Proactive ‘green’ approach urged
by Amy Ward
Developers in the UAE are well advised to voluntarily seek certification for the sustainability of their buildings to mitigate any potential increases in design and construction costs before the emirates make the sustainable building guidelines mandatory, writes AMY WARD*.
With the 2009 World Future Energy Summit having been held in Abu Dhabi last month (January), the focus has once again turned to environmental sustainability in the UAE.
In 2007, the World Wide Fund (WWF) Living Planet Report stated that the UAE had the world’s largest carbon footprint per resident. Whether or not this provided the catalyst, the UAE has since then committed to initiatives that encourage low-carbon living such as the Masdar City development in Abu Dhabi.
In recent times, both Abu Dhabi and Dubai have taken steps to support green building principles and their implementation in the construction industry.
Abu Dhabi introduced its ‘Estidama’ sustainable building guidelines in May 2008. Estidama, meaning ‘sustainability’ in Arabic, provides guidelines for sustainable design and operation and maintenance of all types of buildings and communities in the emirate. It is intended that Estidama will become the basis for mandatory guidelines to be introduced in Abu Dhabi in the future, in addition to being introduced in the other emirates.
The Estidama programme was launched by the Abu Dhabi Urban Planning Council to underpin Plan Abu Dhabi 2030 and a sustainable community, by promoting economic growth whilst enhancing the overall quality of life and protecting environmental resources.
Three sets of guidelines were produced as a result of the programme including the new building guidelines, existing building guidelines and community design guidelines. Whilst at this stage these are discretionary guidelines, the Urban Planning Council has indicated that it plans to introduce mandatory regulations in the future.
The new buildings assessment method assesses 10 different criteria for which credits can be awarded. These include water, energy use, indoor environment quality, ecology, management, transport, pollution, materials, waste management and land use.
The Estidama assessment method, however, differs from other international assessment standards in that it has been tailored specifically to the UAE’s socio-economic and environmental conditions in mind. For example, water and energy conservation are considered to be the most important elements of the Estidama green building principles and make up 50 per cent of the total credits that a building can be awarded. Upon accreditation, buildings are rated using a pearl rating system according to the credits they have been awarded under the 10 criteria.
In Dubai, compliance with internationally-recognised green building standards has been on the rise over the past two years. The Emirates Green Building Council was established in 2006 and decided to use the US-based Leed system (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) as a basis for its green building guidelines. As a result, in 2007, the Emirates Leed scheme was released. The UAE, currently, has a small number of Leed-accredited facilities, with more likely to be introduced in the future.
The Leed Green Building Rating System was established in the US in 1994 and provides standards for environmentally-sustainable construction. It identifies six major areas where new commercial buildings (or those with significant renovations) can obtain credits in order to be a Leed-certified building. The areas include sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, indoor environment quality and innovation and design process. A building can be ‘certified’ or, if it obtains a higher number of credits, can obtain a silver, gold or platinum rating.
Dubai currently has two Leed-certified buildings – the headquarters of the building automation specialist Pacific Controls, based in Techno Park, which is platinum rated; and the district cooling plant at Wafi City Shopping Centre, which is gold rated – one of only two utility buildings worldwide to achieve a gold rating.
The US is not the only country to have internationally-recognised standards for environmentally-sustainable construction. In the UK, BRE (Building Research Establishment) created the Environmental Assessment Method (Breeam), a voluntary measurement rating for green buildings. Launched in 1990, it is the world’s longest-standing environmental assessment method for buildings.
Breeam now assesses new non-domestic buildings against nine categories including management; health and well-being; energy; transport; water; material and waste; land use and ecology; and pollution. BRE launched an adapted version of Breeam guidelines in the UAE in October which took into account climate difference, water desalination and differences in ecology as well as recognising the number of sea or marine reclamation projects under construction. In developing the adapted guidelines, BRE worked with a local ecologist to look at the impact of building reclaimed islands.
Significance
Until mandatory regulations are introduced, there are advantages and disadvantages for those in the construction industry who voluntarily choose to become accredited under one of the international systems or the UAE’s own Estidama system.
Once certification is pursued under an accreditation or certification system, there may be an increase in the initial design and construction costs. This could be firstly because sustainable construction principles may not be well understood by the design professionals undertaking the project and, as a result, further time may be required on research or additional liaison between the design team, construction team and client. Secondly, there may be a lack of available manufactured building components that meet the standards required under the green building certification systems. Thirdly, there are likely to be additional costs associated with pursuing certification for the project itself and subsequent liaison with the accreditation body.
However, there are many advantages associated with green buildings, which include a tendency to use key resources more efficiently, when compared with more conventional buildings; and healthier work and living environments, which contribute to higher productivity and improved employee health and comfort.
Higher initial costs may also be mitigated over time if operational costs are lower, which typically is the case with a green building-certified project. In addition, as further developments come onto the market, differentiation may become more important as developers try to attract buyers. Sustainability may be one of the key differentiating factors for future projects in the UAE.
Developers in the UAE, especially in Abu Dhabi, may be well placed to consider voluntarily certification under Estidama in order to prepare for, and mitigate, any potential increases in design and construction costs should the Urban Planning Council introduce the guidelines as mandatory requirements.
Aside from contributing to the reduction of the UAE’s carbon footprint, and as the global community (and in particular the UAE) becomes more environmentally aware, green buildings may become one of the key features for investors in a property market. This may be an advantage in itself in persuading developers to start voluntarily seeking certification under Estidama or any of the other internationally-recognised green building certification systems.
Gulf Construction

by Amy Ward

Developers in the UAE are well advised to voluntarily seek certification for the sustainability of their buildings to mitigate any potential increases in design and construction costs before the emirates make the sustainable building guidelines mandatory.

