Bridging the gap

From developer to FM, everyone involved in the design of a green building has to think green.

ANALYSIS, Facilities Management

From developer to FM, everyone involved in the design of a green building has to think green. facilities management Middle East speaks to the contributing factors.

The developer
Name: Nicola Clarke
Job title: Environmental advisor
Company: Sabban Property Investments (SPI)

Being green in this region is largely to do with choice and property developers make lots of choices.

We choose the project, the land, the building type, architects, consultants, contractors, systems, finished interiors and more. We make decisions every day that probably have more of an impact than we realise. Notably, some developers decide whether or not to go beyond legal requirements to minimise our environmental impact. That is to say, we choose our policies and in doing so lay the right foundations.

It is our responsibility to develop projects that are as environmentally friendly as possible, whilst still being able to provide affordable investments for our clients and make a profit. It is also our duty to inform residents on how to use the facilities we install efficiently, so they can minimise their own environmental impact.

The region's property industry is currently in an environmental transition. Sustainable financial self interest means investing in the environment.Companies who do not, will compete in the future.

It's great that many architects and consultants are pushing for green building in the region, but ultimately it is the developer which has the final decision. That final decision often comes down to cost and it's a farsighted developer that incorporates the environmental cost into the current decision making processes.

We believe it's our duty to instigate environmental initiatives now rather than wait until green guidelines inevitably become mandatory.

One company cannot progress unaided, it is important that property developers actively select business partners who have similar environmental ethics and policies to enable them to actively practice what they preach.

If the people developers choose to work with offer them environmentally friendly alternatives, their role in being green is made much easier.

If the 'business as usual' scenario continues, the consequences will be severe. We are currently looking at a future where water is more scarce, electricity more expensive and where space is increasingly limited.

Choice is power. If we have the power of choice we also have the power to change.

SPI is the first carbon neutral developer in the region and is one of the founding members of the Emirates Green Building Council (Emirates GBC). By setting our own high standards and expectations, we have created a mindset and a more environmentally and socially responsible business culture for everyone who works for and with us.

The architect
Name: Benjamin Piper
Job title: Senior architect
Company: Atkins Middle East

Buildings provide the physical framework within which people lead their lives. By establishing the framework to include aspects of sustainable design, it is possible for architects to have a tremendous influence on the environmental impact of a given project, both on a physical and social level.

Physical considerations might include the choice of materials, the choice of environmental control systems and the physical sitting/orientation of the building.

Social considerations could include an understanding of the social patterns resulting from the building design and the long term flexibility of a design to support alternative uses over the life-cycle of the project.

When an architect is tasked with imagining and visualising a building, there is almost an infinite number of ways for the architect to bring that building into being.

The decisions that are made at an early stage - in terms of massing, relationship to the surrounding site, orientation etc - can have a tremendous impact on the eventual environmental footprint of the building.

For this reason, architects have a special role in being best placed to determine the primary moves of a building design in a way that aims to meet sustainable design criteria.

However, sustainable design also requires the effective collaboration of a great number of specialists besides the architect.

It is absolutely necessary for the architect to bring in this specialised knowledge at an early stage. This ensures that design solutions take a realistic and practical approach and that they are not simply a result of image conscious decision making.

Without the technical and practical backing from specialists that offer viable solutions, architects risk damaging the credibility of sustainable design.

To facilitate sustainable design, architects must also work to raise the client's and contractor's awareness of sustainability issues and highlight the potential benefits of adopting a sustainable approach.

As architects, we are trained to imagine new spaces, structures and ways of achieving these. It is our role to convince other members of the construction team of potential solutions that have a basis in sustainable design.

Sustainability is no longer the domain of environmentalists or scientists, but is part of the social responsibility of every decision maker. Architects make daily decisions that have a huge potential impact on material and energy resources, as well as the living patterns of our building's inhabitants.

With an ever-increasing world population and with diminishing global resources, our role is becoming increasingly critical. We must take up the challenge of providing viable examples of sustainable design. These designs must be so efficient, so sensible and ultimately so beautiful, that this approach propagates in tomorrow's world to become the norm.

The consultant engineer
Name: Jeff Willis
Job title: Associate director
Company: ARUP

The aim of a sustainable building can be defined as an ability to meet current and future needs with minimum use of resources throughout its lifetime. To achieve this in commercial markets, it must at once pay equal respect to people, the environment and the bottom line. This creates a building that is kind to the environment, a joy for its occupants and affordable for its owner.

