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Fri 28 Jan 2011 12:00 AM

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Green light for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

FmME’s Saudi columnist, John Moore, discusses key environmental concerns for people in KSA.

Green light for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Time to crack-down on glass usage.
Green light for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

The ‘Saudi Green Building Forum 2010’ held in Riyadh at the
Kingdom Tower under the patronage of Saudi Minister of Municipal and Rural
Affairs, Prince Mansour bin Met’eb bin Abdul Aziz, marked a milestone for the
environment in KSA, being the first national conference exclusively devoted to
the subject.

Secretary General Faisal Al Fadi of the Saudi opened the two
day conference with a welcoming address and thanked the Saudi Government for
its support. During his speech, he said “The private sector will face a
paradigm shift from a service sector to a development and strategic partner”.

Abdulrahman bin Mohammed Al-Dahmash representing the
Minister of Municipal and Rural Affairs stressed the importance of the private
sector and added Saudi citizens play a role in enriching the concept of
environmentally green buildings.

The subject, thankfully, now appears to be on the agenda
here and the key messages are that government expects the private sector and
the indigenous population to play a major role in delivering their future
strategies.

I would like to examine then some of the details emerging
from the conference to see what they actually mean, because the subject matter
was much wider than the title “Green
Building” suggests.

Speakers and panel members, from both the public and private
sectors, outlined a long and worrying list of fundamental concerns that
resources are severely and increasingly under pressure, for instance; the water
availability per person per year is the lowest in the world.

They discussed how the water tables are dropping and being
polluted; electricity use per capita is much higher than the world average;
electricity consumption is rising 10% annually; electricity wastage is high;
air conditioning demand is huge and estimated to be 65-70% of total electricity
consumption and carbon dioxide emissions are on the increase through industrial
and non-industrial developments.

Other concerns include the fact concrete production is on
the increase and is in itself a major source of carbon dioxide emissions; the
population and air pollution is on the increase and solar radiation in the
region is the highest in the world.

Presentations provided updates on the current status of
initiatives and considerations for the future. These included; energy
conservation law; an energy commission; electrical equipment labelling; carbon
off-setting; waste water treatment; district cooling systems; green rating
systems and harnessing solar power.

My conclusion from the conference was that awareness of the
issues is good at the top level and plans are afoot to address them but it
seems at the moment the rate of demand is extremely high in relation to
progress and no unified approach to dealing with the problem is evident.

I think it fair to comment that currently the KSA is only on
the very tip of the iceberg in tackling environmental issues. That said, the King Abdullah
University for Science
and Technology near Jeddah is an excellent example to draw inspiration from.

Its website says “KAUST is committed to innovation in
sustainable development and increasing global public awareness about these
important issues. The university acts as a living laboratory, demonstrating
that environmentally responsible methods of energy use, materials management
and water consumption are viable in the region.”

A key word for me in this is “viable”, which suggests there
is a financial angle to the argument or a realisation there are commercial as
well as environmental benefits of sustainable practices/solutions.

This brings me almost full circle to statistics I quoted in
this publication in November 2010 that 20% of life costs of a facility are in
design and construction and 80% in facility management; the long term
management and running costs. Add, say, 10-20% to the former for sustainability
initiatives and save 10% from the latter from efficiency gains and resource
savings and the investment returns look attractive. This is strategic FM truly
at work, looking at long-term business objectives well before appointing
designers and contractors and it’s a win/win solution for the environment,
commercial enterprise and the sustainability of Saudis’ in their own country.

Moore moved to the Middle East a year ago. He is a qualified engineer with
over 20 years experience in FM.

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