More than 3,200 people have been trained to implement the Estidama Pearl Rating System since it launched in August.
Pearl ratings are jewel in the 'green city' crown
DUBAI // With seven years of professional experience in sustainable design, it is fair to say Irina Foster knows what a "green" building is.
Yet when she was offered the chance to attend a course on the Estidama Pearl Rating System, Mrs Foster did not hesitate.
Estidama is Abu Dhabi's attempt to make its building designs more sustainable. It rates the design plans for buildings on factors such as electricity and water consumption, materials, fixtures and many other elements, divided into five categories.
Mrs Foster, the assistant project manager at Aecom, a consultancy, spent almost two days at a training course provided by the Abu Dhabi Urban Planning Council (UPC), which devised the system.
After an examination this month, she became part of the first batch of Estidama Pearl Qualified Professionals.
The designation, given to 186 architects, engineers and urban designers who passed the examination, means they are qualified to work with the system when designing buildings and communities, or applying for permits.
"I found the course very useful and very helpful," Mrs Foster, who moved to Abu Dhabi from the US a year ago, said. "I really needed to learn about the local requirements."
Estidama is similar to the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (Leed) system used in the US, with which Mrs Foster has substantial experience. But because of local differences, the two systems have different priorities.
"In Estidama there is more of an emphasis on energy and water optimisation," she said. That was because Abu Dhabi was increasingly trying to find ways to reduce its considerable energy and water consumption.
A total of 3,200 people have gone through training since the programme started in August last year, John Madden, the senior planning manager at the UPC, said.
Not all of these professionals took the detailed training that Mrs Foster did, however.
Some went through a more general module on sustainability, Mr Madden said. He expected more people to undergo training as the programme expands and diversifies this year.
By late spring, the UPC expects to launch a construction rating programme to examine how the actual building process can reduce environmental impact, and on how to make sure buildings are constructed according to the plans.
Mr Madden said the construction rating programme would focus on issues such as waste generation, and would encourage contractors to help recycle construction debris.
Using more efficient fixtures and ensuring that they are correctly installed is another issue. Implementing that programme would require special training for municipal inspectors, developers and contractors, he said.
The UPC will also be developing an operations rating system for buildings. This, Mr Madden said, would look at how buildings and mechanical systems, such as air-conditioning units, were maintained and operated.
The two new rating systems will provide "checks and balances" to ensure buildings actually perform as they were planned to perform. "It is the continuum that is important to ensure that, from design to construction to operation, the requirements are being met," Mr Madden said.
The UPC plans to offer courses for suppliers and procurement managers to encourage greater use of high-efficiency fixtures, energy-saving lights and low-flow toilets. Some of these items may still be difficult to source locally, but they would become increasingly important in future, he said.
One pearl good, five pearls best
The Estidama Pearl Rating System evaluates the design plans for buildings on factors such as electricity and water consumption, materials, fixtures and many others. There are five categories. One pearl, the minimum, is now a requirement for all new buildings and communities in Abu Dhabi, while a rating of two pearls is necessary for all new government buildings. The higher ratings of three, four and five pearls are voluntary and each demands an increasing level of difficulty to achieve.
* The National