A 21st Century Urban Symbol of contemporary Athens will emerge in 2015 with the completion of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center (SNFCC), a sustainable arts, education, and recreation complex built to enrich the everyday lives of Athenians and Greeks and attract millions of visitors from around the world. The striking ecological and architectural achievement includes the 170,000 m² (42 acre) Stavros Niarchos Park, a state-of-the-art, new building for the National Library of Greece (NLG) and a world-class opera house for the Greek National Opera (GNO).

A beacon of sustainability is borne out in every aspect of the design—from the Park, which also functions as a green roof for the National Library and Greek National Opera, to the canal which can also function as an additional anti-flooding measure to the whole site, to the photovoltaic canopy which produces energy for the two buildings’ needs and contributes to the goal of low emissions.

Sustainability is one of the SNFCC’s fundamental values. The creation of an environmentally friendly and sustainable infrastructure for the buildings and the Park is an important goal in the design and construction of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center. Soaring above the summit and extending outward from its perimeter is a floating wing – in reality a 100m x 100m Photovoltaic Energy Canopy that provides power for the facility. An engineering and construction wonder, supported by 40 sinewy metal pillars, the canopy will make a fascinating addition to the city skyline. Coupled with other environmentally innovative designs and practices, the project aims to earn Platinum or Gold Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification, the first such designation in Greece and the first for a project of this scale in Europe.

LEED is a building certification system developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) that provides independent verification that a building was designed and built using strategies aimed at improving energy savings, water efficiency, CO2 emissions reduction, improved indoor environmental quality, and stewardship of resources and sensitivity to their impacts. There are four levels of certification; Platinum is the highest rating awarded, followed by Gold.

Impact Assessment

A study was undertaken to assess the economic, environmental and social impact of SNFCC. This study was commissioned by the SNF but contracted and executed by The Boston Consulting Group (BCG), based on extensive previous track-record, know-how and information from a variety of sources, interviews, market data sources and expert views. The construction and operation of the SNFCC is expected to have positive impacts in the form of increased capital investments, consumption spending, job creation, attraction of complementary businesses and other enrichments to the economic, environmental and social fabric of the local communities, Athens and Greece.

The benefits can be fundamentally summarized as follows:

  • Approximately €1 billion of total economic stimulus will be derived from the upfront donation for the construction of SNFCC, with effects observed in the short- to mid-term horizon.
  • The green surface per capita will double in the surrounding municipalities.
  • Athens will gain a world-class multifaceted cultural institution – with all of the recognition and international attention that comes with it.
  • The SNFCC will be the focal point of redevelopment of a major area of downtown Athens.
  • The ongoing operations and programming of the SNFCC will be a perpetual economic and cultural engine for Athens and Greece.
  • Special groups of visitors (e.g., people with special needs, senior citizens, immigrants) will be included in all SN Park activities, and social barriers for participating in cultural and educational activities will be removed.
  • The SNFCC’s unique public-private partnership for social infrastructure development can be used as a prototype for similar donations – featuring high transparency, a robust governance structure in place and a ready-to-run organization to be transferred to the State.

Moreover, SNFCC will address the need for additional open green spaces, doubling the green surface per capita in the surrounding municipalities of Kallithea, Moschato, Nea Smirni, and Palaio Faliro.

  • With approximately 170,000 square meters of green space, more than a thousand trees, and thousands of shrubs and bushes, the former horse racetrack site will be transformed into a unique and aesthetically pleasing environment with significant benefits for the local community.
  • It will improve air quality by sequestering 11,000 kilograms of CO2 annually.
  • It will lower the temperature from that of surrounding buildup areas by about 1CO.
  • Its construction will be green-friendly, using recycled materials and implementing an erosion, sedimentation and dust suppression plan. At least 50 percent of construction waste will be recycled, and at least 5 percent of building materials will be reused.
  • The building is environment-friendly, with highly efficient energy and water use, and it will save approximately 2,750 tons of CO2 emissions annually.

By Marios Georgaras
AUEB Energy & Sustainability Club 
Executive Member