It is a balanced design which takes account of all influences on a particular building and produces the optimum, efficient response for that building and its owner.

To achieve this, engineers of all disciplines must be fully engaged from the outset of the project with the other stakeholders to ensure that no element of the design is developed in isolation from other elements. This allows for consideration and evaluation of the impact of any one element.

The fully engaged balance enables the trade-off and cost transfer process to be utilsed most effectively. For example, the facade engineer working with the air conditioning engineer to obtain balance between the efficiency/cost/maintenance requirements of the facade and the efficiency/cost/running costs of the air conditioning system. The result being more cost in the facade balanced against less cost in the air conditioning system.

Another example is the lighting engineer working with the architect and air conditioning engineer to optimise daylight/controlled lighting and air conditioning load to achieve good levels of daylight, combined with controlled interior low energy lighting whilst balancing the impact on the air conditioning system.

It requires the pro-active involvement of all engineers to take part in a wide range of decisions which have not been within the traditional role of the engineer. Many of which would have traditionally been made by the other stakeholders, possibly in isolation, but probably without consultation with all other disciplines.

This pro-active involvement must include the: consideration of materials and resources; sourcing, recycling, re-use, recycled components; control of waste both during construction and during occupation; capital costs, buildability; life cycle costs; commissioning; monitoring; operation and maintenance.

The contractor
Name: Sivaprasad
Job title: Chairman and CEO
Company: Condor

The major constraint in front of the contractors is the willingness of the developers and clients to incur higher initial capital investment in 'green' products and concept.

Other challenges include documenting the procurement procedures and installation details and employing LEED accredited professionals to supervise the overall design and execution of the project.

Contractors can source a variety of products to help be green. For example, storm water management, light pollution reduction, water use reduction, the use of HVAC and equipments having CFC reduction, waste management of construction materials, the use of only locally available and regional materials, using recycled and recyclable materials, utilising the space and energy to the optimum levels and utilisation of solar energy to generate power for HVAC and lighting. There is no lack of green resources in the Emirates in the construction field.

There is an argument for contractors in the Middle East to think green anyway. By becoming a member of the Emirates GBC, companies are marketed and educated. There are also networking opportunities through events, programs and publications.

The industry will recognise contractor's attempts to contribute to the green movement but they cannot do it on their own. It is a team effort between the building's involved parties.

However, it is the primary responsibility of the developer to initiate a green building and then the architects, consultants, contractors, interior designers and facilities managers contribute towards implementing it.

The most significant benefits can be obtained if the design and construction team integrate in this approach from the inception stages of a project itself.

Our main aim is to make a significant contribution to achieving sustainable development. To do that, we want to make sustainable principles part of the way we do things in our investment strategy, procedures and regulatory framework.

The interior designer
Name: Jayne Washbourne
Job title: Senior interior designer
Company: Godwin Austen Johnson

As an interior designer, sustainable issues should be addressed at the inception of the project in a structured format ensuring that sustainability is integrated within the design process.

As designers, it is our responsibility. But combining functionality and sustainability is not an easy task. Interestingly, clients are now increasingly embracing this which will make the process easier. Most large corporates now have sustainable policies and details can be provided as a record for the sustainable performance of the project.

Where ever possible, interior designers should aim to work with their clients to help establish policy objectives, ensuring a well thought out design solution. Things to think about include:

New products and materials

Interior designers should always ask what policy the company has towards sustainability and if measures have been taken during the production process. Recycled content, for example, most carpet tile manufacturer's, include some form of recycled material if not 100% in the tile backing. The level of a product's recyclability can also be measured and we must not forget the impact of products at the end of their lifespan.

Care when specifying

When specifying timber, for example, we should always ensure it comes from a renewable source.

Specifying local materials and supply chains reduces transportation costs to the environment, whilst benefiting local suppliers, manufacturers and workers.

If suppliers are unable to achieve a reasonable environmental approach they will often be prepared to find ways to offset their carbon footprint in other ways.

Water efficiency

This can be controlled by specifying water saving devices.

These devices manage the amount of water used and can help reduce consumption.

Lighting solutions

These should be implemented where possible to ensure energy efficiency.

Advanced technology and the use of intelligent building systems are increasingly required.

By liaising with lighting designers to ensure high energy lighting solutions are kept to a minimum, today's lighting technology enables better quality light at a more energy efficient rate.

