By Carlos Gonzalez & Arti Sangar
In recent years, the Middle East has emerged as a centre for monumental buildings. Dubai is currently building the world’s tallest—Burj Dubai—while Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain and Qatar all are considering building rival towers over the course of the next decade.
Although attention-grabbing, these developments also cause enormous environmental impact. It is estimated that buildings worldwide use 42% of the world’s energy and are responsible for 40% of greenhouse gas emissions.
Despite the current economic downturn, regions around the world—including the Middle East—continue to explore and embrace green building design to help address environmental concerns.
Green developments in the Middle East
Many Gulf countries are introducing green building regulations and guidelines that govern the design and operation of all new buildings. Dubai World, the investment arm of the Dubai Government, has recently adopted the US LEED Green Building Certification scheme as a requirement for all its developments.
Additionally, in the UAE, the Emirates Green Building Council will soon be developing a specific UAE LEED version to guide future developments. Moreover, Bahrain, Qatar and Oman are all moving towards green building standards too.
These green initiatives have been triggered by numerous international organisations with Middle East operations bringing their environmental policies and standards into the region. In the UAE, for example, international businesses that have adopted green initiatives include Grand Hyatt and HSBC. UAE companies following their example include TECOM Investments and Zabeel Properties with other local and international organisations likely to follow in the near future.
Given the harsh desert climate of the Arabian Peninsula, some experts question whether buildings in the Middle East can really go green. Nevertheless, green investing continues to grow in the region. Currently under construction, Masdar City in Abu Dhabi plans to be the world’s first zero-waste, carbon-neutral city and plans to utilise green and alternative energy in its buildings and throughout the city’s entire infrastructure.
New green buildings, but what about the old ones?
While green buildings are becoming the norm in Middle Eastern construction, converting older buildings to green technology presents daunting challenges. And, while many architectural icons, including New York’s Empire State Building, are going green, it is yet to be seen whether the Middle East will accept the challenges associated with converting its old buildings into newer, cleaner, greener versions.
However, while installing energy efficient and renewable technologies in old buildings creates technical challenges and presents developers with increased expenditure, the long-term advantages often outweigh the initial expense.
In the current economic environment, owners and developers are realising that green buildings offer a good investment. It’s often said that green buildings have higher market values because they are cheaper and often more efficient to maintain. Also, by going green owners can expect an increase in occupancy.
The point is this: Given the growing demand for green building space in both the public and private sectors in the Middle East, owners and landlords are coming under increasing pressure to think green when selling or leasing their properties.