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

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

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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 energy-efficient 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.

Madhav Dhar is the co-founder and COO of ZâZEN Properties

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