x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Sustainable homes should be a priority in UAE

The UAE needs to encourage green construction practices

The world is still at the beginning of the eco-construction movement that started in developed countries and gained momentum in the 1970s. And as the world is witnessing an increasing environmental awareness, this might be the norm tomorrow in many other countries.

Khalid Al Ali is one of many Emiratis who is building his own house in Dubai. But he has not incorporated green building solutions into his house in Al Barsha - mainly because, when he was designing his house eight years ago, no-one suggested the idea.

Mr Al Ali is not alone in this. As The National reported yesterday, few Emiratis are including eco-construction when building their homes.An architect at EMSquare Engineering Consultants said that only four of the 180 villas they had built in the UAE implemented some sort of green building solutions.

The UAE ranked third in the latest global ecological footprint chart of the Living Planet Report. The country's per capita environmental footprint is several times higher than the global average. There is a great need for eco-construction to have more efficient architecture that reduces negative impacts on the environment and lower energy consumption, which will help greatly in reducing the ecological footprint.

In the last few years, the government has strongly encouraged green building solutions such as greywater systems, solar panels, and water-flow limiters. It has taken some measures such as introducing renewable-energy targets in Abu Dhabi and Dubai and applying efficiency standards for some air-conditioning units. Abu Dhabi municipality requires all villas to have thermal insulation and solar water heater.

Abu Dhabi has also introduced the Estidama's rating system to ensure the green performance of buildings in design and construction. Since 2010, compliance has been compulsory and all government projects must attain at least a two "pearl" standard (out of a total of five).

This is an important step by the capital to save the environment. But the initiative need to be expanded to the other emirates. And since the high cost prevents many from taking the decision of green sustainable building, authorities can also introduce incentives for individuals to encourage them to consider it when building private homes. Protecting the environment should be a national priority.