Professional Speak on: The task of building a green nation

The “GCC Focus on Sustainability in Construction” report revealed that the UAE is “considered a leader in green building practices.”Engi Jaber, Sustainability Manager, Dewan Architects + Engineers

The “GCC Focus on Sustainability in Construction” report revealed that the UAE is “considered a leader in green building practices.”

It is very evident that government intervention has played a huge part in this, in a bid to transform the UAE into a green nation.

With Abu Dhabi’s own Estidama system and Dubai’s Green Building Codes making it mandatory for new buildings to comply with green regulations, how far has the UAE gone in terms of the implementation of the various regulations and what are the challenges faced by the building sector?

Engi Jaber, Sustainability Manager of Dewan Architects + Engineers, tackles the different issues related to green building standards.

Sustainability sector growth

The implementation of the green building standards in the country is on the rise.

With the need for all projects to meet the green regulations in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, it is only eminent to witness a growth in the sustainability sector.

Consultants and contractors are gaining experience with what needs to be done to develop and construct a green project.

Moreover, clients are now becoming more competitive (especially in Abu Dhabi) to achieve the highest sustainability goals whether for the belief that it truly does pay back during operations, or simply for marketing purposes.

The regulations are still being refurbished to provide the best tailor-made requirements that suit the UAE region but still, it is worth to mention that the governments have performed an exquisite job between selecting the criteria and mandating the regulations for developers and contractors to follow in order to lift up the standard of life in the UAE into a more sustainable and healthier one.

Challenges encountered by the building sector

When it comes to implementing green practices in the UAE, a few challenges come into play.

First is letting our clients be aware that all the requirements are mandated by the government. Hence, it is not a question of choosing to perform only some of the requirements or all. This is true for Dubai regulations and, at times, for Estidama in Abu Dhabi. Estidama makes it compulsory for new commercial buildings, residential developments (whether villas or apartments) and other property projects to achieve a 1 Pearl rating. Government buildings must at least get 2 Pearls.

However, it is less of a concern when it comes to other voluntary certifications such as LEED.

Second is getting the entire project team, including other disciplines other than architecture, be aware of the sustainability measures that need to be implemented right from the project start.

Delaying the process of addressing them has proved to be disadvantageous and problematic and will only result in non-compliance when submitting to the authorities. This, in turn, will delay the permitting process.

Moreover, an extensive amount of research needs to be carried out to ensure that the sustainable materials listed in the specifications as per the green building standards are available and can be easily procured during the construction phase.

Finally is ensuring that the contractors are doing their due diligence to procure only materials (which are sometimes not available locally thus posing another challenge) that comply with the requirements, and constructing the building or project taking into consideration the factors that will affect its overall performance.

Top trends in 2015

More investments in renewable energy are likely to occur.

However, I also believe that there will be a higher focus on addressing other sustainability issues other than those conventional ones, i.e., energy and water.

Thus, it is most likely that more research and innovative solutions will come into play that will address the indoor air quality in residential and commercial development projects.

Source: Ellen Joyce Soriano, Special to Freehold


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