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Sun 22 May 2011 11:35 AM

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Urbanisation comes at a price

Desso’s Andrew Sibley on the green challenges affecting facilities management in the UAE

Urbanisation comes at a price

The GCC has seen several decades of bewildering change, in a transition from traditional economies based on fishing and subsistence agriculture, to modern, urbanised economies that have greened the desert and spawned cities filled with air-conditioned skyscrapers.

But it has come at a price. The rush to urbanisation has brought problems of waste management and concerns about pollution. The 2008 WWF Living Planet Report found the UAE has the highest per capita carbon footprint internationally. The U.S came second, with fellow GCC neighbour Kuwait in third. A 2003 UN report said the UAE emitted over nine times the world average of CO2.

However, times are changing. In 2007, H.H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, VP and Prime Minister of the UAE, and Ruler of Dubai, issued a directive mandating builders and developers in Dubai comply with green building standards to ensure a healthy and environment-friendly city. This new directive, which came into effect from January 2008, reflects Dubai’s commitment to address environmental challenges such as climate change and global warming.

It also validates the Emirate’s priority to sustainable development as outlined in the Dubai Strategic Plan 2015.

Abu Dhabi has set a target to generate 7% of its energy from renewable sources by 2020, and has embarked on the ground-breaking Masdar project, due for completion in 2025, to build the world’s first zero emission, zero waste, city. Other small scale initiatives include phasing out plastic carrier bags across the country by 2012.

In parallel, the UAE has established the world’s most valuable environmental award, worth US $1million, again the brainchild of Al Maktoum, in recognition of former President, H.H. Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, who saw the importance of protecting the environment for future generations. It was Al Maktoum who issued the Environment Protection and Development Law (Federal Law No. 24 1999), which came into force in February 2000, and which is seen as a landmark in the protection of the environment in the UAE.

Since then, issues of sustainability and environmental responsibility have grown in importance leading to, for example, the creation of Estidama, an initiative launched in May 2008, by Abu Dhabi Urban Planning Council, the agency responsible for the future of Abu Dhabi’s urban environment.

The initiative supports the principle of sustainable living and wise use of resources by working closely with communities, organisations, businesses and policy makers to promote responsible decision making.

So how does all that impact on today’s FM professional? Well, the business of facility management is about managing complexity – from making best use of how a large facility operates, to ensuring a building’s occupants are able to work to best effect. As the complexities of the information age have spawned new ways of working and government legislation heaping regulations on building design and management, the role of FM is being redefined.

It’s a branch of management that is fundamental, providing best practice for the management of the physical asset of a building to the people who have to work in it. But it is, however, a management skill that is changing at the same pace, and in the same way, as the countries of the GCC have changed in recent years. Once, it used to be about development, full stop. Now it’s about sustainable development, from the drawing board onwards.

Desso has always used design and technology to provide both aesthetics and functionality, working closely with interior designers and FMs to meet the complex challenges of today’s modern offices, hospitals, schools or other public places.

But the sea-change we’re seeing in sustainability is now being taken very seriously across the GCC. The new challenge for FM is how to assess the environmental impacts of outsourcing contracts, and to award ones on the basis of quality, performance, whole-life cost and environmental sustainability. We’re seeing a strategic change of direction in the UAE. Development must be balanced by sustainability and the two need not be incompatible.

Andrew Sibley is the sales and marketing director for Desso carpet manufacturer for the MENA region.

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