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Thu 4 Oct 2007 04:00 AM

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Consumption reduction

Energy and water are two precious commodities in ME but how do they fit into the green movement?

The region's newfound enthusiasm for development initiatives comes at a time when concerns for environmental conservation have reached a critical high.

More and more are now hitching into the ‘green movement' not just because of its impact on the environment, but also because of new insights into its significant benefits in costs and sustainable development. And with the rapid adoption of newly developed energy systems, the region will bear this significant edge over the competition for many generations to come because of the replicable, recyclable, renewable and sustainable attributes associated with its development projects - things that previously were scarcely attended to.

A green building features direct and indirect cost savings compared to a standard-built structure.

To better understand such a significant edge, it is best to consider two of the most important elements of the green movement - water and energy - and how they fit into the green theme.

Water and energy are abundant natural resources that are essential in life. Such abundance, unfortunately, has led others to believe that these natural resources are limitless commodities. They are not. If the uncontrollable rate of energy and water wastage is sustained, they could run out sooner than we can imagine.

Bearing this in mind, it is easy to appreciate the great value of the various newly developed energy systems. The challenge is to find ways to conserve non-replicable resources and maximise renewable sources of water and energy.

Conservation of water and energy are two of the most important aspects of the green movement.

There are many approaches used to reduce energy and water consumption, although there are approaches that are actually more suitable to certain conditions.

Companies incorporating a proper energy program can reap the benefits and improve energy efficiency in the overall design.
In each project, companies should be able to identify multiple ways to implement the green concept and in-depth analysis can help give the most suitable approach.

The biggest issue in developing a proper energy conservation program for any project is usually in the cooling aspect. In view of the region's intense climate, cooling a building poses a significantly bigger challenge for any development project in the Middle East than anywhere else in the world. The process sucks up so much energy that it has become a primary consideration in designing any structure.

If energy and water wastage is sustained, they could run out sooner than expected.

While there may be a certain degree of complexity and technicality required, work on the cooling aspect essentially boils down to correctly sizing the cooling equipment, securing the most efficient equipment and proper insulation.

Determining the size of the cooling project is foremost on the list because the rest of the process would be irrelevant if the first step is not properly executed.

No matter how efficient your equipment is and no matter has perfectly it has been installed, if it produces too much or too little cooling effect, then either way it could eventually lead to inconvenience among the occupants and excessive maintenance costs.

Another opportunity to conserve energy is through the optimised usage of natural light.

With the help of an energy solutions provider, developers and facilities managers can successfully leverage the location of their project to maximise its ability to accommodate natural light in almost all areas, without compromising convenience.

Other energy solutions offered are efficient placement of fixtures, motion sensors that turn off lights when not in use, renewable energy such as solar hot water, solar and wind-powered electricity, temperature recovery air exchangers and district cooling systems.
On the other hand, water conservation activities may include extensive use of landscape plants that require less amounts of water. Reclaimed water from the municipality being used for irrigation purposes also helps significantly decrease the strain on the water supply.

Other relatively simple means to conserve water are low-flow fixtures and/or aerators for sinks, showers fitted with sensors or timers to reduce water-flow time, dual flush toilets and waterless urinals.

There are a lot of ways to reduce energy and water consumption and for every distinct location, project design or purpose, there are specific solutions that offer the best results in boosting efficiency.

When it comes to cost implications, green buildings feature direct and indirect savings compared to a standard-built structure.

The direct savings include reduced energy and water usage fees, because of the efficiency mechanisms included in the project. However, a green building may initially cost more because of added expenditure on green improvements, but it will have significant payback in the long run. According to the recent report titled ‘The Costs and Financial Benefits of Green Buildings', there is a cost premium of between 0-2% when constructing a green building. But the same study also showed that in a 20-year span the present value savings delivered by the ‘green' features far outweigh the initial costs.

On top of the direct benefits, there are also indirect productivity gains achieved by green buildings. For instance, a different study has shown that healthy air and natural light resulting from effective energy systems in offices and schools has contributed to improved test scores and worker performance. Additionally, effective energy programs help minimise the risk of sick building syndrome and dramatically reduce callbacks.

More recently, the green building concept received a big boost when the UAE government announced that within a year, it would implement a green building rating system patterned after the US Leadership in Energy and Environment Design (LEED) rating.

The LEED-based system will create higher benchmark standards and eventually lead to establishing environmental compliance and energy conservation as the fundamental norms of various industries.

The whole industry should pull together and contribute in any way possible to conserve energy and water. Major players and developers should lead the way in the conservation of energy and water resources, which serve as the cornerstone of the region's mission to create a sustainable future.

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