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A change for the greener in Turkey

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

Turkey’s first green building case study, the METU Solar House in Ankara, was built in 1975, and in a global sense the cause began in the 1960s. Why, then, is this movement gaining momentum only now?

“The need for sustainable development in the construction sector has become significant recently mostly due to the major resource consumption and contamination buildings generate,” Erten said.

Cities cover less than 1 percent of the earth's surface but are responsible for up to 75 percent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions. With more than 50 percent of the world's population living in cities — Istanbul being the fifth-most populous city in the world, with over 12 million residents — many are arguing that it’s time to reconsider the way we approach the built environment.

Turkey's dependency on gas makes them dependent on Russia, which provides 65 percent of the Turkish supply. Many are looking to green building as a way to cut the addiction and enhance energy supply security.

Pressure to align to EU environmental regulations have also pushed the government into a more eco-friendly stance. In 2008, the central government finished implementing insulation requirements that, with 100 percent compliance, could be expected to save billions of dollars and 70 percent of the country’s heating energy.

“When it comes to green buildings, government response has been slow, but in a year or so I see them becoming a major player in building green,” Erten said. “Also, international investors and non-profits are importing an environmentally conscious ethos to some of Turkey’s high-profile developments.”

KREATIF Architecture has been designing a green campus project at Tuzla, a suburb of Istanbul, which will be the first green campus built to BREEAM code — Britain’s standard for environmentally sustainable building — in Turkey. Multi Turkmall and BALPARMAK Honey Factory are also building malls that will follow the BREEAM standards.

“The really exciting thing is that Turkey still has close connections to local producers and craftsmen, and it’s an open field for green building,” said Kirk Henderson, a designer and "sustainability coordinator" at Avci Architects. “If we can get the right people in place to support these ideas, I think this could be an amazing space for them to grow.”

For Erten, who has long been a crusader for this movement in Turkey, the answer is simple: “Green buildings emit less CO2, use less water and less energy than standard buildings. This is about our health … our children, and the future of our planet.”