x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

UAE builders see benefit of going green, study finds

The construction industry is becoming more aware of the benefits of environmentally-friendly buildings - and government intervention is a key driver behind the change, according to research.

The construction industry is becoming more aware of the benefits of environmentally-friendly buildings - and government intervention is a key driver behind the change, according to research.

The survey of more than 40 UAE companies was carried out by McGraw-Hill Construction, a US market research company that investigated construction trends worldwide.

Some of its findings were presented yesterday by Jane Henley, the chief executive of the World Green Building Council, which helped with the survey. She was speaking at the annual congress of the Emirates Green Building Council.

Among the UAE-based architects, engineers and other construction-industry professionals surveyed, 48 per cent said a majority of the projects they were working on were green projects.

In contrast, 60 per cent of UAE respondents told a 2008 survey that sustainability was not at the core of what they did.

The findings, she said, show "an amazing shift" in attitudes, said Ms Henley. "Obviously there has been some real change here in the past four years," she added.

The results put the UAE on a par with countries such as Singapore and the UK. Regulation and demand from customers, mostly government entities, were mentioned by respondents as the key drivers of the shift. Lack of public awareness about green buildings was seen as the main challenge.

While the survey results were encouraging for the future of green buildings in the country, Ms Henley said the results did not necessarily reflect mainstream views in the industry. Rather, they were "a slice of the leaders", she said.

"Leadership companies are now mostly doing green buildings," she said. "Now, our job is to sell this message to the mainstream. Our goal is to have everyone ... occupying and enjoying the benefits of green buildings within this generation."

Green buildings tend to feature sustainable materials and measures to conserve water and energy.

Indoor air quality and tenants' well-being are also often taken into account.

In the UAE, Abu Dhabi's Urban Planning Council has launched Estidama, a green-building rating system, which evaluates villas, buildings and communities against various environmental criteria.

Since 2010, compliance with Estidama's minimum requirements has been compulsory.

All buildings must gain at least one pearl out of five in its rating system, while Government projects must earn two out of five.

Currently, 201 developments in Abu Dhabi comply with the scheme. These properties represent 2.5 million square metres of work under construction and eight million square metres at the design stage.

vtodorova@thenational.ae