Electric cars on the streets of Abu Dhabi, plans for a US $350 million solar power plant, an agreement to build a waste management and recycling park in Dubai Industrial City (DIC). The United Arab Emirates, it appears, is increasingly embracing the idea of environmental responsibility.
If these steps are representative of a real sea change in attitudes towards the environment and conservation, the construction industry would do well to sit up and take notice. Right now, developers have to meet various health & safety standards before authorities clear their buildings for use. One day in the future, and perhaps sooner than you might think, buildings could be subject to strict environmental checks before they are cleared for use.
So how should the industry react? Hopefully, by seeing green building methods as an opportunity, rather than yet another cause of rising costs.
The theory is that a green building may cost more to build initially, but the cost of running it will be significantly lower than the cost of running a building constructed with traditional methods.
Every residential or office building has a foyer that requires lighting and corridors that need to be kept cool. Office buildings have public bathrooms and many residential buildings have central AC systems in place.
Whilst the cost of these things may be factored into the tenants' rents, it is landlords that pay directly for them. Imagine if the cost of running all these services could be reduced by a few percentage points. Every year, landlords will be saving themselves thousands of dollars; you never know, they might even decide to pass the cost savings through to their clients by lowering rents.
Left to their own devices, contractors are not going to make buildings green. Their emphasis is on cost of construction, rather than cost of ownership. For developers, however, there is a real incentive to make their buildings eco friendly.
What the region needs right now is a landmark building full of green technology, that acts as a benchmark for the industry. Once we have a really prominent example of how a green building is saving its owner money, many more developers will hopefully follow.