Dubai Police on path to zero carbon police force

More than 20 Dubai Police officers completed a three-day Energy Management System training (EnMS) programme that will help the force reach its ‘Zero Carbon Police Force’ initiative.

Lt Col Dr Tamim Mohammad Al Haj, Director of the Environment, Health and Safety Department at Dubai Police, said that the this is the first batch to graduate from a energy management programme, and will help manage energy consumption in various Dubai Police departments, helping them achieve the Dubai Government’s 30 per cent energy reduction goal by 2030.

“Our aim is to have at least one batch take this training a year. We will be choosing officers from different departments and police stations, so they can help their departments implement the strategies that will help reduce energy consumption, which will help us become a zero carbon police force,” he said.

The programme is part of a memorandum of understanding between the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO), and Dubai Carbon, who organised the training.

Dubai Police launched its Zero Carbon Police Force initiative in November 2014. Since then the force has been working closely with Dubai Carbon Centre of Excellence to study the force’s activities and find solutions and alternatives that are in line with international standards to achieve sustainability.

“We have been in the assessment phase since the launch and, with the conclusion of this programme, we will use what we learnt and what was found out during the assessment phase to come up with an exact action plan, which is expected to come together in the fourth quarter of 2015,” Lt Col Al Haj said.

Dubai Police will be announcing a number of initiatives relating to sustainability in early 2016, he said.

Ivano Iannelli, CEO of Dubai Carbon Centre of Excellence, said is there is one police force in the world that he believes can truly become sustainable and reduce its carbon foot print and that is Dubai Police.

“It is uncommon for a police force to take such a proactive approach when it comes to sustainability, and we have been working with them and applying our environmental economy and finance knowledge to their activities and to help them structure their zero carbon strategies,” he said.

The UAE Energy Council had earlier signed an agreement with UNIDO, Iannelli said, “to benchmark best practices in this field in the region, which will later be exported to other countries”.

He added that Dubai Police are very driven and committed to sustainability.

“We are pleased to support Dubai Police in serving the environmental agenda … I am sure Dubai Police will be a leader in this field and act as a catalyst to further enhance energy efficiency efforts of the UAE,” said Pradeep Monga, Director of UNIDO’s Energy Branch and Special Representative of the Director-General on Energy.

UNIDO has been conducting the EnMS training programme as part of its technical assistance in developing countries and emerging economies. So far, it has provided in-depth training courses to around 800 energy efficiency experts in over 300 companies worldwide, achieving average annual energy savings of 5-15 per cent in the first year of implementation, with minimal capital investment.

People and planet benefit from ‘green’ buildings

ntu green roof

Research worldwide shows that environmentally-friendly buildings are much better for the health of the people who live and work in them, as well as for the Earth.

Buildings that are designed to cut water and energy use and make as little impact on the surrounding environment as possible make life much better for their occupants too.

Studies into 69,000 buildings − homes, offices and factories − in 150 countries show that there are fewer illnesses among residents and workers, who report they are more comfortable and happier. Employers also find they are more productive.

Companies that opt for “green” buildings gain because workers stay longer in their jobs and have fewer absences, while recruitment is easier because new employees are attracted to environmentally-friendly buildings.

Dr. Joseph Allen and fellow environmental health researchers at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health in the US studied reports from across the world into the effect of green buildings on the health of the occupants. Fifteen studies are incorporated into the review, published in the journal Current Environmental Health Reports.

Healthier effects

There are now 3.5 billion square feet (0.325 sq metres) of certified green building space available worldwide, and researchers in many different countries have been measuring the effects to see if these buildings are also “ healthier” buildings.

Overall, the initial scientific evidence indicates better indoor environmental quality in green buildings versus non-green buildings, with direct benefits to human health for occupants of those buildings.

Dr. Joseph Allen, environmental health researcher at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health

“Overall, the initial scientific evidence indicates better indoor environmental quality in green buildings versus non-green buildings, with direct benefits to human health for occupants of those buildings,” Allen says.

