Published: 18 September 2015

Engineering in conservation areas


The SBAA Environmental Center in Akrotiri, Cyprus is an environmental awareness centre for visitors to a significant wetland and bird habitat – 20,000 Flamingos visit the Akrotiri salt lake each winter. Yiannis Pericleous, a structural engineer since 2004, worked on the project. Here he discusses his career, and the engineer’s role working on an environmentally sensitive project.

I was inspired to become a structural engineer by my family. My grandfather was Cyprus’ second ever architect, graduating from university in Greece during the 1930s. He created the first engineering practise in Cyprus in 1938 and designed many landmark projects up to the late 1970s. After that, my father, also an engineer, took over the practice and continued in his father’s footsteps. It’s very much a family business. The SBAA Environmental Center is the latest project in a long history of structures engineered by my family.

When a structure is designed and constructed in a conservation area the structural engineer must do everything possible to protect the surrounding environment - surrounding flora must be preserved, so if a tree has to be removed, more must be planted at its place. Access to the area must be through controlled routes, so that the nearby fields stay intact, and we must try to avoid pollution; collecting all our waste for recycling or disposal. We also have to be very careful to minimise disturbance to the huge variety of local animals.

We also have to be sure we are designing a sustainable structure i.e. it must consume fewer resources than nature can produce. The water, energy and materials must be used in a reasonable way so that only the minimum required resources are consumed. The engineer must carefully consider how the structure will use energy and natural resources in every stage of its life - construction, operation and demolition.

I’m proud to say that the SBAA Environmental Centre is rated Class A in energy efficiency, which is the top standard – we achieved this through a mix of methods like natural ventilation, and the planting of deciduous trees to provide summer shade and winter warmth.  These methods are not only pertaining to structural engineering, but also to architectural and electromechanical design.

The Environmental Centre is a new landmark for Akrotiri, with easy access for tourists, school trips and other visitors. The operators of the building are delighted with their new, more spacious working environment which includes a well-equipped laboratory, library and observation point, easing their studies. The most charming characterisation of the building was given by the Commander of the British Forces in Cyprus, who named the building the “Jewel of the Crown” of the British Area.

This is really satisfying feedback - when designing a structure and supervising it during construction, it is like seeing a child growing up, and it makes you very proud to see it loved and appreciated.

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