The huge challenge of improving sustainability in the UAE

The huge challenge of improving sustainability in the UAESaeed Al Abbar - Chairman, Emirates Green Building Council

The phrase ''going green'' is the new buzzword among builders and developers in Dubai, thanks to the new Green Building Code introduced by the Dubai Municipality. Saeed Al Abbar, Chairman of the Emirates Green Building Council (EmiratesGBC), shares his viewpoints about the new green code and what more can be done to improve sustainability.

Green regulations

The Dubai Municipality Green Building Code, like Abu Dhabi's Estidama Pearl Rating system, has been developed with the local environmental conditions in mind. While Estidama functions as a rating system, the Dubai Municipality Green Building Code does not have an associated rating – all aspects of the Code must be met, similar to the minimum requirement of 1 Pearl in Abu Dhabi. Both Estidama and the Dubai Municipality regulations focus on the key aspects of sustainable buildings, including the rational use of energy, water and materials as well as promoting healthy indoor and outdoor environments.

Industry uptake and compliance with new sustainability targets have been well-received. Market briefs released by the World Green Building Council, in association with EmiratesGBC, highlight the increase in private sector projects that have targeted LEED and Estidama certifications in the UAE. As of June 2014, there are 750 LEED-registered projects in the UAE and over 700,000 square meters of real estate certified by Estidama.

Challenges in green laws implementation

Lack of awareness among building owners and users is a major challenge for the government's policymaking sector. However, we are taking concerted measures by engaging all stakeholders to strengthen awareness of the green regulations; it is an important part of our mandate. EmiratesGBC recommends a comprehensive ''green home'' tool kit that offers a number of handy guidelines to make homes more sustainable.

From a construction industry perspective, too, a number of initiatives can be undertaken that will contribute to enhancing the sustainability of the built environments. These involve design considerations that incorporate sustainability features to the materials used in construction.

The design considerations can involve optimizing building orientation and insulation, or maximizing the use of day lighting while the actual construction practices can include the use of concrete mixes and other building materials that are environmentally less polluting.

From the material supplies and operational perspective, having energy-efficient lighting and air-conditioning systems, and integrating solar panels and condensate recovery systems are among other measures that help make buildings more energy-efficient.

By undertaking energy-efficient measures, individual households can make significant savings. This will depend on the systems involved, and the commitment to adhere to the sustainability initiative.

Reports point to savings of over 25 per cent on monthly bills due to ''green measures'' adopted by the users.

The Energy Performance Contracting (EPC) market is well-established in Europe and North America. A statement read: ''Under an EPC arrangement, an external organization (ESCO) implements a project to deliver energy efficiency, or a renewable energy project, and uses the stream of income from the cost savings, or the renewable energy produced, to repay the costs of the project, including the costs of the investment. Essentially, ESCO will not receive its payment unless the project delivers energy savings as expected.''

The Dubai government has already started facilitating the private sector to tap into this market by creating regulatory incentives, and the Dubai Regulatory & Supervisory Bureau and DEWA, through the establishment of Etihad ESCO, have also put in place a comprehensive framework for EPC projects.

EmiratesGBC is actively involved in the building industry and our partners in the public sector to promote awareness of the function of EPCs and ESCOs, and to bridge the government and industry on these important steps.

Some useful tips to go green

• Use water efficiently – The water consumption rate per person in the UAE is 550 to 850 liters/day, one of the world's highest. Installing water-efficient fixtures can save potable water used for sewage conveyance by nearly 50%, according to LEED Innovative Wastewater Technologies. Automatic water faucets with light sensors must be installed for wash basins for further savings.

• Maintain the room temperature – Keep the room temperature at a moderate setting. 24 degrees is ideal during summer. Use your windows wisely. Plants can also increase coolness in a room, creating a healthy atmosphere.

Read more on sustainability which is driven by demand

Source: S. Dhar, Special to Freehold


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