Over the years, the buzz of the "Green" trend has gotten louder. It's been streamlined in the media, conferences, and coffee table discussions. But on a deeper level, how does all this translate into design operations. Are interior designers willing to embrace it as a challenge or a reality that should be met with serious measures? Has the trend been reduced to plain old propaganda and in turn, is it being misused as a marketing tool for businesses?
According to Christian Merieau, managing director, Samuel Creations, Dubai, in consultation with Melden Francia, the masses are weary of the push to be more environmentally responsible, hence the term "green fatigue". The overwhelming information of green products has led to speculations on the adequacy of the efforts of "saving the earth" strategies. This could be brought about by the escalating attitude of society that everything is fast tracked.
"The UAE's construction industry is thriving but is beset with wasteful practices and the excessive use of materials," said Merieau.
"Although local authorities have realised the significance of energy efficiency and conservation, the adoption and integration process is painfully slow. The Emirates is developing a rating system that measures green credentials that will conform to its climatic context and will be region specific.
"In addition to this, the recently formed EGBC (Emirates Green Building Council) is taking steps to ensure sustainable building practices in the UAE. Attempts are being made to transform the perception of property developers and prospective owners. EGBC says its vision is ‘to be the prime driver in facilitating the UAE's prominent position as a global leader in the ecological footprint reduction of the built environment by 2015'. This is a bold statement and the task is extremely challenging.
"We, as responsible design consultants, must rally to the cause and form a unified front to help facilitate this vision. We have the ability to suggest ‘lifestyles', how difficult could it be to suggest responsible ones?"
Siddarth Peters, managing director, The Total Office, is not sure if his company is part of the problem regarding ‘green fatigue'. He said his company joined EGBC three years ago to understand and contribute to a bigger cause outside of the perceived "bottom line".
"All of our manufacturers preached the green story and we felt it was about time we understood the true meaning of it and more importantly sift the rubbish from the substance," he said.
"Our Abu Dhabi office was the perfect opportunity to introduce LEED into our corporate culture. The learning curve was tremendous, right from the subcontractor to the design consultant and of course us the client. We were all learning on the job. We successfully executed the project and just about made certification (LEED CI version 2.0)."
Peters decided to strive for a higher goal and two years later the Dubai Showroom is now going for LEED Gold (LEED CI version 3.0).
"I think very few people care about LEED, let alone the clients. Suppliers use it to boost their image without completely understanding it; designers scramble to understand it when a project requires it to be specified and clients believe by requesting the project to be LEED certified, in the middle of the build process, it can magically happen," he added."LEED is a relatively strict process; to achieve a Gold or Platinum certificate for their facility the discussions need to start at a very early stage, well before the lease is even signed. Unfortunately the pace at which shareholders expect the business to be up, running and returning profit does not allow a moment to foster thought or reflection on the environment.
"One in 10 clients think sustainable environments are important; one in those 10 ever do anything about it."
Sohail Cheema, head of design, BAFCO, thinks the idea is still new in the region and people are excited and want to get more educated and adopt it. So he believes the element of fatigue doesn't exist at the moment.
"Clients want to go for LEED Certification so that they could use it as marketing tool and impress their clients but, in actual fact, they don't really care about having a sustainable environment for now. And designers are never encouraged by the clients to propose sustainable elements if it's going to cost them more," he said.
However, Joseph Romano developer sector leader, RW Armstrong, said it would do injustice to many clients who care deeply about and are invested in the success of its projects to criticise their convictions.