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Time for unified green building standard in UAE, says expert

It is high time there was a unified standard for green buildings — structures designed, constructed, and operated to minimise environmental impacts — in the UAE, an expert said during the Performance of Green Buildings Focus Day at the Sheraton Hotel on Monday.

Organised by the Emirates Green Building Council (Emirates GBC), the conference discussed the gaps between design, construction, operations, and maintenance of green buildings in the country and how to address them. Among the gaps identified was the existence of various standards in sustainable buildings.

“We have different green building standards and each one of them has its pros and cons. It will be easier for us if we have a unified green building standard from the region. I think we should push for such codes to be implemented in a more popular way — or on a nation-wide scale — as with the global standard,” Ebrahim Al Zu’bi, head of corporate social responsibility of Majid Al Futtaim (MAF) Properties and speaker at the conference, told Gulf News.

Currently, Abu Dhabi is the only emirate that mandates that new buildings, communities, and villas should be built based on sustainability principles through the Estidama (Arabic for ‘sustainable’) programme. Dubai, on the other hand, has enforced that all government buildings have to start adapting environmentally sustainable measures by 2014, but it is optional for private buildings.

Al Zu’bi said that from a developer’s point of view, having a unified standard for sustainable buildings across the country could lower design and construction costs because of the law of supply and demand.

During the discussion, the panellists unanimously agreed for the need for all sectors — design, construction, operations, and maintenance — to collaborate and have equal say starting from the design phase of a project to effectively use sustainable building principles.

Adnan Sharafi, Emirates GBC chairman, debunked prevailing misconceptions that green projects are more costly than normal ones. He stressed that if clients want to save on costs, it shouldn’t be during the design and construction phase but in the operation phase because that is where clients spend money correcting mistakes, among other reasons.

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