Forbes International Tower, new zero-carbon commercial tower in Cairo, Egypt and an award winning project is set to elevate standards of green design and push boundaries of modern construction. Kasun Illankoon spoke to Magnom Properties CEO, Maged Marie and leading architecture firm partners Adrian Smith, Gordon Gill, and Robert Forest, AS+GG Architecture, to find out more about the project and the influence the project is set to make in the Middle East.
In January 2023, Magnom Properties and Forbes, joined hands at the 53rd Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, to announce their plans to build an innovative, environmentally responsive tower set in the heart of the rising New Administrative Capital in Cairo, Egypt. The tower which is dubbed as a ‘A Beacon of Influence’ and the ‘World’s Most Sustainable Tower’ has set the benchmark for futuristic projects and Egypt’s commitment to being a ESG leader in the MENA region. The leading architect for the project is AS+GG, a US-based multiple international award-winning architecture firm.
Magnom’s Sustainability Goals
“By embedding ESG considerations into all our projects planned for the region, our aim is to minimize carbon footprint, manage water, and integrate intelligence and resiliency into the built environment,” said Maged Marie, CEO, Magnom Properties. Magnom Properties, a subsidiary and the real estate arm of Saudi Arabia’s Al Rawabi Holding, has partnered with Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture (AS+GG Architecture), the architects behind the world’s tallest tower – Burj Khalifa and the award-winning architecture firm which specialized in building energy-efficient and sustainable projects around the world. Commenting on the partnership, Maged said: “As with Forbes, it (AS+GG Architecture) was a shared vision of building an energy-efficient and sustainable project that led to our partnership with renowned architect, Adrian Smith, who has a very holistic approach to design. His idea of sustainability is not limited to the environment. Instead, he embraces an integrated approach that emphasizes sensitivity to the physical environment. To lay the sustainable framework for tall buildings in future and deliver the best in architectural design, it became essential for us to partner with a champion of sustainable architecture like AS+GG who are equally committed to pursuing a zero-carbon strategy.” Adrian Smith, Founder at AS+GG the architect for some of the tallest tower projects in the world such as the Jeddah Tower in Saudi Arabia and Burj Khalifa in Dubai, opened up about the inspiration behind the design and sustainability of the Forbes International Tower.
“The Forbes International Tower has been designed to take maximum advantage of the site both regarding views to the center of the new business district on its east and the planned Axial Park on its west. By orienting the tower, we also maximize the amount of power generation through the integration of built in Photovoltaic systems which in turn will generate enough energy to power this building.”
AS+GG Architecture has always prioritized sustainability in its designs and with the current technology available these large towers that ordinarily would take up a lot of space and energy are minimised through the use of technology and analytics Gordon Gill, Founding Partner at AS+GG, who’s work includes the design of the world’s first net zero-energy skyscraper, the Pearl River Tower in Guangzhou, China, the world’s first largescale positive energy building, Masdar Headquarters, the next world’s tallest tower, Jeddah Tower in Jeddah Saudi Arabia, explains: “There are numerous analytical models that are used to run scenarios for the environmental performance, comfort and energy and carbon analyses that are done for our buildings. As part of the design process, the findings can determine direction and solutions for the design and help literally form the building and its expression. This is a process of understanding and discovery as we test a range of balanced equations that come together to solve the design and make the building feasible. Without a high level of technology at all phases of the project, solutions related to everything from performance to aesthetics; installations and maintenance, can be affected. Our sustainable approach to net zero life cycle carbon solutions demands this complex interrelationship between systems that balance the art and science of our work.”
Maged further added how technology leads to an extended building lifecycle: “Forbes International Tower is an innovative example of responsible, energy efficient, carbon reduction design. It is people-centric, prioritizes carbon neutrality, and features solar panels on the roof, fully automated HVAC field devices for efficient heating and cooling, and a host of modern intelligent building technology to streamline smart operations. Harmonious biophilic elements have been incorporated to assist in air circulation, bring greenery, and enhance employee wellbeing. Clean and efficient technologies such as solar will be utilized to improve building envelopes and reduce thermal energy needs. In partnership with leading global partners, the futuristic tower will utilize advanced technologies including fully automated HVAC field devices to drive energy efficiency and reduce emissions and is primed to achieve a Platinum LEED certification.” The location of Forbes International Tower in one of the most prestigious addresses in the world – the New Administrative Capital (NAC) in Cairo, Egypt – inspired us to push the boundaries of environmental sustainability. “Like NAC, Magnom Properties and Forbes share a vision for the long-term and together we have committed to exploring low carbon pathways in line with the country’s ambitious Vision 2030 and net zero goals,” said Maged.
In addition to Egypt’s goal of being an ESG leader, they are committed to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). One of Egypt’s key initiatives for achieving the SDGs is the Sustainable Development Strategy (SDS): Egypt Vision 2030, which aims to promote sustainable development through economic, social, and environmental reforms. The goals set out by Egypt are echoed through Magnom Properties goals and objectives: “Our developments are all for the long-term, as we wish to leave a legacy that shapes generations to come. To fulfil this vision, we will continue to seek carbon-neutral solutions to drive value through architecture. Our human-centric design approach, sustainable material selection and reliance on renewable energy solutions will be significant in delivering solutions that address the challenges of urbanization and climate change,” commented Maged.
