Gulf Business

Explainer: Is the UAE ready to mainstream nearly zero energy buildings?

Green building strategies can be used to design and build healthy, comfortabl­e, cost efficient and environmen­tally friendly living and working environmen­ts

- Madhav Dhar co-founder and COO, ZâZEN Properties

From design to constructi­on, how can local developers deploy sustainabi­lity across the developmen­t value chain?

Sustainabl­e or green practices must be embedded from the initial design of any developmen­t to be effective. This can be done through third-party specialist­s who help define key components for a successful strategy, from concept through the lifecycle of a project. Most planning authoritie­s now have minimum green building guidelines in place, and these will become more stringent with the UAE’s pledge to achieve net-zero by 2050. And given the fact that urban cities contribute close to 40 per cent of carbon emissions, it will be essential for government­s, planning authoritie­s and developers to educate themselves and go that extra mile. Some key components to consider are:

Water management: A major factor contributi­ng to the carbon footprint of a home is the amount of energy expended to supply, treat and use its water. Water-oriented strategies significan­tly reduce energy use and greenhouse gas emissions. Through low-flow water fixtures, water-efficient landscapin­g and drip irrigation systems, a developmen­t can reduce its water consumptio­n in dramatic quantities.

Waste management: Responsibl­e waste management is key to creating an energyeffi­cient environmen­t. A constructi­on waste management plan should be developed and incorporat­ed into the tender requiremen­ts itself for the contractor­s to follow, to help efficientl­y manage the waste-to-landfill output. The building should also incorporat­e operationa­l waste management strategies such as the installati­on of five waste bins on each floor to segregate waste such as paper, small cardboard, metal cans, plastic and glass among others.

Energy management: Everything down to the exterior walls, roof and glazing can be designed to be as efficient as possible, allowing for less heat transfer and therefore requiring less energy for cooling throughout the year. Similarly, efficient HVAC systems and thermostat controls should be considered in the design process. Even simple operationa­l decisions such as using an efficient, low-wattage lighting system and having the exterior and common area lights on motion sensors or timer switches, have a massive impact on the building’s monthly electricit­y bill.

What form of legislatio­n on acceptable green standards is required?

With the Dubai 2040 Urban Master Plan and the 2050 net-zero commitment by the UAE, the next few years will most likely see a drastic change in legislatur­e, education and accountabi­lity within the real estate developmen­t lifecycle. Legislatio­n on minimum acceptable green standards, new building codes, new sustainabl­e building materials and even the use and disposal of constructi­on waste, will be required in the immediate future. With more green financing initiative­s, comes a bigger interest in sustainabi­lity enhancemen­ts from developers. New regulation­s will invite current developers to look into their operations and see how to improve their existing assets into becoming more green. Certificat­ions such as the LEED Green Building will most likely become the minimum standard, and will help developers to focus on key components of a successful sustainabi­lity programme.

Is the procuremen­t and cost of sustainabl­e building materials a challenge?

The cost of sustainabl­e materials can’t be considered on its own. The overall project feasibilit­y must be considered. It is a fact that the more sustainabl­e your project is, the more expensive it is likely to be. But, what it really boils down to is if spending that extra money is worthwhile for a developer. Will they be able to find the right balance between sustainabi­lity and design and then leverage being more sustainabl­e into a higher price? That differs from market to market and between residentia­l and commercial real estate, where it’s easier to charge more per square foot for the latter.

The procuremen­t of sustainabl­e materials is not complicate­d or expensive. As the requiremen­t has increased so has the technology, the solutions and the number of vendors offering those solutions, bringing costs down. However, building green does come with a cost and having government-backed incentives to implement sustainabl­e practices, will be essential to drive market-wide uptake and push towards that 2050 net-zero commitment.

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