Occupants of green buildings are in general more satisfied with the indoor air quality, their workspace, building cleanliness, and maintenance in general, he adds.

The research measured internal air quality, light, noise and the presence of chemicals that might adversely affect health, as well as asking the people who live and work in them about their experience.

The information is important for future building design because, as the researchers point out, modern humans spend 90 per cent of their time indoors.

To gauge the effect on health and well-being, the scientists looked at many studies that had taken into account factors that influence health − including radiological, chemical, biological and physical aspects of indoor environmental hazards.

Air quality

They looked at air quality, ventilation, filtration, lighting and acoustics, and studied the architecture, the quality of the canteens, access to natural light, and the building’s surroundings.

In residential buildings, there were fewer asthma and other respiratory illnesses among children, and across all green buildings there fewer cases of sick building syndrome symptoms, with better physical and mental health all round.

The one area that did not score better was acoustics, with several studies reporting lower satisfaction about noise levels.

Where hospitals had been constructed as green buildings, the researchers found a better quality of care for patients. In one study, there were 70 per cent fewer blood stream infections, improved record keeping, and overall patient mortality fell by 11 per cent − although the scientists were unable to pinpoint what factors produced such a startling improvement.

Small Business Segments that Offer Big Energy Savings Potential

In 2013, Preservation Green Lab (PGL) and the New Buildings Institute (NBI) reported on seven small building segments with high energy savings potential: food service, main street buildings, freestanding offices, strip malls, schools, freestanding retail and lodging[1]. This inspired to create a list of small business segments we often target in our small business programs, along with reasons why these segments make such great customers. In no particular order, here’s my list:

  • Auto Shops. It might surprise you that I’m starting with auto shops, but these are a great target segment! These customers don’t have the most advanced HVAC systems, but they want to be more comfortable, so they are more likely to install heaters, programmable thermostats and other measures with deep savings.
  • Grocery. Grocery stores have a lot of lighting and long hours, so they really benefit from lighting upgrades like T8s or CFLs.
  • Retail.  I know that PGL and NBI already mentioned retail, but I’m going to go ahead and say that all retail buildings (freestanding or not) are worth targeting. These customers love the non-energy benefits of lighting – like being able to sell more products because they look better – so they are naturally drawn to LEDs.
  • Dry Cleaners. If you want to save natural gas, then dry cleaners are the customer for you. Most have leaky steam traps that are super cost-effective to replace. The engineering can be tricky (many businesses overestimate their savings), but don’t let that stop you, because even the most conservative calculation will make this segment worth the effort.
  • Churches. Churches and other houses of worship are great not because of their measures but because of their networks. Once you satisfy one customer, they tend to bring in many more. In fact, one church hosted an open house to show off their new equipment and share about our program.
  • Strip Malls. What can I say? I have to agree with PGL and NBI on this segment. Small Business programs not only benefit from their energy savings potential but also their cost-effectiveness – I’ve heard of people visiting 12 customers in one day in a strip mall.

#UAE a #leader in #green #building, says #US trade body

UAE a leader in green building, says US trade body

The UAE has been named as one of the top 10 markets for green building space by the US Green Building Council (USGBC).

The USGBC, a not-for profit organisation, oversees the Leed (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) green building rating system.

It says that the UAE has the eighth-largest stock of Leed-certified buildings outside the US at 3.1 million square metres.

Canada has the biggest stock of Leed-certified buildings outside the US at 26.6 million square metres, followed by China (22 million sq metres).

Moreover, in terms of the number of Leed-certified and registered projects, the UAE is fifth internationally with 990 projects, behind Canada (4,814 projects), China (2,022), India (1,883) and Brazil (991). The US is by far the largest Leed market, with 53,908 certified or registered projects.

“The UAE has become an increasingly important centre for the global green building movement, a development that will help provide greater environmental health and increased economic opportunity for its citizens and will hopefully help to inspire a robust green building market throughout the Middle East,” said Rick Federizzi, the chief executive of USGBC.

