Green buildings are buildings designed to protect the environment, conserve energy and water, and promote recycling. They are not marked by its color, but by the people who would make them ‘green.’
“The sources of energy we are using now harm not only our environment but also our health. The carbon dioxide emission per capita in the UAE is currently the highest in the world. It is important and a must that we employ the green technology now,” said Dr. Khaled Al-Sallal, Director of the Research Support and Services, and Associate Professor in Architectural Engineering of UAE University.
But constructing green buildings does not mean that we are going to stop using oil, Dr. Al-Sallal adds. It would only extend the country’s oil reserves and augment its economy in the long run. Green building is also neither only about designing individual or new buildings nor having a new lifestyle, but also about designing a whole city or improving the existing ones to incorporate the green technology.
“Having a green building is a big approach and it includes many things, so choosing the form and material could be more important than buying an expensive technology. It does not also mean that we have to change our way of life so there is no need to worry about it. Most of the time, green buildings will be like any normal building. They would just be designed smartly.”
However, there are limited researches that discuss exactly the details of having a green building in the UAE. “Each climate has its own characteristics such as temperature and humidity, so we cannot just import things and use them here without doing research specific to this region. We may have to use better heating and cooling systems, use photovoltaics, or rely on renewable energy. Al Ain, for a fact, is located 240 North in the Tropic of Cancer and has the highest solar radiation on earth. That will already enable the city to harvest huge amount of solar energy without it spending too much.”
The Green Trend
So far, more and more green projects are put in line in the UAE. The ‘first green city in the world that would be carbon-free, waste-free and car-free,’ Masdar, was just laid out by the Abu Dhabi government. It also has initiated investments to encourage everyone to participate in their ‘green’ efforts. Meanwhile, aside from intending to be a Green City in 2010, Dubai has also established the Middle East Centre for Sustainable Development, which will help develop and maintain better Green development and Sustainable usage practices.
“It is not like in the past. When I came here 12 years ago, I was among the few people advocating green buildings, which were then known as sustainable buildings. But now I see, everybody is talking about it and the technology, which was very expensive before, is becoming more affordable,” Dr. Al-Sallal recalled.
“The whole world, including the UAE, is now realizing the problem brought about by climate change. It was not like that before, but today, the government has already set policies and projects to establish green buildings and cities. There is progress now in both the international and local level.”
There are only challenges a green building would entail. “There are challenges in creating a green building or a green city, yes, but there are no drawbacks or disadvantages. First is in realizing this goal. This can take time. I can create the best system or the best technology but if people would not care and appreciate it, it will not be used properly. Green technology is something new and most people do not realize exactly what it is. They may understand the definition and appreciate its importance, but they may not yet fully realize how it can be achieved.”
“Another important challenge is creating research-based studies. We cannot just wait for others to do research because our case is different. We live in a desert region, we have a different climate and there are not much researches dedicated to our area. We also have to give incentives to encourage people, just like what the Sheikh Zayed Award is for. You see, researches have to be supported at higher organizational levels and not on individual basis only.”
Changing and modifying the practices of the construction industry is also not easy, Dr. Al-Sallal adds, for there are requirements a green building necessitates that constructors today cannot satisfy. “This will not affect them job-wise though for a new technology would need more people and, thus, create more jobs.”
“As I said, green buildings are important and a must. We should think about it at least for our health, for our environment and for the next generations,” Dr. Al-Sallal concluded.
There are other projects and developments in the UAE that does not only concern a building but promotes the green technology nevertheless. Dr. Al-Sallal, who is also the President of International Building Performance Simulation Association (IBPSA)-UAE Chapter, a non-profit international society dedicated to improve the built environment of the country, is also conducting a Study on the Use of Local Trees to Produce Lighting in the Classrooms. In this research, he would test the capability of local trees to capture heat and filter light, acting like a sunglass and a cap at the same time.
During the World Future Energy Summit, His Highness General Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, has contributed an initial investment of $15 billion for sustainability projects on solar, wind and hydrogen power; carbon reduction and management; sustainable development; education; manufacturing; and research and development.
The Abu Dhabi Future Energy Co., which are the builders of Masdar, are also planning to set up the world's largest carbon-capture project to be able to generate more crude oil from some eight sites where 15 million tons of carbon dioxide will be injected every year.
The UAE Federal Minister of Environment and Water, His Excellency Dr Muhammad Saeed Al Kindi, also recently unveiled a ‘Cool City’ concept promoted by the Sustainable Urban Development Consortium for Japan and the Gulf States Partnership. It would use green technology and consume less energy as possible in transport, urban development and architecture.
Private sectors, on the other hand, are also doing their share by supporting the new measures on green technology and partnering with other organisations that can help them achieve those. Such is what the Sabban Property Investments (SPI) has with the Emirates Wildlife Society-World Wide Fund for Nature (EWS-WWF), the Energy Management Services (EMS) with ESCAN Real Estate Company, and TECOM Investments. About 900 projects in Abu Dhabi recognized for their 'Clean Development Mechanism' were also intending to reduce their carbon dioxide emissions by about 1.1 billion tonnes before 2012 ends.
The Abu Dhabi National Company (ADNOC) is also now selling ‘green diesel,’ a diesel-like liquid fuel derived from the carbohydrates found in plants, and contains less sulfur than the standard variety.
Waste reduction in the regional exhibition industry is also encouraged by the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Company (ADNEC) through its three-year environmental strategy. Recycling mobile phones through the EnviroFone Campaign is also strongly supported by corporations and government authorities in the UAE such as the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA).
The former private eco-resort of the late UAE President and Ruler of Abu Dhabi, His Highness Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, will also turn ‘green’ as a 65-metre wind turbine with three rotor blades produces 850 kilowatts per hour of electricity in Sir Bani Yas Island, adopting wind energy.
Green Buildings vs. Smart Buildings
“Green buildings are smarter buildings. It combines systems that are integrated in a smart building. For instance, it can promote thermal insulation and promote indoor air quality at the same time, whereas in a typical building, only one of that will take effect. Green building is a more general term. It is not only about one system but also about the interaction of different systems, form and structure. This particular challenge though is only for the people in the construction industry.”
What makes a building green?
• It incorporates an excellent practice that results in environmental protection, water conservation, energy efficiency, uses recycled material and renewable energy.
• At the workplace, it increases employee productivity by 6-26% as well as their health and morale and reduces absenteeism of employees by 15%.
• It is more economical, environmentally friendly and provides a safer and healthier environment for the community.
• It reduces health effects. Studies reveal that buildings with good overall environmental quality can reduce the rate of respiratory disease, allergy, asthma, symptoms of sick building syndrome, and enhance worker performance. Many building materials emit toxic gases, which can have a detrimental impact on occupants' health and productivity. There are also several potential financial benefits to building 'green'.
Source: “The preparation of a strategy to implement green buildings guidelines has begun in Abu Dhabi.”