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Sat 3 Nov 2007 04:00 AM

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Sustainability is the target for the industry

With the deadline for adherence to international green building standards fast approaching, Lauren Willington looks at the consequences for the industry.

With the UAE's construction industry having to adopt measures in line with international ‘green' building standards from January next year, a massive shift is anticipated in the whole design and build process.

Now that the new regulations are set to be rolled out, arguments of insufficient returns and a costly design process will no longer reign over the essential need to take action when it comes to preserving the environment for future generations.

The running costs are another fundamental benefit which buyers will consider.

The regulations will require developers and contractors to work together to ensure buildings are constructed with energy efficiency in mind.

This includes incorporating measures such as solar power into design, as well as using water-efficient valves and recycled building materials.

But the main questions being asked are how cost-effective will building with sustainability in mind be, and how will it impact a project's schedule?

"You can see why the industry might be sceptical or outright opposed to this," said Samuel Keehn, environment and sustainable energy manager, Energy Management Services.

"But in practice, the extra time spent during design - which will be one of the biggest changes to the process - will pay off because more optimised systems will be put in place, meaning there'll be less changes, orders and mistakes. The overall timeline and budget of the project will be impacted only slightly, if at all."

Keehn added that the design process would have to involve an integrated team of architects, consultant engineers and contractors to bring ideas to the table before construction gets underway, and foresee any problems that might arise.

This process would also involve hiring sustainable energy managers to consult on the design process.

"Effectively, a new trade has been created in the construction industry," said Keehn.

"Projects will now need green building consultants, at least until the practices become more integrated into the design and build techniques of the more traditional consultants. And even then, third party certification will be necessary, which requires knowledge, time and coordination."

The Pacific Control headquarters in Techno City, Dubai, was the first building in the UAE to win platinum LEED status.
The cost of construction was 30% more than a traditional building, but the cost of maintaining it over the next 20 years will be 50% less.

"It's a concept where the building is able to operate and perform on its own, using energy from the sun and the wind," said Dilip Rahulan, chairman & CEO, Pacific Control.

"The technology used in the building also makes it totally holistic, meaning that every service is integrated and optimised."

Contractors and developers in the region have already started to take measures to build sustainably. Some have adapted their developments to fit in with sustainable guidelines and protect the environment.

Developer Limitless will be focusing on green transport initiatives around its developments.

"The environment is a top consideration for our projects," said Rebecca Rees, spokesperson for Limitless.

"The recently announced Plazas at Downtown Jebel Ali will meet the highest international environmental standards, with things such as energy-efficient glass and water-recycling systems. This also means creating communities that are environmentally-friendly and will therefore have lower maintenance costs."

Among some contractors, the view is that it shouldn't be difficult for them to adapt and operate, as they always work alongside the needs of their client, which will now include sustainable needs.

"We will obviously have to follow what the client wants," said Philippe Dessoy, general manager, Besix.

"It may cost more on capital investments and design, but then the client will make its returns from the lower cost of
the operation."

There seems to be a general consensus that sustainability will be a step in the right direction, even from a business point of view as green developments are able to command more money for rent and sell at a higher value than
traditional buildings.

"The value of assets will undoubtedly increase as prospective buyers will eventually demand sustainable spaces," said Bill Jolly, senior engineer, electrical, Hyder Consulting Middle East.

"The running costs are another fundamental benefit which clients and potential buyers will consider when selecting property."

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