by Khaled Bushnaq
 
Khaled Bushnaq, managing director, Energy Management Systems, talks about the advantages for companies who go green.


 
In recent months, the UAE has continued to intensify its environmental protection efforts, recognising that sustainable development is an essential component of economic growth. The World Bank reports that the country will invest around US $45.7 billion (AED 168 billion) over the next 10 years in environmental and pollution control projects.
 
This ‘green’ revolution has naturally extended its reach to the construction and real estate development sectors, which have been racing to integrate green solutions in their projects after HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum announced that all buildings in Dubai be constructed according to green building standards from January 2008.
 
The concept of green building (the use of eco-friendly materials and technologies that ensure resource optimisation while minimising negative health and environmental effects) was initially promoted in the country to prevent environmental degradation and uplift living conditions.
 
The business community has since realised that green buildings have profound effects on productivity: directly, such structures improve the bottomline by reducing costs related to energy and water; indirectly, they enhance employee efficiency by boosting employee motivation, health and energy levels.
 
Benefits of green buildings
 
Although extensive empirical evidence on the exact contribution of green buildings to worker productivity remains limited, we can refer to a landmark analysis by researchers from Carnegie Mellon University of several studies related to the health and human benefits of green buildings for valuable insights.
 
Among the interesting findings are that high-performance ventilation systems reduce respiratory illnesses by 10-90%; heating, ventilation and air-conditioning improvements enhance individual productivity; proper temperature control improves performance by 0.2-7%; the replacement of noisy magnetic ballasts with noise-free electronic ballasts in fluorescent lamps reduces the incidence of headaches by 74%; and optimised lighting design boosts individual productivity between 0.7-23%.
 
In addition, while individual factors such as ventilation, temperature and daylight have the potential to improve productivity by as much as 3-5%, multiple factors may lead to as much as 15-20% enhancement. These results provide a strong case for the role of green buildings in significantly increasing worker productivity.
 
Increase in productivity
 
An area where I believe green solutions should be promoted further is the country’s industrial construction sector, which remains generally hesitant to pursue green building due to intense competition in the international manufacturing industry, but
which can experience the most productivity gains if it adopts sustainable strategies.
 
In a study conducted by University of Pittsburgh scholars, for example, a precast stone products manufacturer that decided to transfer operations to a green facility reported a 25% increase in manufacturing productivity, while worker productivity was found to have been enhanced by air temperature, humidity, work area size and conducive outside scenery.
 
Green building will continue to gain momentum in the country, especially as the Emirates Green Building Council (EGBC) has proposed a building sustainability assessment for the UAE, based on the US Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system.
 
EGBC has modified the LEED system to emphasise water conservation and has adjusted content and weight in selected sections to make the overall system more applicable to the UAE construction sector by raising the total collectible points from 69 to 72. The LEED assessment method was chosen due to its international recognition, its reference to standards that are already widely used in the UAE, and the presence of several LEED-accredited buildings in the country. Hopefully, a new LEED Emirates green building assessment method will be ratified by September 2008.
 
Unfortunately, many companies remain hesitant to engage in green solutions, which they believe involve huge costs. A World Business Council for Sustainable Development international study shows that, on average, green buildings are believed to cost an extra 17% to build, when in fact it costs less than 5%. This misconception thus deprives several businesses of the potentially millions of dirhams in cost and productivity benefits provided by green structures.
 
A company typically spends 10 times more on employees in terms of salaries, benefits and training, than on building utilities, operations and maintenance; investing in sound green strategies for the workplace can help organisations meet business requirements, optimise employee productivity and increase profits

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