x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Dubai projects seek green rating

The number of environmentally friendly building projects in the UAE is on the rise.

The number of environmentally friendly building projects in the UAE is on the rise, a member the Emirates Green Building Council has said. There are around 30 voluntary assessment systems for green buildings in the world but the most popular one in the UAE is the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), developed by the US Green Building Council.

Mario Seneviratne, who is also the director of the Dubai-based Green Technologies, said 335 projects have registered with the US Green Building Council in pursuit of green building certificates. The UAE now has only three LEED-certified buildings. LEED evaluates buildings based on five main criteria: sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality. It has four ratings: certified, silver, gold and platinum.

"I am optimistic that most developers who have registered will get the certification," said Mr Seneviratne. Comparing the process to earning a university degree, he added, "some people drop out, some do exceedingly well, and most people do graduate." He cautioned that while more developers are attracted by the prestige that green certification confers, many do not fully realise the commitment required to get them.

Among the projects pursuing gold certification is the first phase of the 220,000-square-metre Dubai Trade Centre development. The Mirdif Centre, a shopping mall in Dubai, seeks the same certification. The DIFC Lighthouse Tower is pursuing platinum rating, the highest, as is the new corporate headquarters of a prominent local company, Al Habtoor Group. While all of the above developments are currently being built or designed, the popular Emirates Mall is pursuing gold certification in the existing building category - a move which will require changes to the way the building operates and is maintained.

Mr Seneviratne was addressing delegates at a Dubai conference on the sidelines of The Big 5 -one of the world's largest exhibitions for the construction industry and its suppliers. In Dubai, the municipality and the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority have almost completed a green building code which will be presented to the Executive Council in January next year, according to Adi Afaneh, the senior environmental planner at Dubai Municipality's planning department.

It is not clear when the regulations will be rolled out, although they will be phased in with a grace period for the building industry, he said. Mr Afaneh said they could include performance-based energy requirements with the government deciding on an allocation of water and energy per building, depending on its use. The regulation will not be as far-reaching as some policies in other parts of the world, where governments are now pushing for carbon-neutral buildings.

"We want to be as balanced as possible," Mr Afaneh said. "We have to balance the environmental benefit versus the cost. Future phases will include more requirements as the market becomes more ready." vtodorova@thenational.ae