x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Planners get green light to go local

Officials will launch a database of green building materials that meet local standards.

ABU DHABI //Builders looking to go green will soon have a one-stop database to track down sustainable construction materials.

Set up by the Urban Planning Council (UPC), which oversees the emirate's green building guidelines, the database will connect contractors, developers and construction companies with local suppliers with products that match the emirate's sustainability requirements.

The green standards, called Estidama, require all new villas, buildings and communities be designed to achieve a minimum rating of one pearl, while government-funded projects must rate at least two pearls.

The database, which will only be available for villa projects, will include air conditioning equipment, insulation, windows, appliances and water fixtures.

Since Estidama launched in September, some companies and consultants complained that products in line with the regulations were not available locally.

But officials say the issue was a lack of education, not a lack of products.

"There was no problem in availability of materials; the problem is finding them," said Amer al Hammadi, the director of planning and infrastructure for UPC. "They're available on the market, but for some construction companies and contractors, they did not have to deal with such building materials before."

The UPC has hosted workshops for suppliers and manufacturers that outline the procedures for having products included in the database. More training for assessors, building owners and consultants will be held to detail the products included in the database and how to integrate them into the Estidama plan.

Karim Maalouli, a marketing executive for Emirates Glass, a Dubai-based producer of energy-efficient glass and one of the suppliers listed on the database, said: "We supply glass that is produced locally for this environment, for our climate, and that's what makes it perfect for Estidama.

"Estidama is about preserving the community for future generations, and now you have this menu to use in constructing your building that will serve the community better."

Mr al Hammadi said the database would be updated monthly, and the list will be made available to builders as part of the newly released manual for villas.

"We've worked out a lot of the issues, including questions about which materials can be used," said Salah al Sarraj, the acting executive director of town planning at the municipality. "These are mainly local materials that are applicable to the sustainability guidelines."

But some experts said there was still room for more companies to jump on the green building supply bandwagon. Tia Kansara, a sustainable design and architecture expert, who worked as a consultant to the Abu Dhabi Government on reducing energy consumption, said it would be impossible to achieve Estidama standards "with out-of-date materials and practices".

"The area of opportunity here is phenomenally large and people have not awoke to meeting these needs," Ms Kansara said. "The market has huge openings for products that meet Estidama standards. The market just needs to meet up with demand."

The database should be fully functional within the next three months.