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Sat 15 Dec 2007 04:00 AM

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A green future for Dubai?

Helen Waddell, lawyer at Pinsent Masons' Construction Group, discusses how the green regulations currently in place in the UK, if brought to Dubai, might effect construction.

As from January next year all buildings in Dubai will have to be constructed in accordance with the new ‘green building' standards. The regulations will be implemented in phases, with separate laws for buildings that have already been built, are under construction or are in the design stage. But with so little time for the industry to align itself with the new standards, developers could face difficulties implementing them.

Although Dubai is the first country in the region to introduce such standards, the UK already has many ‘green' regulations in place and others which are coming into force in 2008. What might Dubai, one of the most consumption heavy places on the planet, expect if it were to follow some of the measures introduced in the UK?

There are strict regulations for new buildings (Buildings Regulations Part L). These regulations aim to make the services within the buildings operate as energy efficiently as possible and to provide sufficient information about the building so that the owners or tenants can operate them efficiently. It is anticipated that the improved energy efficiency measures introduced by the Building Regulations will save one million tonnes of carbon per year in the UK by 2010 (equivalent to emissions from more than one million homes).

Part L tries not to be prescriptive. Targets are set but the building designers have an element of flexibility in how they achieve the target emissions rate. Such regulations would no doubt appeal to Dubai where the element of design innovation is important. Indeed, as my colleague in Dubai Sachin Kerur tells me, Dubai has found already that the challenge of building a sustainable building in the desert invites some interesting ideas.

By October 2008, when any building is bought, sold or rented in the UK it will need to be accompanied by an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) showing the ‘asset rating' of a building expressed on a scale of A (very efficient) to G (very inefficient). These will provide owners and tenants with details of how much energy is used in a building and how cost effective alternations can be made to the premises to reduce energy usage. Importantly, the EPC will also contain information about the ‘potential' energy rating of a building; the improved rating that could be achieved if the recommendations of the Recommendation Report are met. Contractors will not receive their practical completion certificates until an EPC is obtained.

Display Energy Certificates (DEC) are similar to EPCs but provide information about the energy performance of a building. An advisory report contains recommendations for improving the energy performance. Previous ratings must be shown to indicate whether the energy performance is improving. The intention is that occupiers will take account of the recommendations when planning any refurbishments.

In the UK, over time, asset ratings and the running costs of comparable buildings will become market knowledge and we can expect that EPCs/DECs will impact upon and need to be considered during all dealings with property. WSP are already developing a sustainability index for property. In the long term, this is likely to lead to a rethinking of how properties are valued and the development of a two tier market, with energy efficient buildings potentially attracting higher premiums or related reductions in the capital value of inefficient buildings.

There are therefore potential benefits for property owners and investors taking action now in order to obtain a competitive advantage from having an energy efficient property.

A ‘Green Lease' is a lease which has additional provisions set out within it whereby the landlord and the tenant undertake specific responsibilities with regard to the sustainable operation of a property e.g. energy efficient measures, waste reduction and water efficiency. These are now being introduced in the UK and could soon find their way onto the Dubai property market.

Waste continues to be a major issue for the construction sector in the UK and in Dubai. Site Waste Management Plans come into force in the UK in April 2008 and will require construction companies to radically reduce the amount of waste they produce. Ideally the waste would not be created in the first place, but measures will be required to recycle and re-use as much of the unused construction materials as possible and reduce the amount of waste that goes to landfill.

There is currently no standard for water efficiency in the building regulations. However, there has been a recent government consultation (Draft Strategy for Sustainable Construction) on water efficiency measures and water efficiency is likely to become part of the UK Building Regulations.

With global warming becoming a more serious and real threat to the livelihood of the planet, there is a rising awareness that a lifestyle that is dependent on an intensive consumption of fossil fuels may not be sustainable. Dubai's coastal location and low-lying reclaimed land mean its green building standards are welcome but they are only the start of what is likely to be a green future for not only the construction sector in Dubai, but for Dubai as a whole.

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