USGBC said it had more than 80 member organisations in the UAE, and that the country has the fourth-largest number of Leed-accredited construction professionals in the world – behind the US, Canada and China.

Existing Leed-certified buildings in the UAE include the Rosewood Abu Dhabi hotel and the International Tower office building in the capital, and the Dubai Chamber and the Standard Chartered buildings in Dubai.

Jane Boyle, the head of sustainability and energy at WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff, said Leed was one of several building sustainability standards currently in use across the Middle East. Dubai Municipality introduced its own mandatory Green Building Regulations in 2014 and Abu Dhabi has its Estidama standards, which are a mix of compulsory regulations with a rating system on top.

All buildings have to meet a minimum 1-Pearl standard, but higher ratings can be achieved by creating more efficient buildings, she said.

The UK’s Building Research Establishment has also introduced a version of its own Environmental Assessment Method specifically targeted at the Middle East, Breeam Gulf.

Ms Boyle said that the USGBC had “done a really good hard sell in this part of the world”, especially in the wake of a downturn in the US construction industry that followed the financial crash of 2008.

The #UAE Ranks Eighth Among Top 10 Countries for #LEED #Green #Building


The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) announced that the United Arab Emirates ranked eighth on USGBC’s annual ranking of the Top 10 Countries for LEED, the world’s most widely used and recognized green building rating system. The Top 10 Countries for LEED list ranks countries in terms of gross square meters and numbers of LEED projects to date. The announcement comes at a time of increased international focus on climate change mitigation in the lead up to the United Nation’s COP21 climate negotiations this December.

The increased popularity of LEED throughout the UAE is reflective of the country’s aggressive push to achieve greater economic diversification, and USGBC’s recognition of the country’s green building community is timely since it follows the government’s announcement last month that the country’s non-oil related sectors have seen 8.1 percent growth in 2015, meaning that these sectors of the economy are on target to constitute as much as 80 percent of the Emirates’ national gross domestic product (GDP) by 2021.The international green building market is also projected to see significant growth in the next 10 years, and the UAE is poised to benefit from this rapid market expansion. USGBC’s announcement also follows a report from the World Bank in June that noted that the UAE has seen an unhealthy spike in PM 2.5 air pollution. LEED is known for its emphasis on improving indoor environmental quality for building inhabitants, and people typically spend 90 percent of their time indoors where air quality tends to be much worse than outdoor air quality.

“LEED-certified buildings help ensure that our collective legacy to our children and our children’s children is founded in environmental stewardship, high standards of human health and a desire to ensure that our economic growth occurs in a foreword looking and responsible way,” said Rick Fedrizzi, CEO and founding chair, USGBC. “The United Arab Emirates has become an increasingly important center for the global green building movement, a development that will help provide greater environmental health and increased economic opportunity for its citizens and will hopefully help to inspire a robust green building market throughout the Middle East.”

The 10 countries that made the list for 2015 are geographically and culturally diverse, representing seven of the world’s 20 largest single-nation economies by gross domestic product (GDP) (China, Germany, Brazil, India, Canada, South Korea andTurkey), as well as six of the top 11 emitters of greenhouse gases (China, India, Germany, South Korea, Canada and Brazil).

The analysis used to develop the list ranks countries in terms of gross square meters (GSM) and numbers of LEED projects to date. LEED-certified spaces use less energy and water resources, save money for families, businesses and taxpayers, reduce carbon emissions and create a healthier environment for residents, workers and the larger community. The United States, the birthplace of LEED, is not included in this list but remains the world’s largest market for LEED. The U.S. is the world’s largest economy by GDP as well as the world’s second largest emitter of greenhouse gases.

Every day, nearly 172,000 GSM of space is certified using LEED, and there are currently more than 69,800 commercial and institutional projects representing 1.23 billion GSM of space participating in the green building rating system. An additional 76,500 residential units have been certified under LEED for Homes. LEED projects can now be found in more than 150 countries and territories across the world.

