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A change for the greener in Turkey

Istanbul, a city that's seen its share of change, embraces sustainable architecture.

ISTANBUL, Turkey — From the top suites in Istanbul’s newest development in Atasehir, one can see the city’s great waterways laid out, the churning waters of the Sea of Marmara devolving into the more docile Bosporus Strait. But it’s not the views that have cast a spotlight on this project, nor their attempt to transform this suburban hillside into Istanbul’s newest financial district and business center.

What makes the Atasehir development worth talking about is that it is about to become one of the "greenest" projects in the country. The first mixed-use development in Turkey to apply the U.S.-developed LEED standards for environmentally sustainable building, Atasehir is breaking new ground amid a movement for sustainable architecture in Turkey.

“Green building in Turkey has reached an unprecedented peak,” said Duygu Erten, the founding Vice President of Green Building Association of Turkey. “Unheard of several years ago, now major commercial developments advertise an awareness of environmental issues. Malls and major office developments are engaging in green retrofit processes.”

The 340,000-square-meter (3,660-square-feet) Atasehir project was designed by international architecture company RMJM for Turkish real estate development company Varyap, and will include rainwater collection sites and facilities to optimize water usage and reduce energy consumption, wind turbine technology, cooling water pools that enhance the external landscape and a co-generation plant that will produce electricity for the development.

But before the project began, the RMJM team took a trip with their clients to the famed Topkapi Palace, home of the sultans and harems of the Ottoman Empire for over 400 years.

“You look at the Ottoman Empire and the history of the region and you see this wonderful heritage of progressive approaches to building a civilization,” said Chris Jones of RMJM’s Istanbul studios. “But at some point in the 20th century Turkey seems to have lost its way and become very generic.”

The Topkapi Palace — also built on a hillside overlooking the water — was constructed of local materials and used its abundant water resources to cool the palace through central water channels, pools and rainwater storage.

“With this project we are trying to encourage Turkey to return to its regional influences, to return to an idea of sustainability centered on one's own environment.”

The design of Atasehir uses the site’s topography, climate and surrounding context to maximize the site's natural potential and inform the landscaping.

These ideas, though central to building sustainably, are nothing new.