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Fri 24 Oct 2008 04:00 AM

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A minute of your time...

What does it take to make a building green? EMSI’s sustainable design consultant Bryan Yates looks at how the Middle East is measuring up.

What does it take to make a building green? EMSI’s sustainable design consultant Bryan Yates looks at how the Middle East is measuring up.

What products and services does EMSI offer?

EMSI's consulting services focus on greening the built environment. To that end, we offer energy analysis, design consultation, day lighting analysis and design strategies, and, if a particular sustainability rating system is being required by the developer - compliance and documentation facilitation to meet rating system standards. Most of our projects are seeking LEED certification; we are widely recognised as LEED experts, although we work with other rating systems as well.

In which countries does the firm operate?

We are headquartered in Washington, DC. In China we have offices in Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou. The majority of our projects are located in the US and China, but we also have several projects in other parts of Asia (India, Thailand and Vietnam), Europe, Turkey, and a few projects in South America.

What has the firm got on in the Middle East currently?

We are currently assisting on energy analysis, commissioning services, and general LEED credit issues.

Does the firm have any plans for expansion in the  region?

This market is of great interest to us, but we recognise the many pitfalls associated with this market. I would characterise our current position as one of interest and study, and limited engagement for the time being.

We've been excited to see the region adopt green building policies, and very excited that LEED is being used, since it is so flexible. But we've also found that the manner in which LEED is being applied has taken away some of that flexibility.

We've also seen that the market as a whole has not yet caught up with the requirements to provide the services needed to apply sustainable best management practices. Once local entrepreneurs and regulatory bodies recognise the potential market for those services, applying any green rating system will be much easier.

How did the firm's acquisition by Carrier in February 2008 strengthen or change its operations?

Being a relatively small company, the amount of resources and tools made available to us by the acquisition has been wonderful. Carrier and EMSI had collaborated on projects in the past, and there was a mutual recognition of the benefits to both companies.

Since the acquisition, those synergies have grown stronger, and the markets we've been exposed to have expanded. While we are part of Carrier, our primary responsibility is to our clients, and we are free to recommend the equipment that best meets the project's needs.

What are the main sustainability issues in the Middle East and how does EMSI plan to tackle them on projects?

Obviously energy is the main focus here, and with the rate of development and the demands being placed on electrical supply, some innovative strategies need to be put in place.

Requiring buildings to meet certain energy standards and the development of alternative forms of energy are a first step. But having the regulatory and technical infrastructures available to support those strategies is key. I think this is another example of the regulatory framework lagging behind what is required to implement more sustainable practices.

In our limited experience in this region, we have seen some compliance issues regarding the building sites, storm water strategies, and meeting materials credits, but again these are issues that market forces will help change.

How do you feel that the Middle East's response and current developments in the sustainability field compare to those worldwide?

I don't think there can be any doubt that the UAE is at the forefront of addressing sustainability issues in its regulations. It's a very complicated issue, as many people would consider the rate and type of growth the Middle East is experiencing as being contradictory to the general concept of sustainability. But the demand is there, and if meeting that demand is going to be addressed, then doing so in a more responsible and sustainable way should be applauded.

There are many countries that have tackled energy issues, and Iceland comes immediately to mind, but not sustainability as a whole, taking everything associated with the built environment in mind, and requiring all development within that region to comply. I think that is where the UAE in particular has been a true leader.

What do you feel is the best rating system for application in the region?

We are big fans of LEED, and most of the projects we work on have certification as a goal. We also recognise some of its limitations, but for flexibility and addressing all aspects of development, it really is quite good.

There are some limitations in applying certain credits to this region, but having such a flexible system insures that a developer's goals can still be met. LEED 2009 in particular will allow additional flexibility to address regional differences and allow places like the Middle East to customise the rating systems to better address those differences.

What do you feel is/are the optimum air conditioning solution(s) for use in this market in terms of energy efficiency?

I think that cogen tied to absorption chillers could be a very attractive solution for this region, and it is being used in other parts of Asia with success. District cooling is also being adopted here, and the efficiencies involved are very practical.

I think that other solutions are viable options, but are difficult to implement locally due to construction problems and compromised thermal envelopes - things like under floor distribution or chilled beams would be great, but without a tight envelope the condensation problems would be a real nightmare. I've been in so many buildings in the Middle East with condensation issues.

What areas of MEP system design must be tackled in order to raise the overall sustainability of a building? How can this be enforced or encouraged?

It's such a comprehensive issue, including aspects of the building design, envelope, orientation, etc. as well as the MEP systems.

It is so hard to address MEP without context of all facets of the building, but perhaps the best answer is the total integration of MEP design into all other aspects of the building throughout the design process, from schematic design - on.

And having the time to thoroughly investigate the best possible MEP design with energy analysis software, and being able to explore various energy efficiency measures or alternative designs - it's critical.

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