The full ranking is as follows:



GSM of LEED certified- space (million)

Total GSM of LEED-certified and registered space (millions)

Total number of LEED-certified and registered projects






















Republic of Korea















United Arab Emirates















United States




At a time when the international community is looking to the UN’s negotiations in Paris as a historically significant chance to come up with real, binding solutions to climate change, the global popularity of LEED is a sign that a ‘green economic miracle’ is well within reach. LEED’s success demonstrates that there are proven, internationally credible solutions to some of the complex questions surrounding climate change mitigation that can help stimulate economic growth while also avoiding harmful economic disruptions. With buildings accounting for up to 30 percent of global emissions, a commitment to the rapid transformation of the global built environment seems to be one solution that the entire world can get behind.

A sample of notable projects that certified in the UAE in 2014 include:

  • Abu Dhabi: International Tower, Capital Center, LEED Gold
  • Ajman: Ajman Saray-A Luxury Hotel and Resort, LEED Silver
  • Dubai: Panasonic Avionics, Dubai, LEED Platinum
  • Abu Dhabi: Rosewood Abu Dhabi, LEED Certified

The United Arab Emirates has a broad base of support for LEED across the country, with more than 80 USGBC member organizations spread across the country’s architecture, construction, manufacturing, real estate and retail industries. The UAE also boasts the world’s fourth largest professional LEED workforce behind only the United States, Canada and China, a statistic that shows that the country is bracing for much greater LEED green building demand in the coming years.

#Energy #Efficiency Creates #Competitive #Advantage, Companies Say

Energy Efficiency Creates Competitive Advantage

Energy efficiency is being embraced by companies as a critical competitive advantage. What’s more, many companies are generating at least a portion of their own power.

Marlene Motyka, US alternative energy leader for Deloitte, gives the results of a new resources study in this podcast.

The study found:

  • 77 percent of respondents consider reducing electricity costs as essential to staying competitive from a financial perspective.
  • 79 percent of businesses view reducing electricity costs as essential to staying competitive from an image perspective. This is the highest proportion since the resources study was first conducted in 2011.
  • 93 percent say they have invested funds in energy management programs over the last three years, reinforcing the trend that businesses are allocating a greater percentage of their capital budgets to energy management. These funds represent about 18 percent of their total capital budgets, compared to 12  in 2014. The largest proportion since the study’s inception.
  • In their goal-setting efforts, businesses increased their energy/resource reduction targets in all areas except carbon footprint. Companies are aiming to reduce their electricity consumption by 25 percent on average, up from 22 percent in 2014. Businesses are also giving themselves more time to achieve their reduction goals: 4.5 years on average, compared to 4.2 years in 2014.
  • Companies generally are positive about their efforts to date, with 52 percent characterizing their energy management efforts as extremely/very successful, compared to 42 percent in 2014.
  • Companies not afraid to try something new as their commitment to energy management gets progressively stronger. 39 percent of businesses say new/innovative solutions are actively encouraged, experimented with, and deployed, up from 30 percent.

“Importantly, this shift is occurring despite relatively low electricity prices and moderate expectations of future increases. Energy management is becoming a core business discipline – for companies of all sizes, not just enterprises,” said a company spokeswoman.

Meanwhile, consumers didn’t change their behavior much, but said they didn’t want to revert back to their previous consumption patterns.

Four steps to enhance #energy #efficiency moves in the #UAE

Four steps to enhance energy efficiency moves in the UAE

In the past few years, the UAE has begun to make notable changes in its approach to energy efficiency.

The country’s authorities have been aware that consumption patterns cannot be allowed to continue. Overall energy usage has been growing by 4 per cent a year, with projections calling for that to increase to 5 per cent a year through 2020. Electricity consumption has more than doubled over the past decade, faster than the population has grown.

Water consumption in the UAE is about 740 cubic metres per capita per annum, about 50 per cent higher than the global average.

In response to these unsustainable consumption increases, the UAE government has begun crafting policies to make the region far more efficient in its use of resources.

