24 JUNE 2015 / The concept of Environmental Sustainability and its implementation in the SNFCC

The construction of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center (SNFCC) started in the fall of 2012. In the 33 months since then, the project has progressed consistently towards its targeted completion in 2016, when the Stavros Niarchos Foundation will deliver it as a gift to the Greek State.

The Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center (SNFCC) is one of the biggest construction projects in Greece’s recent history. Its conception, design and implementation have one key objective: establishing the SNFCC as an open and welcoming space, with the necessary social momentum that will contribute to the formation of a new understanding, creating positive benefits for the society, and the economy, and stimulating the cultural and educational landscape of our country, while simultaneously taking into account the protection of the environment. 

Having traversed 33 months of life, and having achieved major construction milestones, a Press Conference took place today at the Visitors Center of the SNFCC, where the project’s architect, Renzo Piano, alongside the Foundation’s management, presented the overall progress of the project to date, focusing on its innovative environmental sustainability features. 

The Press Conference also included the screening of the short documentary A Place of Change, which was created by the SNFCC in order to capture the evolution, the vision, but also the approach in relation to environmental and social responsibility of a project that aims to have a refreshing effect for Athens, for Greece and its inhabitants. The documentary will also be screened tonight (21:15-22:00) during the “Light Up the Night At the Stavros Niarchos Park” events, with an introduction by Renzo Piano.

Andreas Dracopoulos, Co-President of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, said: “A few years ago, the SNFCC began as an idea containing the dreams, hopes and desires for a better tomorrow. In this context, sustainability, with regards to design, implementation, operation, access and the project’s relationship with society, the environment, culture and education, is a vital characteristic of the SNFCC. Within a few years, the dream of the SNFCC has already started taking shape, setting the foundations for the ways in which the project will approach its future visitors. We hope that the SNFCC – sustainable in the broadest sense of the term, full of life and optimism – will be a determining factor in the formation of a place of change”.

Designed to have minimum impact on the environment, the SNFCC seeks to become a beacon of environmental sustainability and innovation. Following is a description of the key environmental sustainability components of the project:

•Artificial Hill: The altitude of the artificial Hill reaches 14 meters and extends as a green roof over the buildings of the National Library of Greece (NLG) and the Greek National Opera (GNO), reaching its highest point at 32 meters. 

The planting of the hill is almost completed, and contains approximately 600 trees and 70,000 shrubs. In order to minimize water requirements, drought-resistant trees and shrubs were selected, It should be noted also that the green roof covering the Car Park building and the relevant infrastructure over the other buildings have been completed as well.

•The Stavros Niarchos Park: Spread over 170 acres and covering 85% of the total area of the SNFCC, the Stavros Niarchos Park is one of the largest green areas in Athens. A whole world, comprising 1,400 trees and 280,000 shrubs, featuring a Mediterranean Garden, Vegetable Gardens, a lush circular Labyrinth, playgrounds and a gentle uphill slope, at the end of which visitors will find the Lighthouse, a 900 m2 observatory with a glass shell and views towards the city and the sea. The Stavros Niarchos Park doubles the green indicator per capita in the neighboring areas, while it also significantly improves air quality, since the Park’s plants absorb approximately 11,000 kilos of CO2 emissions annually. The Park’s creation also reduces the temperature within the space by approximately 2οC, in comparison to the temperature in the surrounding urban areas.

•Artificial Water Canal: A large water surface flowing parallel to the Esplanade. The dimensions of the Stavros Niarchos Park Canal are 400 x 30 meters. The Park and the Canal create a microclimate in the area. The Canal is a metaphorical “continuation” of the sea, and it provides flood protection for the entire SNFCC complex, but also for the surrounding areas. Flood protection for the project is also provided by the temporary rainwater storage tanks along the northern side of the park—the lowest point of the artificial hill.

•Water Efficiency: 51% water efficiency is achieved thanks to the rational design of the hydraulic installations, water reuse, the initially low and progressively decreasing water requirements of the Park, irrigation utilizing drilling and reverse osmosis, supplying the artificial channel with seawater.

•Energy Canopy: The canopy towers above the building of the Greek National Opera and extends beyond its perimeter. It is a construction and engineering marvel, supported by 30 steel columns, and its presence will be a thrilling addition to the city’s skyline. It is one of the largest energy canopies in Europe:

-100 x 100 meters: the dimensions of the energy canopy

-717: the number of prefabricated blocks, already installed—in their final position

-46 meters: the altitude at its highest point 

-30: the columns supporting the energy canopy

-Approximately 2GWh annually, is the electric energy produced by the canopy, contributing to the goal of zero CO2 emissions. It will significantly contribute to the achievement of the energy requirements of the GNO and NLG buildings.

Apart from its environmentally friendly characteristics, the SNFCC is also expected to have significant benefits for the domestic economy, as well as for the entire Greek society. 

Indicatively, as the Boston Consulting Group 2010 study mentions:

•The initial grant for the construction of the SNFCC will deliver €1 billion in short- and mid-term economic activity. 

•The operation of the SNFCC and visitor spending will contribute around €160 million to the economic activity of the surrounding area, Athens and Greece in general, during its first full year of operation. 

•Athens will have a versatile world-class cultural center—with international recognition. 

•The SNFCC will become a reference point for the redevelopment of a important region of southeastern Athens. 

•In the long term, the operation and programs of the SNFCC will contribute significantly to the local economy and culture. 

•The design and implementation of programs at the Stavros Niarchos Park will take into consideration for special visitor groups (i.e. disabled, elderly, etc.). 

•The open access philosophy of the SNFCC will help remove social barriers that prevent people from participating in cultural and educational activities. 

•The exemplary SNFCC public-private partnership can be used as a model for similar grants/donations that aim at the development of social infrastructure—this particular partnership is characterized by high transparency, a strong administrative structure and the existence of an organization, which will be in place and ready to operate, even before the project is delivered to the Greek State. 

Having environmental care and integrated financial and operational planning as its driving forces, and taking into consideration the deeply civic and social natute of the project, the implementation of the SNFCC continues, in order to provide an open platform for action, dialogue and creation.