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Sat 13 Jun 2009 04:00 AM

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Saving time and energy

Burt Hill principal Ivar Krasinski explains the importance of the use of energy models at the master planning stage of development.

Saving time and energy

Burt Hill principal Ivar Krasinski explains the importance of the use of energy models at the master planning stage of development.

Can you explain what an energy model does?

We have what we call the WLS process, which allows optimisation of decisions related to energy-use, starting with the pre-concept master planning phase and ending with materials and specifications. It is an initiative that combines integrated technologies to calculate the potential energy consumption of a building.

Usually, energy modelling is done after the schematic phase but we encourage it to be done right at the beginning. Using animation tools, WLS designers can carry out tests to check which building concepts will save the most energy. We can come up with about 40 options and test them in the same amount of time, which earlier was spent on two or three alternatives. The idea is to give the client a much better quality product, by being able to choose the optimum solution from a broad range.

Why are some clients discouraged by using energy models?

There is a perception out there that sustainable building is more expensive, but that is actually incorrect. Some buildings have been designed inefficiently, which cause them to be more expensive, but in fact, it is entirely possible to save money by doing sustainable design.

You have recently said that master planners should work together to help the Middle East sustain itself. Will they be inclined to do so?

I am seeing a lot of positive trends both from Dubai and Abu Dhabi about really improving how master planners work. This is going to take some time to set up fully but in the long term it should be a very positive trend and I am not worried about the future.

Is it too late to make projects that have already started, more sustainable? i.e. past master-planning stage?

No it is not. It is possible to step into a project and take some steps to rescue whatever is left over. Some things cannot be changed but there are practices that continue until the end of the project and therefore, there is still room to make better decisions. We are however really focused in implementing the model in the beginning, because the greater impact of savings can be realised at that phase. By changing the orientation of the building we are actually saving the client a lot of money, without changing the project cost.

There are no set green regulations or laws in the Middle East. Do you think that developers will struggle to know what is best for a building because there is no guide to tell them what to follow?

There is a lot of progress; Emirates Green Building Council is putting a lot of structures into place. Abu Dhabi is working very well with integrated building design with its Estidama system, so I think the lack of structure isn't going to be an issue for much longer. And, despite the lack of structure, designers today have the ability to do the right thing, regardless of whether the client wants it or not. If you can save energy without costing the client money, why wouldn't you do it? In the long-term I think the laws will be there and everything will fall into place.

Do you think that the Middle East has a long way to go in terms of environmental design?

There are many existing cities in the Middle East that are better in terms of sustainability than certain places in the west. It is possible that the Middle East could become a leader in green technologies because there is continuing development, even during the economic downturn and the factors are balancing out into an equation that says sustainable design is the way forward. So actually, this could be the place that leads everybody else.

How will the Middle East cope with an increased population that will inevitably lead to more waste, traffic and pollution?

It needs to be dealt with through design; we cannot just replicate the existing development patterns. There definitely needs to be a more conscious approach to the impact of having the increased population and the impacts on the catchment area for any new plan. This is a question requiring rigorous analysis.

BioIvar Krasinski is the leader of the majority of Burt Hill's high-rise projects, with experience in large mixed-use complexes. His studio is responsible for most of the progressive work under the Burt Hill banner.

Ivar is the founding member of the Architectural Association of the UAE and is a regional council member of the Urban Land Institute in the Middle East and Africa region.

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