For example, Abu Dhabi and Dubai have both deployed advanced electric metering systems, which involve using technology and Big Data in urban planning as part of a “smart cities” approach. These systems include tools and rate structures that encourage customers to reduce consumption or shift it to off-peak hours.

Another area of focus is building efficiency, or the use of innovative designs, materials and technologies to reduce the environmental impact of buildings. The UAE now has green regulations and building codes that call for sustainable resources and materials – and less waste. More advanced procurement procedures are starting to factor in total life-cycle cost, rather than just initial construction.

In water usage, policymakers are developing water treatment technologies that can meet future demand and consume less energy – such as desalination through reverse osmosis. Increased water tariffs, stricter rules regarding irrigation, and the use of permeable landscaping materials have also reduced the demand for water in the emirates.

Politicians are aware that they can build on these individual successes by bringing them together in a more comprehensive fashion. The strategic aspect of energy sustainability was a key topic during the workshop convened by the Energy Working Group of the UAE-UK Business Council during Abu Dhabi Sustainability week in March. Specifically, policymakers can enhance the impact of these measures by following four strategic priorities.

The first priority is to develop and implement a single, integrated energy efficiency strategy for the UAE. This strategy aligns all economic sectors, and their value chains, around a single set of sustainability goals and objectives. It ensures that individual efforts reinforce each other and avoid creating conflicts among priorities.

The second priority is to have the right regulatory framework. Once the strategy is in place, the UAE will derive additional benefit by enforcing it through regulations, including a balance of “soft” and “hard” measures. Soft measures include incentives to persuade residents and businesses to reduce their energy consumption. Hard measures mandate reductions through penalties and caps. Regulations can also tap the power of market forces to reduce consumption, such as water tariffs that require high-consuming organisations to pay more.

The third priority is communication and information campaigns to build awareness. One of the most important aspects of sustainability is obtaining support from all stakeholders – and particularly residents and builders. This enables the public to understand the scope of the country’s energy situation and the consequences of a failure to act.

Communication efforts will have the most impact if they make these points emphatically. These efforts can educate citizens and businesses about how specific measures for households and enterprises can address the sustainability problem – and how the entire country will ultimately benefit from individual actions that accumulate over time.

The fourth priority is the promotion of region-specific research and development technology (R&D). A targeted R&D agenda focusing on sustainability can tap into emerging technology to help the UAE meet its energy efficiency goals. The key to encouraging such an agenda is a set of incentives for R&D into sustainable technology. R&D in this area will deliver ancillary benefits as well, such as building a more innovative ecosystem in the country, creating jobs and boosting the overall economy.

With the right supporting elements in place, this kind of comprehensive energy efficiency strategy could lead to substantial reductions in consumption. It could be implemented swiftly and at relatively little expense. Moreover, the UAE can apply the lessons learnt from governments in other countries that are further along in their efforts to reduce consumption and boost efficiency.

Such a strategic approach is important because the UAE has decided upon a fundamental transformation in its energy planning.

Policymakers have taken important steps thus far, putting in place significant elements of the larger strategy. They can now weave those individual efforts together into a response that is coherent and strategic, one that can lead to greater gains over time. As a result, the UAE will be able to meet the needs of today’s citizens more effectively, and it will build a sustainable future for subsequent generations.

#EMS Consulted West Beach Club Achieves #EHS #Green #Building NOC-BP

Aerial View

TED Jacob Engineering Group awarded Sub-Consultant contract of EHS Green Building Consultancy Services to EMS in order to obtain EHS approvals for West Beach Club at Palm Jumeirah, Dubai. The EMS green building experts have successfully achieved EHS Green Building NOC-BP (Building Permit).

EMS’ strong reputation in the region ensures they are leading green building consultants in the Middle East. TED Jacobs’ aim was to optimize their energy, water and material efficiency, which is achieved through EMS’ expertise on design and engineering disciplines. The implementations of the green building methods, materials and technologies for the West Beach Club are both financially and environmentally sustainable for Ted Jacob Engineering Group.