Apart from Egypt, Magnom Properties has also set its goal to develop sustainable real estate, commercial and lifestyle projects in Saudi Arabia and wider MENA region. “In line with our vision of redefining and shaping evolving lifestyles of community members, we will focus on building high value commercial and lifestyle projects in KSA, Egypt and the wider MENA region. These new developments will be a model of best practices in sustainability in line with Saudi Arabia’s net zero vision for the future,” said Maged.
The Next Iconic Project
There have been numerous iconic construction projects throughout history that have captured the imagination of people around the world. In the 21st century, several new iconic construction projects have been completed or are currently underway. One of these is the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, which is currently the tallest building in the world. Another is the Shanghai Tower in China, which is the second-tallest building in the world and features a unique spiraling design. These iconic construction projects demonstrate the incredible creativity and ingenuity of architects and developers. Could the Forbes International Tower become a landmark in Cairo, as the Burj Khalifa is in Dubai – Maged and Adrian Smith certainly think so due to its innovative sustainable qualities and benchmarks that have been set. “The Forbes International Tower will certainly be a landmark, not just in Cairo but across the region and the world as it aims to set new standards in high-performance, green building design by harnessing local natural resources in a sustainable manner,” said Maged “The project will certainly become a landmark for Cairo due in large part to its highly resilient and highly innovative sustainable qualities and for the beauty and elegance of the tower itself,” commented Adrian.
Something that Maged has always emphasised is the importance of the project that it is not about it being sustainable and energy efficient but bringing the human element about it as well. Whether it comes to the health of the individual or ensure they are safe within the building. “Magnom Properties and Forbes also remain committed to delivering a carbon neutral tower that integrates smart systems to improve energy-efficiency, protect the health of occupants and ensure better safety,” said Maged.
For Adrian Smith, this is an important element too, “As societies evolve in the way they live, work and play, so does architecture change to meet the demands of the future. Innovative ideas can lead the way in this regard, such as the groundbreaking John Hancock Center in Chicago that, when built in 1968 was the first tall tower to contain a mixture of uses such as office, residential, shopping, restaurants, and observatory. On the other end of the spectrum, we have decades old buildings designed for single use that have outlived their initial purpose, however, are durable and resilient enough to be rehabilitated for new uses and extended building life.” Gordon Gill added: “Performance based architecture allows us to understand the broader implications of our environment and how people live and use the buildings we design. It allows us to be site specific, culturally specific and to advance the science behind the art of design. In this way, the work is always unique, strives to offer a healthier and more intelligent building” Apart from the Forbes International Tower project, Magnom Properties, has embedded in their philosophy to be ecologically conscious in all their projects. “All our projects are rooted in the principles of sustainability. We take a holistic approach to both planning and the construction process to address the urgent issues of climate change and urbanization. Through all our projects across the region, we aim to create long-term community impact and contribute to building greener, smarter, beautiful cities.
At Magnom Properties, our philosophy of excellence is also realized through strategic partnerships with experts who are the best in their respective fields. We believe in the power of collaboration to drive change. Across all our projects, we are partnering with renowned names and brands to harness advanced technologies and set new standards in environmental sustainability.” The ambitions of Magnom to set the sustainability standards could see more Iconic projects being built by the group in the near future.
The influence of AS+GG architectural projects in the Middle East
Projects such as the Forbes International Tower are set to take centre stage in Egypt’s New Administrative Capital, a massive development project that aims to create a new city from scratch, located 45 kilometers east of Cairo. The project is expected to cost over $45 billion and will be developed over multiple phases, with the first phase already completed. The new capital is planned to cover an area of 700 square kilometers and will have a population of approximately 6.5 million people when completed. Many of AS+GG mega projects are implemented with the idea of further developing a city. After all if you have a mega structure in an area more projects and developments will take place around this. Adrian Smith explain how these projects act as a catalyst for development.
“The primary values of supertall and megatall structures is to both act as an Iconic catalyst for development on sites directly surrounding these towers and in doing so create a significant identity to the district, city and sometimes the country where they are built. In some cases, these structures define the city, such as the Eiffel Tower in Paris and the Empire State building in New York.” Also, the MENA region offers up new opportunities for the architect firm where their projects are already influencing the development of new projects. “The Middle East has allowed us to explore a range of scales of our work; from master plans for cities, such as Expo City in Dubai, to the tallest buildings in the world in Jeddah. We are constantly challenged by the visions for these regions and welcome those opportunities to help explore new solutions for the Middle East that can serve as tangible examples for the world,” said Gordon Gill. “The primary objective for us is to bring the highest level of quality to the large scale complex mixed-use projects that we have become known for and to design these buildings to bring a heightened level of sustainability, both culturally and environmentally to the built and unbuilt world,” concluded Adrian Smith.
Award Winning Project & Future Growth Plans
The Forbes International Tower was awarded the Luxury Commercial Project of the Year as the Design Middle East KSA Awards this year. The project was recognised for its outstanding sustainable features, innovative elements, and contribution to the surrounding region. It’s certain that the project will have more scope to win more awards. The project sets the benchmark for future projects in the region and with sustainability being a key component for a plethora of governments you could see more projects like this in the near future. For Maged and Magnom Properties they see positive outcomes for future sustainable projects and economic growth in the MENA region “In the Middle East, real estate continues to grow from strength to strength and is a core driver of economic growth and investment of choice. Global studies affirm a positive outlook for the market, and we are keen on growing in the region with the right partners,” concluded Maged.