The Middle East has often been criticised for its excessive consumption of resources, as was confirmed by a 2012 Living Planet Report which named Qatar, Kuwait and the UAE as the top three countries having the largest per capita ecological footprints in the world. The situation is ripe for change, and developers across the region are now giving serious thought to the impact of sustainability and green construction concepts on their profits and cost savings targets.
As far as new projects are concerned, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done in translating good sustainable designs into sustainable buildings. For a number of projects in the region, lack of quality control in construction or poor commissioning have resulted in great intentions on paper not transpiring into reality.
With regard to the existing building stock, while an increasing number of facility and building owners are looking to manage their energy and water consumption more effectively, this only accounts for a fraction of the existing building stock in the region.
While sustainability has been a buzz word in the industry for a number of years, we will now witness a genuine drive of new development projects in pursuing increasingly higher levels of sustainability. This will be driven partly by regulation, but also due to developers realising that sustainability offers a genuine opportunity to increase the value of their assets and also ensure that their assets are future-proofed.
Throughout the region there is a commitment from governments to invest in social and commercial infrastructure. In order to increase the financial efficiency of these projects both during construction and operation, government agencies are increasingly turning to sustainability and energy efficiency as a means of reducing the lifecycle costs of these buildings.
Traditionally in the Middle East, commissioning of buildings has not been carried out effectively which has resulted in many buildings performing poorly during operation and, therefore, requiring frequent maintenance.
Judging by the feedback through 2012, however, we are likely to see an increasing number of developers choosing to utilise commissioning agents on projects to ensure a more effective transition between design, construction and operation stages of projects. Commissioning agents will be increasingly called upon to identify potential savings in capital costs for clients by better optimising designs and streamlining the testing and commissioning process, such that building owners receive a better functioning building at the start of operation.
Conducting detailed energy audits of facilities has shown that buildings can save approximately 20 per cent of their energy bill through low- to no-cost measures alone, that all pay back within 12 to 18 months with an internal rate of return (IRR) upwards of 40 per cent. As far as investment decisions go, this is a no-brainer and during 2013 building owners are likely to realise this and take measures to reduce their energy consumption.
While these trends only scratch the surface of green building, they are indicative of the positive direction in which the industry is heading. This is poised to be a year for massive growth of the green building market and the onus is now upon facility owners and managers, and architects and design teams to ‘think green’ lest they find themselves in the red.
— The writer is director at Alabbar Energy and Sustainability Group (AESG), a leading energy and sustainability consultancy in the Middle East. He shares his insights into what he believes will be the top sustainability trends for the construction industry in 2013