EMS encourages and leads the way for a greener and more sustainable future. As Energy Partners for many clients in the Middle East over the past two decades, EMS has been actively involved in assisting its clients to strategically manage energy procurement. EMS design and implement energy efficiency solutions, supply reliable and cost-competitive energy services, and coordinate the installation of energy infrastructure and technologies. EMS additionally is certified in LEED, Estidama, QSAS and many more.

Visit the EMS website to learn more about our services at

#Greening the #desert: How the #UAE aims to #change its #carbon #footprint


Relentless construction, a booming aviation sector and near-permanent air conditioning: Dubai is not an obvious contender for the title of one of the world’s most sustainable cities.

Yet this is the goal the emirate has set itself. Having shaken off the worst effects of the recession, building has again taken off – but this time, the emphasis is on being ‘green’.

In line with the national government’s own targets, Dubai has plans to ‘green-up’, or retrofit, existing buildings and cut carbon emissions despite depending heavily on expensive, energy-hungry processes — from the spectacular fountain show staged every 15 minutes outside Dubai Mall to dazzle tourists, to the gallons of water churned up in A/C units each day for residents suffering in the searing temperatures.

By 2030, the government wants to have reduced energy use across the emirate by 30 percent and to generate at least 25 percent of its power from renewable sources, including solar, clean coal and nuclear. It also wants to eliminate waste sent to landfill within 20 years, and devise more sustainable methods of water generation.

A quick riffle through the statistics suggests this could be a tall order. The UAE has one of the largest carbon footprints in the world. The 2015 UAE State of Energy Report, which was published by the government in January and holds the most recent data, says the UAE produced almost 20 tonnes of CO2 emissions per person in 2010, a 63 percent increase from 2000.

Water and electricity generation account for 33 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, followed by transportation, responsible for 22 percent.

In Dubai, an average person uses a mammoth 20,000 kilowatt-hours of energy and 130 gallons of water per year, according to Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA), while water consumption across the UAE was estimated to be around 500 litres per day in 2013, according to the Federal Electricity and Water Authority. This was 82 percent above the global average and three times higher than average per capita consumption in the European Union. Waste levels per capita are also among the highest in the world, with Abu Dhabi alone producing between 1.8kg and 2.4kg per person per day – almost double that of the UK.

But the UAE remains resolute, even going so far as to pledge that the site of the World Expo 2020 event Dubai will host in five years’ time will be the “most sustainable ever”. At least 50 percent of the Expo site is to be constructed from recyclable materials and powered with renewable energy, claimed Reem Al Hashimy, UAE minister of state and managing director of the Dubai Expo 2020 Higher Committee, at a conference in March, as she insisted Dubai would play a big role in promoting global environmental sustainability in years to come.

With the UAE on a bigger push than ever to diversify its economy and attract 20 million tourists by 2021, sceptics have dismissed its relatively recent focus on sustainability as a ‘talking shop’. There is an apparent contradiction, they say, between the UAE’s ambitious environmental targets and plans for eye-catching yet unnatural schemes such as Damac’s Dubai Rainforest, intended to be the first tropical rainforest in the Middle East.

Damac senior vice-president Niall McLoughlin responds: “We are very conscious of the need to create this environment to the highest environmental standards and are working with international experts to ensure it meets all requirements.”

One UK-based energy consultant, who asked not to be named, says: “No country that is serious about achieving global business recognition could be seen not to care about the environment. Whether they do enough to change things is a different matter.”

But others say this is not the point. To set – and work towards meeting – clear sustainability targets, is a necessary step for improving the country’s environmental credentials.

“Money and investment are increasingly linked to sustainability, and globally public attitudes demand it,” notes Nicholas Lander, regional sustainability lead at CH2M Hill, who is speaking independently of the company’s role as principal sustainability advisor to the Dubai Expo 2020 delivery team.

“Some people still prioritise short-term gain without understanding how global megatrends will affect these gains in the coming years. But the science and economics of global warming tell us we need to shift towards a green economy to catalyse growth and ensure resilience in the future, and [the UAE] is making efforts to do this.”