Indoor air quality

Unless the project is given a fully integrated architectural and interior design approach, air quality is usually long determined. A purely anecdotal observation since my arrival in the UAE is that an individual's comfort cooling criteria in the workplace is far lower than the 24 or 25 degree level that would be acceptable say in the UK.

Given that the UAE has one of the largest carbon footprints per head in the world, perhaps a change in mindset would be a good way to address energy saving in this area.

Social wellbeing

This is also a form of sustainability with initiatives to improve staff welfare. For example, sustainability which balances environmental, economic and social performances. Good task focussed work stations can be complemented by a variety of break out areas and alternative ‘bookable' and ‘impromptu' work areas.

A happy, fully functioning employee, can only make for a happy employer. Initiatives to improving security, staff morale and productivity all form a key part in the impact an interior can have on its occupants.

There is a strong link between good workplace design and reduced staff absenteeism, which has been reflected following post occupancy studies of new head quarter buildings in the UK.

Studies aim to reflect staff satisfaction, building performance and management responses.

The facilities manager
Name: Clare Wait
Job title: Senior facilities manager
Company: Sama Dubai

Sustainability is not only becoming a trend, but a fact of life across the world as many governments start to legislate in this area.

But it is not really starting to impact Dubai from an operational point of view yet. However, with the increasing amount of press coverage quantifying the nature of the UAE's ecological performance against the rest of the modern world and the way in which trends in Dubai change like the wind, it will not be long before this starts to be a major impact for property management teams across the Emirate.

Adding to that pressure to change, companies are now expected to have corporate social responsibility (CSR) policies that no self-respecting CEO can write without sustainability at their heart.

Training customers to be aware and involved in sustainable practices is also a challenge for facilities managers, unlike many countries where sustainability impacts the domestic arena as well as the commercial one.

In the UK, for example, a survey by leading think tank, the future laboratory, highlights that Britons now realise they can have a greater impact than government with 49% stating it is down to the individual to take the lead.

According to the research, 68% of those surveyed said that the notion of ‘green' would soon become obsolete - not through any lack of interest, but rather that the majority viewed behaviours like recycling (91%), switching lights off (66%) and driving hybrid cars (51%) as becoming standard practice within the next 20 years.

The areas in which FMs can make an impact are numerous, impacting all three areas of sustainability - social, economic and environmental - whether the properties they manage are designed with sustainability in mind or not.

The ideal is always to have properties that are designed for a sustainable function and this will become more common in the future.

The following are just some of the areas in which a FM can impact on the sustainable running of a property.

Office Services

Reduce the use of paper by setting all printers to double sided printing (reduce paper usage by approx 30%). Use multi-functional devices for printing, scanning, copying and faxing rather than using desk top printers (reduced cost of maintenance and cost per copy).

Ensure paper is recycled and or from a sustainable resource. Reduce the use of lamps by procuring long life varieties. Recycle toners, waste paper, cans, plastic, glass, mobile phones and fluorescent tubes. When disposing of unwanted equipment or furniture ensure they are given to deserving causes, for reuse else where.


Carefully managing all our utilities is an area where FMs can have a major impact - whether it is electricity or water. Monitoring and energy management is key but looking at renewable resources is also a must.

Water is an easy area to impact but is sometimes difficult in existing facilities if the capability to reuse or reduce is not in the design. For example, using recycled water for flushing of toilets and maintaining the landscape of our facilities should not be one that impacts the environment.


All the ‘green' waste from the kitchens or gardens can be composted and then reused as fertiliser. Create sustainable landscape management plans for the land surrounding the facilities recognising that responsibility extends beyond the landscaped area that can be seen from the windows.


When carrying out maintenance and management of the facilities, technology is a key tool in ensuring the properties are managed sustainably. For example, lighting controls, building management systems (BMS), the use of technology in maintenance such as using thermal imaging in order to identify and deal with any excessive sources of heat during electrical testing and PDA's for engineers rather than work sheets and time sheets.


Procuring in a responsible manner ensure providers have adequate sustainable policies.

For example, when purchasing a carpet, ensure the company resources or manufactures its product locally to reduce supply miles and carbon emissions, recycles the old carpets and manufactures or purchases their products in a socially responsible manner, from sustainable resource and fair trade providers.


Drinking water supplied can be environmentally friendly, by installing a water filter systems, rather than having to purchase bottled water.

Building users

FMs can work closely with communication teams to ensure that customers are involved in the implementation of sustainable initiatives and are able to submit their own ideas to improve working practices.

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