Cityscape Tower protrudes from the surrounding trees and plants like a bullet caught mid-flight of an exit wound.
In the business hub of Dhaka, on Gulshan Avenue, Cityscape Tower stands tall with the juxtaposition of its modern structure and the lush greenery surrounding it. It stands as a towering dark structure engulfed in a shock of green, interrupting the line of concrete.
Behind its doors lies a balance between nature and urbanisation through contemporary architecture.
With the environment in mind, the building was designed with a combination of strategies and environment-friendly materials to create a green space such as energy producing lifts, efficient ventilation system, adjustable lights, and more.
Built by the environmentally conscious construction and real-estate company Cityscape International Ltd, the high-rise commercial space is set upon 1,17,360 sq. ft. total space with a floor size of 5,780 sq. ft.
At the ground floor of the building you will find a spacious lobby encompassed by glass walls, which lets in natural light. From there you also get a clear view of the lush greenery surrounding the structure.
Cityscape Tower is one of Bangladesh's first commercial buildings to earn a Platinum LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification, the highest tier of LEED's point-based system.
"Getting the building LEED certified was a major requirement of the client and was determined to overcome any barriers to make it happen," commented architect Mujtaba Ahsan, who served as a project consultant.
In an earlier interview on television, Nahid Sarwar, the Managing Director of Cityscape International Ltd. explained why Platinum LEED Certification was so important to them. He said, "If you follow codes for a building, whether it is residential or commercial, and if we work with a certain baseline in mind, we can move towards advancement. But as there is a lack of rating systems in our country, we are forced to work without proper restrictions."
The eco-friendly plan began from choosing the very materials the building is made of. As the project demanded special resources, many of the materials were imported such as marble from Italy, wood cladding panels from Spain, and glass from China.
Even though the building was designed for office spaces - it is home to Trust Bank's Corporate branch - you will also find a North End outlet greeting you at the entrance and Chaap Ghor's Signature Gulshan Branch.
Inside the Cityscape International Ltd.'s office area, you will find plants hanging from the ceiling and arrangements of foliage along the walls, almost as if nature was reclaiming the space.
The design uses vertical greenery, making the man-made structure look like it is one with nature.
"Being surrounded by greenery psychologically helps people feel calmer," stated Mujtaba. "We used local species of plants as they thrive in our climate, putting less stress on resources and costs for maintenance."
The building boasts beautiful waterfall-like features which align with its green policy.
"There are many features in the design which reuses water from the building to fertilise the plants," said Mujtaba.
On the exterior walls, a dark wooden slate-like material gives the design a modern and luxurious look. The material used for this was compressed wood – made of a mix of recycled wood, sawdust and resin.
The design also heavily relies on glass. Logically, large windows let natural light in, reducing reliance on artificial lights. However, in Bangladesh's climate, using large windows is not an easy matter. Without the proper materials, the interior can easily become very hot, increasing the dependency on air conditioners.
This is where Cityscape Tower faced one of its many challenges to meet the LEED certification criteria.
"We suggested solar screens, however, it would significantly increase the construction cost," said Mujtaba.
To combat this, the building uses Pilkington Solar Control glass, a double glass which helps keep the heat out, while letting an abundance of sunlight in.
"Due to the windows, combined with other strategies, our air conditioners are 40% more energy efficient than they would have been without a green approach," Mujtaba added.
On top of using energy-efficient LED lights, the building also features light sensors that are able to automatically adjust with the natural light inside the space.
"During the designing phase, we simulated the space and tried measuring the amount of light needed in each area. We wanted to make the space energy efficient while maximising user comfort," said Mujtaba.
Managing a way to keep the heat out was important to remain energy-efficient. There is a gap between the wooden exterior wall and the walls of the building. When the sun hits the structure, the rays hit the outer layer, keeping heat out.
The eco-friendly design also extended to the air conditioning system. A heat recovery wheel was added to the air conditioners which reduces the power required to maintain a cooler climate.
Cityscape Tower also uses unique elevators. The building uses Gen2 elevators, which can produce energy.
"In the upward journey, the elevator consumes energy. However, in the downward journey, its motor rotates due to the gravitational pull, producing energy. Overall, the energy consumption of the elevator is quite low," explained Mujtaba.
Even though the building uses imported materials and innovative equipment, calling it an expensive project is debatable.
Mujtaba explained, "In the long run, you save electricity, water, and other resources year after year. The employees will also show a boost in productivity due to the good environment. Over time, the cost of this space will decrease. On top of that, it shows a brand's commitment to the environment, which promotes their image."
Furthermore, the project's construction cost was not significantly impacted in pursuit of meeting LEED criteria.
Even though Cityscape International Ltd pursued a US LEED certification, the architects were able to complete the certification process remotely. While all the paperwork was completed virtually and submitted online, the organisation cross-checked and verified the facts through a third party.
However, the project was not all easy sailing. After all, the US LEED certification is a measure for environment-friendly architecture in a foreign country. When it comes to the environment, there is no one-size-fits-all solution, as each country has its unique qualities, whether it be geographic or legal.
Despite achieving Platinum, Cityscape Tower ended up having to sacrifice points due to being situated in Bangladesh. According to LEED requirements, buildings should use certified wood, which, among other things, ensures that the wood being used is also being replenished. However, as Bangladesh does not have certified wood suppliers, the material could not be incorporated into Cityscape Tower.
The local demand for imported materials is also concerning, which stands as a huge obstacle for local brands.
"There is a trend among clients preferring imported materials. Even if there are local alternatives available, people assume that imported materials will be of better quality," explained Mujtaba.
However, initiatives to create a guideline fit for Bangladesh are being taken. For example, SREDA introduced BEEER (Building Energy Efficiency and Environment Rating) which primarily targets the residential sector.
"I feel like there needs to be a more extensive application of a local rating system. Bangladesh is one of the few countries that does not have one," said Mujtaba.
At the end of the day, creating a proper guideline is about more than just the architects, the government plays a crucial role in its success.
"There needs to be a bridge between the government and architects, if we work together, we can improve this sector significantly," said Mujtaba.