Lander says real estate developments that are not demonstrably ‘green’ are losing out in terms of how quickly they sell and the values they command, while market perceptions of sustainability are affecting other sectors, too. “We still have a way to go, but Dubai has shown time and again that it can defy popular expectation and reach its goals.”

Majida Ali Rashid, assistant director-general and head of Dubai Land’s Investment Management and Promotion Center, says Dubai has set a “major goal” to become greener. “Although we are keen to achieve economic development and attract more foreign investment, we are paying attention to sustainability and creating new projects to pursue energy-efficiency,” he says.

“The achievement of such objectives involves significant challenges, but we are able to confront them, thanks to our learning in these areas.”

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) estimates that buildings use about 40 percent of global energy. With the UAE’s construction sector gathering pace again, the government updated its environmental performance standards for all new buildings. The UAE Green Building Guidelines,  in place since 2010, were reissued in January 2014 to stipulate minimum standards of energy efficiency, water consumption and materials to be used in new-build properties.

It has also adopted the international LEED green building certification system, with 850 projects either already certified or registered for LEED certification. The State of Energy Report names several of these buildings, including DEWA’s headquarters in Al Quoz and the first ‘green’ mosque in the Islamic world, which opened in Port Saeed last year. There is also the sprawling Masdar  ‘smart city’ under construction in Abu Dhabi, intended as a test-bed for new sustainable technologies.

Rashid claims there is “detailed follow up by official bodies on how these new developments are performing”, and adds efforts are being made to improve energy-guzzling artificial green spaces such as golf courses, by using efficient irrigation techniques and plants that adapt to the prevailing climatic conditions.

Several of the UAE’s biggest developers, including Emaar Properties, are embracing the new requirements.

“Our sustainability commitment is [epitomised] in the Burj Khalifa,” an Emaar Properties spokesperson says. “The tower’s high performance exterior cladding system is designed to withstand the UAE’s summer temperatures. Its condensate collection system provides about 15 million gallons of supplement water per year, equivalent to about 20 Olympic swimming pools, and solar panels are used to meet the bulk of residents’ water heating requirements.”

The Expo 2020 organising committee is still finalising how it will achieve its sustainability methods for the 438-hectare site, but John Martin St Valery, founding partner of the Links Group, which helps new companies set up in the Gulf, says it has an opportunity to make a global mark.

“If the UAE gets this right, which it is likely to do with the vision and drive of the leadership, Expo 2020 could become a global billboard for making ‘eco-cities’ the standard modus operandi,” he says.

Progress already has been made in retrofitting older buildings. Emirates Green Building Council chairman Saeed Al Abbar says an estimated 30,000 of the 120,000 buildings in Dubai have high energy saving potential and the government is seeking to maximise that.

“Dubai is a new city that grew quickly. Many of the first buildings were constructed long before building codes were introduced, which means they are not as efficient as they could be and pose challenges in terms of energy reduction,” he says.

To encourage investment in environmental upgrades, the Ministry of Public Works and Dubai Supreme Council of Energy last month published technical guidelines for retrofitting existing buildings. At the same time, the government is progressing with an ambitious yet unpublicised programme to retrofit some of its oldest properties. The initiative is being led by Etihad Energy Services, a wholly owned subsidiary of DEWA formed two years ago.

Chief executive Stephane Le Gentil says the company is in the process of completing two projects for DEWA worth $10m, as well as  other contracts in the pipeline, including to retrofit all 14 buildings in the Dubai International Financial Centre, and properties on behalf of the Dubai World Trade Centre, Dubai Airport Free Zone, Dubai Civil Defence and Wasl Asset Management Group. Agreements have been signed and tenders are being organised, with projects due to start from 2016.

Of the projects on site, the first involves retrofitting DEWA’s headquarters in Bur Dubai and two power stations in Jebel Ali and Rashidiya. The HQ project targets a 31 percent energy reduction with $4.4m of investment, expected to be recouped in cost savings within six years. The power stations retrofit involves upgrading lighting systems to achieve a 68 percent energy reduction, costing $5.7m with a three-and-a-half-year payback.

