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Sat 14 Feb 2009 04:00 AM

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Give me green

Green buildings have become the norm rather than the exception as businesses worldwide become aware of the positive environmental and societal affects of sustainable construction.

Green buildings have become the norm rather than the exception as businesses worldwide become aware of the positive environmental and societal affects of sustainable construction.

The construction and building sector is the bad guy. These industries are believed to be responsible for the most of the CO2 emissions.

But, as we cannot eliminate the construction industry, developers and builders have to find the solution within the problem.

Even with the dust, the ME is the best region to use solar power. - Ennis Rimawi, chairman of Millennium Energy Industries.

The answer lies in building more efficiently which in turn will lessen the environmental impact of emissions.

According to McGraw-Hill Construction Analytics, which conducted a research and produced a report titled, Global Green Building Trends: Market Growth and Perspectives from Around the World in partnership with the World Green Building Council in 2008, a majority of construction professionals around the world expect more than 60% of their projects to be focused on green building within the next five years.

Environmentally friendly building currently accounts for more than 10% of domestic projects for almost a third of the respondents who participated in the study.

The bottom-line impact of eco-friendly building is expected to be strong, according to the study. It found that 86% of firms expect rapid or steady growth in sales and profits associated with green building.

Launched last May, Estidama, which means "sustainability" in Arabic, is Abu Dhabi's contribution to the global discussion of how to create more sustainable communities, cities and global enterprises.

It is the result of a clear political vision that is intended to balance environmental, economic, cultural and social imperatives in pursuit of a higher quality of life for all living things.

Estidama is the first program of its kind that is tailored specifically to the region. It was conceived to initially support the realisation of Plan Abu Dhabi 2030, under the direction of Abu Dhabi Urban Planning Council.Estidama has developed the Pearl Rating system, a voluntary program, to be made available to developers seeking to achieve recognition for pursuing a higher level of green building.

Ratings will be based on a new foundation document (to be created this year) that will form the basis of assessment, guidelines and rating systems.

Other Gulf countries such as Bahrain, only have basic regulations that provide minimal set of green building guidelines.

Bahrain’s guidelines are far below any green building codes found elsewhere in the world. -Khalil Issa, CEO of Energy Central Company.

"These guidelines are far below any green building codes found elsewhere in the world," says Khalil Issa, CEO of Energy Central Company.

Energy Central Co has been granted a 25-year concession agreement to design, build and operate the sea water desalination plant serving the irrigation for the entire Durrat Al Bahrain, an island based on mixed-use residential, commercial and resort development in the south of the kingdom with a total investment value of US $4 billion (AED 14.65 billion).

"We are a service provider and deal with the supply side of the equation. When it comes to issues of green utilities, we try for efficiency. We have no control on what goes into a building, but we would like to provide energy in more rational manner. Green buildings require utilities, which means lower energy costs, which in turn means greener buildings," says Issa.

Green building uses its resources more efficiently, for example it requires less water and has better insulation, which leads to lower energy costs.

"The purpose of everyone working on a green building is the same - it is how to make the whole planet survive the ozone depletion. We are all vying for a more efficient world," says Issa.

As a utility provider, Energy Central works with designers and consultants to make a building green. "We try to utilise resources to the maximum, when we have an efficient system, it translates into green buildings," says Issa.

Apart from utility providers, there are a number of products in the market that give buildings additional points to achieve a green rating.Tiger Profiles and Insulation is distributing Solacoat, a waterborne acrylic emulsion based product which aids in rejecting of the infra red rays from the sun in the region. Solacoat also won the GAIA gold award during the Big 5 last November.

"These coatings are environmentally friendly, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and reduce electricity costs. It can be applied to concrete, metal or any other kind of surface. After application to an exterior surface it also reduces maintenance cost. As the Dubai Municipality is in process of launching green building guidelines, we will launch these products with Dubai Municipality's endorsements in May 2009," says Rosy Salameh, assistant executive director - marketing of Tiger Profiles and Insulation.

Solar power is the most common form of renewable energy around the world and increased awareness is driving its growth worldwide and in the ME.

Ennis Rimawi, chairman of the Jordan-based Millennium Energy Industries (MEI), says that countries such as Jordan subsidised water and energy till recently.

"But in the ME region over the last 18 months, most countries removed energy subsidies, since they couldn't afford it anymore," says Rimawai.

"For the consumer it led to high operating costs and that has kicked off a natural commercially driven interest in more energy efficiency. More progressive owners and developers want to adopt more energy efficient standards because their clients have a commercial interest in it," he says.

In countries such as the UAE, energy is still subsidised. In Abu Dhabi, Masdar (the zero-carbon city) began initially as a political strategic initiative. But because of amount of money that will be spent on energy efficiency and because of its visibility, it created a high level of interest in the area and the alternative way of life that it offered.

"Around the same time after Masdar was introduced, Dubai revealed their interest in green buildings as well. In Dubai's case, green guidelines were announced quickly and had unrealistic timelines. Maybe the extra costs associated with green buildings were doable before and now with the economic recession, it has taken a back-seat," says Rimawi.

Given the current charges for electricity, an alternative energy solution will only work in the UAE if the government raises its electricity tariff.For example, when a new project is announced, it is charged a one time connection fee, which is based on total power load of the project.

"The connection fee charged in Dubai is about three times higher than in Abu Dhabi. Dubai has also started increasing the price of electricity, which in some way is a positive sign as it makes alternative energies more viable. Even though there might be a delay in green building codes, it will still encourage efficiency," says Rimawi.

MEI is putting in a solar hot water plant for Modern Residential City in Abu Dhabi. "This is a workers village, it will house 25,000 residents living in its 48 buildings. For this project we found that the capital cost of putting in solar hot water system was lesser than a conventional system," says Rimawi.

By using solar hot water, Modern Residential City's power load will be reduced by 8 MW which translates into big savings.

Every region has certain advantages and disadvantages in its ability to use solar energy. The ME has one of the highest concentrations of sunlight globally, but the prevalent dust and sand reduces efficiency.

"Even with the dust, the ME is the best region to use solar power," says Rimawi.

"Every weakness can be worked around. With dust and sand, efficiency does go down a little bit and maintenance cost goes up. As energy is subsidised in the UAE, the commercial viability of solar energy is not there, but over time as subisides will be lifted, solar power will become viable for power generation," says Rimawai.

In the near future, it will become possible to go green without paying a premium. "Developers are sincerely interested in adopting green technology and standards in the UAE," he says.

Maipei is supplying water proofing and adhesives to the Masdar project, green product that comply with LEED standards in a cost effective way.

The company's worldwide annual turnover was 1.7 billion euros last year, out of which 5% goes into R&B. "Seventy percent of that 5 % goes into research and production of green products and even in the current economic situation that hasn't changed," says Laith Haboubi, business manager, Maipei.

The current economic situation has changed the priority of projects with developers and owners looking at economic viability rather than the sustainability element which has dropped low on the priority list.

"The upside of the situation is that developers and owners will now construct in a more durable manner, which means that they will use quality material that comply with correct green standards," says Haboubi.

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