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Fri 26 Dec 2008 04:00 AM

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Leeding by example

Carolyn MacLean, principal at Woods Bagot, on the merits and shortfalls of LEED.

Carolyn MacLean, principal at Woods Bagot, on the merits and shortfalls of LEED.

Are your clients currently demanding sustainable solutions?

Many clients are requesting sustainable products, particularly international companies who are trying to establish or maintain base standards for materials and their interiors across many countries.

Many clients have corprate social responsibility (CSR) objectives that they are trying to fulfil and this can also drive product selection based on sustainability. Where clients do not overtly request sustainable products, we put forward these options and choices to them as a preferred material selection and outline the benefits to the indoor air quality and health of staff.

We are completing our new Woods Bagot studio in Dubai Festival City and are designing to achieve LEED Silver. We need to lead by example and the best way is to start with your own spaces and buildings.

Is sustainability already becoming a key consideration in product selection?

Sustainability is already taken very seriously and is a key consideration in product selection. The benefits of VOC and toxin-free materials are well documented and corporations cannot afford to ignore the health implications of not using them. We spend 90% of our lives indoors and our indoor environment quality has a huge impact on work and leisure satisfaction.

Sheikh Mohammed has already promoted the design of Green Buildings, and regulations are already widely implemented across the UAE. It won't be long until that regulation extends to interior design and will be compulsory.

The advantage is that the strong leadership as you see here in the UAE drives the market to provide these products and so the whole product supply chain is affected.

How effective is the LEED accreditation system, in your opinion?

No rating system is perfect and they all can be improved upon. However, they are a good basis to work with and there are no barriers to improvements above and beyond that. LEED has some advantage in the UAE, from an engineering perspective, as the ASHRAE standards are already in use.

The Emirates Green Building Council, as part of developing LEED Emirates, has proposed changes to the LEED system to be make it more relevant to the local environment. We believe the US Green Building Council (USGBC) has proposed to adopt some of these changes, including giving more credits for water conservation and re-use, given that nearly all water is desalinated in the UAE, as part of the new LEED system that will be issued in 2009.

What are its pitfalls? Do you think there is the danger that people will see this as an easy way to tick off all the right boxes, without genuinely engaging with the issues?

Any rating system can end up being a ‘tick-the-box' solution, if the project team allows it - some perhaps more than others. We always recommend that the project team create holistic sustainable goals, as well as working with a rating system to ensure that all the main objectives are met.

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