Turkey's First Luxury LEED Building: Hype or Hope?


An artist's rendering of the Varyap Meridian complex. Image by RMJM via Building Design and Construction.

International architectural firm RMJM's plan for a new eco-luxury development in Istanbul -- potentially Turkey's first LEED-certified mixed-use structure -- has got the green-building blogosphere buzzing. Ninety percent of the Varyap Meridian residential and commercial complex's total area will be comprised of green space and it is expected to consume 40 percent less energy and water than comparable projects. So why am I having a hard time getting excited about it?

To begin with, it's a luxury development -- one with a five-star hotel and five-bedroom penthouse apartments. Yes, the developers say "small studio apartments" will also be available, but somehow I doubt they'll be the kind that help meet the city's dire need for affordable housing. Second, it's a skyscraper. In the suburbs. Yet another far-flung high-rise in a city whose old centers are beautifully human-scale and walkable.

Utilizing Wind And Rain
On the other hand, it's only fair to note that the $1 billion project hits all kinds of the right green notes: Wind turbines? Check. Rainwater collection? Check. A co-generation plant to produce electricity for the development? Check. View-maximizing and solar-heat-gain-minimizing orientation? Check. A "spectral tiled facade, ranging from terracotta to blue to white" that incorporates the "unique context and culture of Istanbul"? Uh. OK. If you say so.


An artist's rendering of the Varyap Meridian complex. Image by RMJM via Building Design and Construction.

The architects' renderings show the project bringing some much-needed green space to an area of the city hemmed in by freeways. And while the highly touted road and airport access doesn't do much for the development's eco-cred, subway projects underway in the city are expected to extend to the Ataşehir area, which is being promoted as a new financial center for Istanbul. And, of course, there will surely be a fleet of serviş buses redirected to serve employees working at the complex.

A Model For Other Developers
In addition, applying green building techniques to high-profile structures can be an effective way of creating awareness and inspiring productive competition from other developers that will eventually "trickle down" to smaller, more affordable homes and business spaces as the market for green materials grows. As Varyap CEO M. Erdinç Varlıbaş said in introducing the project, "Our aim is to ensure that we leave a better world to future generations and we believe that the Varyap Meridian project will raise the standards of the Turkish real estate market generally."

Having seen a similar pattern operate in the U.S. and other parts of the world, I can, on balance, put aside my grumbling to hope it repeats itself here in Turkey too.

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Tags: Apartments | Buildings | Cities | Green Building | Turkey