With the 2009 World Future Energy Summit having been held in Abu Dhabi last month (January), the focus has once again turned to environmental sustainability in the UAE.

In 2007, the World Wide Fund (WWF) Living Planet Report stated that the UAE had the world’s largest carbon footprint per resident. Whether or not this provided the catalyst, the UAE has since then committed to initiatives that encourage low-carbon living such as the Masdar City development in Abu Dhabi.

In recent times, both Abu Dhabi and Dubai have taken steps to support green building principles and their implementation in the construction industry.

Abu Dhabi introduced its ‘Estidama’ sustainable building guidelines in May 2008. Estidama, meaning ‘sustainability’ in Arabic, provides guidelines for sustainable design and operation and maintenance of all types of buildings and communities in the emirate. It is intended that Estidama will become the basis for mandatory guidelines to be introduced in Abu Dhabi in the future, in addition to being introduced in the other emirates.

The Estidama programme was launched by the Abu Dhabi Urban Planning Council to underpin Plan Abu Dhabi 2030 and a sustainable community, by promoting economic growth whilst enhancing the overall quality of life and protecting environmental resources.

Three sets of guidelines were produced as a result of the programme including the new building guidelines, existing building guidelines and community design guidelines. Whilst at this stage these are discretionary guidelines, the Urban Planning Council has indicated that it plans to introduce mandatory regulations in the future.

The new buildings assessment method assesses 10 different criteria for which credits can be awarded. These include water, energy use, indoor environment quality, ecology, management, transport, pollution, materials, waste management and land use.

The Estidama assessment method, however, differs from other international assessment standards in that it has been tailored specifically to the UAE’s socio-economic and environmental conditions in mind. For example, water and energy conservation are considered to be the most important elements of the Estidama green building principles and make up 50 per cent of the total credits that a building can be awarded. Upon accreditation, buildings are rated using a pearl rating system according to the credits they have been awarded under the 10 criteria.

In Dubai, compliance with internationally-recognised green building standards has been on the rise over the past two years. The Emirates Green Building Council was established in 2006 and decided to use the US-based Leed system (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) as a basis for its green building guidelines. As a result, in 2007, the Emirates Leed scheme was released. The UAE, currently, has a small number of Leed-accredited facilities, with more likely to be introduced in the future.

The Leed Green Building Rating System was established in the US in 1994 and provides standards for environmentally-sustainable construction. It identifies six major areas where new commercial buildings (or those with significant renovations) can obtain credits in order to be a Leed-certified building. The areas include sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, indoor environment quality and innovation and design process. A building can be ‘certified’ or, if it obtains a higher number of credits, can obtain a silver, gold or platinum rating.

Dubai currently has two Leed-certified buildings – the headquarters of the building automation specialist Pacific Controls, based in Techno Park, which is platinum rated; and the district cooling plant at Wafi City Shopping Centre, which is gold rated – one of only two utility buildings worldwide to achieve a gold rating.

The US is not the only country to have internationally-recognised standards for environmentally-sustainable construction. In the UK, BRE (Building Research Establishment) created the Environmental Assessment Method (Breeam), a voluntary measurement rating for green buildings. Launched in 1990, it is the world’s longest-standing environmental assessment method for buildings.

Breeam now assesses new non-domestic buildings against nine categories including management; health and well-being; energy; transport; water; material and waste; land use and ecology; and pollution. BRE launched an adapted version of Breeam guidelines in the UAE in October which took into account climate difference, water desalination and differences in ecology as well as recognising the number of sea or marine reclamation projects under construction. In developing the adapted guidelines, BRE worked with a local ecologist to look at the impact of building reclaimed islands.

Significance

Until mandatory regulations are introduced, there are advantages and disadvantages for those in the construction industry who voluntarily choose to become accredited under one of the international systems or the UAE’s own Estidama system.

Once certification is pursued under an accreditation or certification system, there may be an increase in the initial design and construction costs. This could be firstly because sustainable construction principles may not be well understood by the design professionals undertaking the project and, as a result, further time may be required on research or additional liaison between the design team, construction team and client. Secondly, there may be a lack of available manufactured building components that meet the standards required under the green building certification systems. Thirdly, there are likely to be additional costs associated with pursuing certification for the project itself and subsequent liaison with the accreditation body.

However, there are many advantages associated with green buildings, which include a tendency to use key resources more efficiently, when compared with more conventional buildings; and healthier work and living environments, which contribute to higher productivity and improved employee health and comfort.

Higher initial costs may also be mitigated over time if operational costs are lower, which typically is the case with a green building-certified project. In addition, as further developments come onto the market, differentiation may become more important as developers try to attract buyers. Sustainability may be one of the key differentiating factors for future projects in the UAE.

Developers in the UAE, especially in Abu Dhabi, may be well placed to consider voluntarily certification under Estidama in order to prepare for, and mitigate, any potential increases in design and construction costs should the Urban Planning Council introduce the guidelines as mandatory requirements.

Aside from contributing to the reduction of the UAE’s carbon footprint, and as the global community (and in particular the UAE) becomes more environmentally aware, green buildings may become one of the key features for investors in a property market. This may be an advantage in itself in persuading developers to start voluntarily seeking certification under Estidama or any of the other internationally-recognised green building certification systems.

Gulf Construction

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