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25 May 2024

Misconceptions slow eco building

By Hamed Al Sewerky


A mistaken impression that constructing a green building costs 17 per cent more than putting up a conventional structure is slowing the switch to eco-friendly developments.

The real figure for the extra cost is less than five per cent, but this misunderstanding is causing some companies millions of dirhams as they miss out on the lower running costs of energy-efficient buildings.

Khaled Bushnaq, CEO of Energy Management Services (EMS) said investment in green strategies can help organisations to carry out their commercial activities, boost productivity and increase profits. EMS has offices in Dubai and Jordan and provides environmental consultancy services across the Gulf.

Bushnaq (pictured above) said that according to World Bank reports the UAE will invest some Dh168 billion over the next 10 years in projects designed to protect the environment and curb pollution.

The rush to embrace the green revolution in the construction sector follows an announcement by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, that all buildings in Dubai should be constructed under green criteria from January 2008.

Meanwhile, the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (Dewa) is appointing a world expert on green buildings to accelerate the growth of the sector.

These developments come at a time when the UAE is intensifying its efforts to protect the environment and increase awareness that sustainable development is an essential part of the economic growth process.

The green building concept is promoted as a way of curbing negative effects on health and the environment. And as companies become more aware of the positive effects of green buildings on productivity they are starting to adopt eco-friendly criteria. Bushnaq said the health benefits of green technology were underlined in research carried out at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in the United States.

The researchers found that high-efficiency ventilation systems cut the number of cases of respiratory tract diseases – including asthma and allergies – by up to 90 per cent. Improvements to air-conditioning and heating systems boost an individual’s productivity by up to 0.7 per cent. And the removal of headache-causing magnetic parts in some lamps can reduce the chance of getting a headache by 74 per cent.

Researchers at Russia’s St Petersburg State University have conducted a study showing companies manufacturing parts for prefabricated buildings increased output by 25 per cent after adopting green building measures. They discovered that a worker’s productivity was positively affected by changes to the air temperature and average humidity.

Meanwhile Nazek Al Sabbagh, head of the Civil Engineering Department of Dubai Ports, Customs and Freezone Corporation, said her department had convinced investors of the feasibility of adopting green building criteria. Eco-friendly measures cut costs but required only a tiny extra amount of investment. The department adopted the criteria in 2005.

The eco-friendly revolution is building up momentum at national level, especially in light of proposals from the Emirates Green Building Council for an assessment programme for energy-efficient premises.

The council received recommendations from the Unites States Green Building Council and amended them to focus on the preservation of water resources and make them more applicable to the country’s construction sector. Al Sabbagh hopes the new assessment method will be approved by September this year.