Advancing Green Building and Environment Sustainability | Emirates GBC | Saeed Al Abbar

150128-RTD-Saeed Al Abbar photo

Green buildings, as a concept, have no doubt gained strong appeal among the industry and the public. But to uphold the ‘green building movement,’ it is important to undertake sustained awareness campaigns, promote localised innovation, share regional best practice and demonstrate an unwavering commitment. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) in this sense has more than ever become relentless in pursuing their sustainability efforts, especially in the light of mandated Abu Dhabi Economic Vision 2030 which seeks for key enablers for economic growth, admittedly with green practices being taken into account.

Saeed Al Abbar, the Chairman of Emirates Green Building Council (EmiratesGBC), addresses exclusively to AsiaGreenBuildings the best practices and key challenges in implementing green building practices in UAE, the promising retrofitting opportunities in the market, as well as the importance of incorporation and cross-support different green building measurements and tools in UAE.

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What is the main building certification you advise for sustainable building measure in UAE?

The Estidama Pearl Rating System, as a regulation and a sustainable development framework, only applies in the Abu Dhabi emirate, while Dubai applies its own Green Building Regulations and Specifications.

The Pearl Rating System is mandatory only in Abu Dhabi, with all new buildings and communities in Abu Dhabi having to comply with it and fulfil the 1 Pearl requirements, it is a useful reference for development in other emirates, as well as the wider region. This local rating system addresses three types of developments (buildings, villas and communities) and guides developers through seven rating categories in order to earn 1 to 5 Pearls.

Dubai’s Green Building Regulations and Specifications aim at improving the performance of new buildings by reducing their consumption of energy, water and building materials. Currently used as guidelines, this regulatory framework also became mandatory for all new buildings in Dubai in January 2014.

The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) has also been commonly used in the UAE, particularly in Dubai; taking advantage of its global, regional and local applicability to create structures that mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and enhance other sustainability measures.

Nevertheless, it is important to note that a building can be sustainable and incorporate green best practices without having a certification behind it. Certifications are useful tools for measurement and can serve as guidelines for best practice. All green certifications are useful when planning new building, based on project location, type or style or scope and targets to be achieved.

What are the best practices and the challenges around green construction materials in UAE?

The best practices around green concrete include the use of alternative sustainable materials in mixed cement products, as well as low chemical contents in construction materials; with much of the industry already applying green components for concrete. The use of raw materials, even if they are imported, is cutting CO2 emissions by so much that the transport-related CO2 emissions are balanced.

As any other industry, there are challenges faced when implementing green practices.. Ensuring that the green regulations and standards are properly enforced in manufacturing plants and construction sites is essential as well as understanding the importance of recycling vs. landfill disposal of construction materials in the UAE

How big is the need to develop new policies regarding local sustainable cities with regards to Abu Dhabi Economic Vision 2030?

Policies and regulations are important tools to support the UAE’s vision for a Green Economy and reach its sustainability objectives. Within Abu Dhabi there exists a comprehensive framework of policies, planning guidelines and regulations to ensure the effective implementation of the Plan 2030 vision.

It is also important for policies to be complemented with communications, education and knowledge-sharing or awareness campaigns for all stakeholders involved, including regulatory bodies, industry, academia and civil society.

To this end, EmiratesGBC has created the Energy Efficiency Programme (EEP) to serve as an energy efficiency database and collaboration platform that compiles the expertise of our corporate members who provide services or materials that are related to energy efficiency.

What opportunities and challenges are there in the emerging UAE retrofit market?

There are massive financial, technical and business opportunities in the UAE retrofit market. Etihad ESCO estimates that in Dubai alone there are 120,000 buildings of which 30,000 have been identified as having high energy saving potential. A very strong commitment from local authorities, with smart solutions and innovations from the market also plays a pivotal role in promoting retrofitting in the UAE.

The biggest challenge that we identify is access to the information. To cope with this and to highlight industry best practices to make building more energy-efficient through retrofitting and other measures, we recently hosted an Energy Efficiency Focus Day with the Dubai Chamber of Commerce, bringing together representatives of all stakeholders in the building industry as well as high-ranking representatives of government bodies that drive the sustainable development of Dubai.

We are also soon releasing our Technical Guidelines for Retrofitting Existing Buildings, to address the need of technical information, by providing all stakeholders with a set of instructions and best practices to help understand the current processes, technologies, and standards to successfully retrofit their buildings, thus make them more energy- and water-efficient.

As Emirates Green Building Council is lately focusing on the hospitality industry, what guidelines are likely to be released?

 So far, there are no specific guidelines available dedicated directly to the hotel’s energy and water consumption, so any technical guidance for commercial buildings can apply.

Eco-certifications such as Green Key, which is operated by EmiratesGBC in the UAE, do however provide guidance and incentives for the hotels to improve their operations and engage in refurbishments, installation of new equipment, training and awareness campaigns, amongst others. Recognised by the World Tourism Organisation and United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the Green Key eco-label programme also provides guests with the assurance that they are choosing an accommodation/venue that has a commitment to green practices. What also helps is the focus of local authorities for hotels’ operations, with the interests from the various emirates to include environmental concerns (water, energy, waste) into the hotels’ classification.

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About Emirates Green Building Council

The Emirates Green Building Councils (EmiratesGBC) was formed in 2006, with the goal of advancing green building principles for protecting the environment and ensuring sustainability in the United Arab Emirates. Significant change in the attitudes and demands related to the sustainable built environment has been witnessed upon the establishment of the organization. We have been encouraged by the implementation of green building policies and regulations, by the adoption of consistent rating systems, and by the increase in the overall knowledge sharing and information available on built environments and communities.

Website: www.emiratesgbc.org

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