x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

UAE lends environmental advice to world's green building system

Experts from the UAE have helped the world's most widely used green-building rating system become more sophisticated.

Experts from the UAE have helped the world's most widely used green-building rating system become more sophisticated, so it can be applied in more challenging climates. Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is relatively easy to grasp by laymen and has been widely adopted outside the United States, where it was invented. But the rating system is now often applied in countries with different climates and to environmental challenges not found in America, which has prompted some critics to question the reliability of those assessments. The US Green Building Council, the organisation behind the system, is trying to address these concerns with a new version of the rating system called LEED 2009. Green buildings use less energy and water and offer a number of other environmental benefits by encouraging recycling, sustainable transport and use of environmentally friendly materials. LEED 2009, which is expected to be released in January, is being compiled with advice from the Emirates Green Building Council. Local experts say that input will make it more applicable and accurate. Among the changes being considered are a greater focus on water savings, since water scarcity is one of the biggest environmental challenges in the UAE and the Gulf, said Jeff Willis, the chairman of the technical committee of the Emirates Green Building Council. Due to the UAE's input, before buildings are certified their developers will have to show they have employed strategies to minimise water use. The LEED system awards points for design and technology in areas such as energy efficiency, indoor air quality and building materials. The maximum number of points that a building can garner is 69. Based on how many points are awarded, buildings are assigned levels of recognition ranging from basic, the lowest, through to silver, gold and platinum. To be certified, buildings also must meet seven prerequisites, which include tobacco-smoke control, indoor air quality and prevention of pollution from construction. Last year, the UAE Green Building Council presented a document based on LEED, but reworked to account for the harsh desert environment. The document was supposed to become a UAE version of the popular system and the council was hoping to conduct a study to see how the standards would work in real life. In September of last year, the council invited developers and consultants to have their projects evaluated based on its system. The council expected to have 25 buildings take part in the scheme. However, things did not go according to plan. "We did not end up with anyone wanting to take part in the pilot study," Mr Willis said. Developers seemed put off by the high cost involved in certification, which varies from project to project. The council included many of the provisions of that document in its recommendations for LEED 2009, including offering bonus credits depending on the country of the project. LEED is among the most widely used of about 30 assessment systems worldwide for green buildings. In the US there are more than 10,000 projects pursuing certification. Mr Willis, who is also associate director of the Dubai office of the design, engineering and planning consultancy Arup, said his company was working on six projects that he hoped would win either silver or gold certification. "In the US, LEED has become something that people want to have," he said. vtodorova@thenational.ae