The second involves retrofitting all 254 commercial buildings in the Jebel Ali Free Zone with energy-efficient chillers, lighting, piping, ventilation and other systems. “The short term goal is to focus on government-owned buildings as they are keen to reduce their bills and lead by example,” says Le Gentil. Within the next three years, he says, the company will seek to contract with residential landlords, but there are inherent challenges because tenants often pay the energy bills, rather than landlords, therefore, with minimal financial benefits they are less incentivised to pay for upgrades.

However, the UAE’s environmental targets “are realistic because the country has to change — it can’t stay as it is,” says Le Gentil. The first retrofits will achieve millions of dollars in savings and proof of the financial benefits will make it easier to convince others to ‘go green’.

Meanwhile, sustainability experts have noticed a fledgling renewables industry in the UAE. And 2015 has been declared the ‘Year of Renewable Energy’.

“The lower oil price and increased awareness of depleting fossil fuels is giving the nascent sector enormous momentum,” St Valery says.

“The UAE is looking to almost double its contribution to these industries to nearly 20 percent of GDP by 2020, so foreign companies that align themselves with this agenda stand to reap significant returns.”

Reda El Chaar, chairman of Dubai-based Access Power MEA, agrees.

“We are seeing huge interest in solar power regionally,” he says. “Dubai is set to award 1,000 megawatts of solar projects this year, that’s a 100-fold increase since last year.

“The economics of solar have changed dramatically over the past three years. [Operational] costs have plummeted by over 50 percent and the MENA solar market is expected to reach over $2bn in 2015, according to research by the Middle East Solar Industry. This presents a compelling investment opportunity.”

The government has sought to incentivise solar development through a payback scheme in which solar panel developers can sell surplus energy to the national grid. However, there are other barriers such as licensing, says St Valery.

“Renewable infrastructure firms do not fit neatly into free zone/foreign corporate ownership rules – they are a bit of a grey area,” he says. “So it is not easy for international players to set up in the UAE and there is a shortage of expertise.” His company is lobbying the government to amend licensing rules to open up the market.

The green bond and sukuk sector also has grown – by 50 percent over the past year, according to a Climate Bonds Initiative report last week.

More broadly, the UAE faces behavioural barriers to going green. Says Lander: “Water and waste represent the two biggest challenges. Water is not priced to represent its value and, as a result, it’s wasted.

“Our groundwater resources are running out; salinity in the Gulf is rising due to desalination, and yet people hose down their driveways rather than grab a broom. The technology exists to treat and reuse water, the problem is attitudes that need to be addressed through education and price signals.”

This is just one example of the noise the UAE is making to shake off what Le Gentil describes as “a negative legacy” of unsustainable practices that developed during the construction boom earlier this century. He believes the country will succeed in its aim, and St Valery concurs: “I do not believe the UAE’s sustainability drive is a fad. The country feels a genuine sense of responsibility and is making a serious effort to change public perceptions.”

Once it has, anything is possible: the UAE may even be growing its own vegetables and using compost toilets and solar-powered bicycles.

Green research to focus on healthy buildings

Green research

A new green research initiative will explore ways to merge integrated design and health impact assessment into approaches for building, operating and evaluating the investment returns of healthy buildings. The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) has teamed with the University of Virginia School of Medicine to carry out the project with a $1.2-milliont grant from the U.S. based Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF).

“Enhancing human health is a longstanding value of the green building movement, and RWJF’s support allows us to create powerful tools for project teams and new strategies to effectively engage capital markets,” say Rick Fedrizzi, the USGBC’s CEO.

The research partners will collaborate with a network of public health and sustainability proponents, including the Global Real Estate Sustainability Benchmark (GRESB), to develop a model for embedding considerations of occupant health and well-being in both physical assets and investment attributes. This also aligns with RWJF’s vision for a nationwide culture of health.

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