led to a total water saving of 32%. Such fittings come with high pressure to create stronger water flow while actually using less water. The museum also boasts of its novel cooling towers that save up to 10% of the water used in a traditional cooling system.
8. Indoor environment
To maintain a healthy indoor environment, NMoQ has made use of materials low in volatile organic compounds (VOCs) concentration. Adhesives, sealants, paints, coatings, carpet systems, composite wood and agrifiber used across the museum are chosen keeping in mind their VOC content. To keep the air free from contaminants in operational phase, the facility is also equipped with efficient filtration system.
National Museum of Qatar

The interlocking discs of the National Museum of Qatar provide shading, which substantially reduces indoor cooling needs. Additionally, the light colors of its façade mimic the natural sandy landscape, thereby reducing the urban heat island effect.

National Museum of Qatar

Indoor environment of the National Museum of Qatar features materials low in volatile organic compounds (VOCs) concentration. To keep the indoor air free from contaminants in operational phase, the facility is also equipped with efficient filtration system.

9. Construction management
The construction of NMoQ has followed environmentally responsible practices. 98% of the waste, comprising approximately 58,350 tons, generated during the construction was diverted from landfills through recycling and reusing. Before the construction started, a site waste management plan was in place to segregate waste before sending them to material recovery facility. Another such program implemented during the project development stage was sedimentation and erosion control plan, which helped reduce pollution, soil erosion, waterway sedimentation, and airborne dust. To this end, some approaches included use of gravel to cover temporary pathways and prevent soil erosion and maintain dust control. Vehicles used on site were regularly washed before they left sites to enter the cities.
10. High sustainability rating
According to the official statement released by NMoQ, it is the only museum in the world to have bagged high sustainability ratings from multiple sustainability assessment systems. Among these achievements is GSAS 4-Star rating for design and build certification. The project has also achieved LEED Gold certificate.

With green projects such as NMoQ and FIFA 2022 World Cup stadiums, Qatar is fast emerging as a hub of sustainable built environment. Reinforcing its unyielding stance on sustainability, the country is set to host Qatar Sustainability Summit on October 27 and 28 at the St. Regis Doha, Qatar. As a co-organizer of the summit, GORD will convene businesses leaders, practitioners, scholars, researchers, policy makers and green advocates to share insights, best practices and knowledge on latest developments and key challenges in deploying sustainable solutions.