JEDDAH – Construction companies in the Middle East are slow to adopt best practice green building standards because they perceive no immediate economic benefits, but will put themselves at risk by not doing so, an industry expert has said.
Talik Chalabi, Co-Principal of Chalabi Architekten & Partner in Austria, said one of the challenges facing the building industry in the region is to recognize the long-term benefits of adopting sustainable green building practices. Minimum efficiency ratings set by governments mean construction companies bear the responsibility to adhere to modern building standards that render a building passable by law.
"Any cost benefit calculation speaks against green building construction in today’s market," said Chalabi. "New niches, however, are being created at the expense of otherwise outdated products which positions the ’green approach’ as the conduit to rejuvenate and reshape the building industry."
"I believe the majority of construction companies perceive the change to green methods currently as a nuisance but they must adapt on the long term or perish. Green building practices serve a function to improve industry standards, raise the bar in terms of quality and above all, protect the community and public interests at large."
Chalabi made the comments ahead of his participation in WORLD ecoConstruct, the pioneering industry event to be held on April 22-25, 2012 at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre.
In his presentation, he will examine the first buildings to achieve five pearl ratings in the new Estidama Pearl Rating System (PRS) and will highlight the new Sheikh Zayed Desert Learning Centre in Al Ain as an example of maximizing economic, social and environmental benefits of complying with green building regulations.
"The Estidama PRS will cause a relatively expensive building standard per square meter but a relatively high sustainability standard of one or two pearls can be achieved through best practice design without exceeding the standard building cost.
Wissam Yassine, Senior Sustainability Engineer and UAE National Coordinator at the Carbon Initiative, agreed. "No longer is it the norm to construct buildings that are inefficient, endurable and built with unsustainable material. Achieving minimum sustainability standards is an absolute must and there are definitely cost effective measures that have a very small payback period.’’
Yassine, in his presentation, will discuss the ongoing green building sustainable transformation.
"Many professionals are yet to understand that green buildings don’t involve huge costs. But this is starting to change as regulators include requirements for minimum sustainability standards," he said ahead of the conference.
Estidama, the Arabic word for sustainability, is an initiative developed by the Abu Dhabi Urban Planning Council (UPC) in 2008 with the goal of preserving the Emirate’s physical and cultural identity, while improving the quality of life for its residents on four equal pillars of sustainability: environmental, economic, social, and cultural.
An essential tool to advance Estidama is the Pearl Rating System (PRS). Launched in 2010, the PRS is a point-based system that awards construction projects credit points that are grouped under seven sustainable criteria categories. Credits are added up to a final rating which ranges from one pearl to five pearls.
Currently all new construction projects must achieve a minimum one pearl rating to receive approval from the Abu Dhabi UPC, while government-funded buildings must achieve a minimum two pearl rating.
Yassine noted that "the building sector in the region has undergone a significant transformation in the last couple of years - in part driven by government initiatives such as Estidama. This has challenged the perception of architects, engineers and contractors involved in such projects." WORLD ecoConstruct, a crucial collaboration between Abu Dhabi’s two leading building and construction events, CityBuild and Arabian Construction Week, is the region’s only dedicated exhibition focusing on sustainable design and construction for the built environment. – SG