Green buildings are already a prominent feature of the 21st century, and their value is only increasing. No longer just a niche part of the construction industry, building green has become a way in which an ever increasing number of firms are designing, constructing and improving buildings around the world. While for many, the impetus for building green is simply because it is the right thing to do for the environment, for others, including investors and developers, the need to attach a tangible, monetary value to the benefits of building green are crucial in getting many projects off the ground. As the number of green buildings, districts and cities increase, the evidence of their economic viability and social and environmental advantages are clear.
The excitement behind building green is the potential within which it houses. Responsible for 40% of carbon emissions (and a portion of transportation’s 20% share a consequence of the way cities are planned) and 25% of global water use, the urban environment is a big part of the problems we face as a global society; but this also means, it is a big part of the solution.
The move towards green urbanization is global, and for the Middle East, it presents a solution to the challenges of climate change and population growth. The region has the lowest renewable freshwater resources per capita and many of its countries rely on non-renewable aquifers or on energy-intensive desalination for their water supply, and therefore, low-energy and low-water solutions are essential for sustainable growth in the Middle East. Further, mirroring the increase of 2.5 billion people to urban areas around the world by 2050, the region is expecting its own 20% increase in population. And as such, urban spaces which have the capacity to cater effectively for a growing number of inhabitants is crucial in ensuring not only the health and well-being of society, but for their productivity and the economy.
A much needed development in the practice of building green is well-underway, with the scale of design and implementation increasing from the level of the individual building to that of the cityscape. This is a big step forward and shows recognition of the capacity of an urban space to positively influence the behaviors, practices and perhaps most importantly, the energy-use of not only the infrastructure itself, but of the city’s inhabitants too. Such an embedded approach can yield great opportunity in minimizing resource use and maximizing health and well-being, with intelligently designed and compact infrastructure using less energy than sprawling systems. This may, in turn, spur economic growth. Why? Because consumer choices change in compact cities, where the environmentally option is also the most convenient and accessible option too: localities can be improved by introducing walking and cycling routes, renewable energy capture technologies and improved public transport. The preservation of, and introduction of new green spaces can play a vital role in improving drainage and air quality, helping to combat the urban heat island, improve health and well-being, and reduce noise pollution.
Buildings already in existence are not excluded from the greening process; retrofit is becoming increasingly popular and undeniably necessary, with approximately 50-70% of existing buildings still expected to be in use by 2050. Here, buildings are being made more energy efficient with various insulations and technologies, and roofs used for intensive energy or food production. Buildings may become flexible in their intended use to maximize efficiency and value. Where starting from scratch, the application of biomimicry to new buildings is an innovative venture; architects, designers and engineers using intelligent design inspired by nature, are developing buildings which are able to respond smartly to changing environments – ones that react to outside health, cold or wind by adjusting internal air currents, shading or opening windows, or recycling water continuously through internal gardens that stabilize temperatures and improve air quality. Legislation is coming into force across the world, specifying a range of requirements on new builds, from white roofs to reduce air temperature in Los Angeles, US to the inclusion of bicycle storage in new buildings in Dubai, UAE as part of the Estidama framework and pearl rating system.
The Middle East’s response to green infrastructure is fast, holistic and characterized by an intelligent mix of traditional climate-responsive designs with innovative technologies, and many green urban environments are being constructed, from Masdar City in Abu Dhabi (UAE) to King Abdullah Economic City in Saudi Arabia. The King Abdullah University for Science and Technology is an excellent example of a green building, not only in the materials that it is constructed of, but also in terms of its dynamic interaction with its users, local communities and the environment. Planned from a sustainability perspective, the University has a monumental roof capable of connecting and shielding the campus buildings from the harsh climate, with 12,000m2 of solar thermal and photovoltaic arrays that will produce over 3000 megawatt hours of clean energy annually. Further, in addition to extensive use of recycled materials, water conservation technologies and personal thermal and light controls, the University has an extensive waste management system that serves the campus and local community.
The anticipation surrounding the potential in green buildings must be harnessed by developers, invested in by corporations, and facilitated by governments. In Dubai, specialist sustainability consultancy, EMG speaks from international experience, and highlights that through various sustainability programs at the national, local and organizational level, stakeholders are recognizing the potential in greening urban environments, not only for the protection of the natural environment, but for the health and well-being of society and productivity of the economy.
This article was written by EMG Group, a leading international advisory firm specialized in CSR and Sustainable Development. The first choice for governments, businesses and not-for-profit organizations for more than a decade, EMG has won numerous international awards in recognition of the quality and effectiveness of its work and training programs. Headquartered in the Netherlands, EMG’s Advisory Board is chaired by HH Prince Pieter-Christiaan van Oranje-Nassau of the Netherlands. EMG is a registered vendor to the United Nations. For more information, visit www.emg-csr.com.
Article: Green buildings are already a prominent feature of the 21st century, and their value is only increasing