GN Focus | Green Initiatives

Conquering new heights

As Dubai finalises new building regulations, 2013 will be pivotal for the construction industry

  • By Sona Nambiar | Special to GN Focus
  • Published: 00:01 January 15, 2013
  • GN Focus

  • Image Credit: Gulf News Archives/Francois Nel
  • Smart growth: Policies are being applied in the construction sector to ensure Dubai will be among the best green cities in the world
Image 1 of 2

As the GCC countries push for a common standard for green buildings in terms of environment-friendly initiatives in the region, 2013 will see the finalisation of new green regulations in the UAE, say industry experts.

“In Abu Dhabi, buildings are being designed and built in compliance with the Estidama guidelines — a building design methodology for constructing and operating sustainable buildings and communities. The emirate has achieved big strides in a short time, especially when it comes to sustainability training. In Dubai, green building regulations are awaiting final public recommendations in 2013, and will become mandatory in 2014 for structures beyond government buildings. The Emirates Green Building Council (EGBC) has also been asked to submit their recommendations,” says Jeff Willis, Associate Director at Arup, a multidisciplinary practice, that provides engineering, design, planning and project management services. He is also vice-chairman at the EGBC and a founding member of the independent forum, which helps shape policies for the built environment and promotes sustainable practices in the UAE since 2006.

Sound measures

“The first EGBC conference held recently was a truly international event. Throughout the UAE, the government and other affiliated bodies are pushing sustainability issues and encouraging people to take action. The green movement is stronger than it has ever been. Organisations such as DM (Dubai Municipality), Dewa (Dubai Electricity and Water Authority) and UPC (United Precast Concrete) came together to speak at the conference in a never-before manifested manner — we saw participation and support from all government levels,” 
he says. “On a regional level, we have heard that the GCC countries are in discussions about developing a common standard for green buildings and regulating 
related issues.”

Saeed Alabbar, director of consulting practice AESG (Alabbar Energy and Sustainability Group), and vice-chairman at EGBC, agrees. “There are initiatives around the GCC. It is being driven by the realisation that there needs to be a much better handle on the utility consumption since the water and energy costs are extremely high but provided at a subsidised cost. We have heard that the GCC Standards Organisation is developing unified building codes,” he says.

Meanwhile, DM is inviting comment from the industry on the Dubai Green Buildings Regulations and Specifications Practice Guide, issued in 2011. Engineer Yousuf Abdullah, acting director of the Building Department, tells GN Focus that the guide was the result of the combined efforts and collaboration between the DM and Dewa through the Green Building Committee, and intensive follow-up of the Executive Council of the Government of Dubai. It also involved participation of other stakeholders such as consultants, contractors, developers and suppliers.

“The first edition of this guide requires the participation of all concerned parties and all segments of society for its development — after it has been tested in practice at the ground level to ensure the effective implementation in the future,” says Abdullah.

“We hope that Dubai will be on the level of the best green cities in the world as inspired by His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. This Practice Guide is meant to be a dynamic document. It requires continuous revisions, improvements and updates. We would welcome any comment, opinion or suggestion that will add value and improvement and anyone can contact us by email at”

“The Dubai Green Building Regulations and Specifications is currently implemented mandatorily in all new government buildings.

But it is optional for other buildings for a period of three years starting from January 1, 2011. At the end of the option period, the regulations will be re-evaluated and accordingly proper actions will be taken.”

He adds that the DM has presented its experiences in this sector at many regional and international conferences, including the first Emirates Green Building Congress and the EnviroCities 2012 Conference held in Saudi Arabia. “We are open to sharing our experiences with others.”

Project guidelines

“Estidama and the Dubai green regulations under public review are both underpinned by the federal government’s vision of a green economy and for preserving the environment and economic growth,” says Alabbar. “In the past few years, there has been a shift in the mindset of developers. Every new project being constructed in the UAE is following some kind of sustainable guidelines. The EGBC has 130 member companies who are involved in all aspects of the building supply chain. We also partner with academics and at the federal and local government level so that we can work together and find solutions.” The EGBC has worked with many government departments through workshops so that the industry can understand how new regulations can be integrated into projects, he adds.

“We will continue to see new construction projects requiring green accreditation in 2013 and in a bigger manner than 2012. This is due to the initiatives and the lessons learned from the earlier buildings constructed over the past years. We will also see a much bigger focus on sustainable maintenance and operations of existing buildings, specifically, in terms of energy efficiency. Due to challenging economic times, organisations will try to manage all costs and utility costs in the most effective way without compromising on the existing business operations. We are seeing this taking place more and more in Dubai due to higher utility charges of buildings. By taking this route, utility charges can be reduced by 20 per cent and there is payback within 18 to 24 months (see box). And developers are showing more interest,” says Alabbar. There is no stopping the sea change.

Fact Box

Alabbar Energy and Sustainability Group was retained to provide consultancy services to assist in reducing the energy consumption of Alabbar Architectural Glass facility. “For each measure proposed, we carefully considered the manufacturing implications of the measure to ensure that product quality, manufacturing reliability and manufacturing process time were maintained. The study identified about Dh330,000 in annual savings through low- to no-cost measures alone and payback before the second year,” says Director Saeed Alabbar.

— S.N.

GN Focus