Laying waste to inefficiency
Waste management in the GCC region has long been an issue
Waste management in the GCC region has long been an issue. It is one of the world’s largest per capita producers of waste, producing nearly 80 million tonnes of waste annually.
In the UAE, Abu Dhabi itself produces about 4.7 million tonnes of waste a year, which could increase to more than 30 million tonnes by 2030 if current production rates continue.
These statistics show the importance of an effective waste management strategy, and nowhere is this more crucial than in the buildings we live, work and shop in.
"Waste management is one of the biggest challenges that must be addressed by a fast-growing economy such as the UAE,” says Mahmood Rasheed, COO, Imdaad.
“Social and economic development naturally results in a surge in waste production, so it is crucially important to explore innovative and sustainable ways to reduce the level of waste in the society.”
Countries such as the UAE have seen a change in attitude over the past five years in green buildings, and Dubai has seen a number of sustainable initiatives introduced.
“In the past five years I’ve see people are talking about green, people are talking about sustainability, and recycling and the government plays a strong role in this by trying to educate people and make it easy for them or encouraging them to choose the green and efficient way of running projects,” explains Bahaa Abouhatab, head of projects, UAE, at Limitless.
Education and awareness are crucial to achieving sustainable buildings as the majority of decisions need to be made at the design stage.
“With things like a sewage treatment plant, that needs to be done at the design stage because you’re talking about infrastructure which is part and parcel of the building,” says Fergus Appleton, general manager, Concordia.
“If you don’t put that in at the beginning then it’s very challenging from a commercial point of view to retrospectively reengineer the building design. Some buildings do things like they collect water from AC and use that for irrigation for example, but unless you do that as part of the design stage it’s very difficult to go back and implement that cost effectively.”
However, other methods of making a building more sustainable and improving waste management can be retrofitted or introduced after construction is complete. “The actual disposal of the waste, most of that is done after the building is built,” says Appleton.
“You’ve got to educate your tenants but at the same time you’ve got to make sure that recycling is easy for them and they don’t have to bend over backwards to become part of the process. Generally people are quite lazy when it comes to that kind of stuff, you’ve got to make it easy for them,” he adds.
Concordia is the FM contractor on The Galleries project and has a diverse set of challenges in waste management. With the Galleries as a project, it’s mainly commercial but it’s also got some strong elements of retail and a quite diverse retail base – everything from shops to restaurants to banks,” says Appleton.
And with all of those they’ve got different outputs of waste. So we looked at all of the different customer bases and devised a process and a service to tackle all of those to try and recycle as much as we can but also to reduce the output as much as we can,” he adds.
Some buildings in Dubai focus on sustainability and a competent waste management system more than others. The flag ship building of Limitless, The Galleries, is one which has been labelled green.
“We tried to make our building as efficient as possible, the Galleries in particular. One thing we are focusing on is the STP, the sewage treatment plant. We have our own STP that generates enough water to use for irrigation. It’s not totally enough for irrigation but it does help us a lot in reducing our water bill,” reveals Abouhatab.
“That was a main achievement for us, to be green, to be efficient and to reduce costs,” he adds.
Limitless also proved that not all solutions to the sustainability issue need to be implemented at the design stage. At The Galleries, the firm made changes to its chiller plant.
Previously it had used chemicals mixed in with the water, but when it was changed, the dirty excess couldn’t be put in the ground or in the sewerage system and had to be trucked out of the project. So the firm installed a system which uses the water as it is without needing any chemicals, eliminating any hazardous material and increasing the lifecycle of the water.
“This specific system actually can be retrofitted in any existing plant, and what I was always keen on doing is looking into different ways to reduce my operational cost, being more efficient and being green.
We were seeking such systems to help us achieve our objectives. It was retrofitted and it took us about six months from understanding the process, confirming the order, then receiving it and fixing it,” says Abouhatab.
“We eliminated a toxic waste, we reduced the cost of trucking water out, we reduced the cost of using water by extending the life of it twice. So all of it, about six months ago when we installed it, it does show a great reduction in the operating cost of the chiller plant and again we are recycling the water to the irrigation system,” he adds.
The Galleries is a commercial building, with offices, restaurants and shop inside it. The green reputation of the project has had a positive impact on the companies which have been attracted to it.
“We are dealing with a lot of international companies. Some of them require green buildings as a matter of policy from their head office in Europe or the US. It is a selling tool, and if it isn’t essential then it will be an advantage. It does make their lives easier. It definitely does reduce their operational costs.
If the building is running in an efficient way all of it does impact their operation at the end. So big international companies definitely look for such buildings,” comments Abouhatab.
Another emirate in the UAE with major waste management issues is Sharjah. A total of 2.5 million kg of waste is produced daily by about 1.1 million inhabitants. And according to a study by waste management firm Bee’ah, the average daily production of waste per person is between 2.5 kg and 2.7 kg.
The emirate has set a target of zero waste to landfill by 2015 and Bee’ah is the firm it has selected to help achieve this. The company has also taken part in events with Abu Dhabi’s Masdar to discuss maximising waste management and boosting sustainability further.
“The UAE has a common goal to reduce the amount of waste to landfill, and Masdar Institute is an ideal partner for us to explore new options through research.
Bee'ah is already in the process of gearing up towards a 100% landfill diversion target set for the Emirate of Sharjah by the end of the first quarter of 2015, and we believe such research will help identify ways to turn waste into useful resources, improve the current waste treatment and recycling methods and help position the UAE as a country that keeps environment above other interests," explains His Excellency Salim Al Owais, chairman of Bee'ah.
Sustainability and good waste management ultimately comes down to good efficiency. The more efficient a building is, the less waste it will produce and the better it will be for the environment. This shift towards efficiency has been much quicker in cities such as Dubai, compared to the West.
“You’ve got to remember that Dubai is moving at a rate of knots and what probably took 25-30 years to mature in the UK will probably take four or five years to develop in Dubai. There’s a really strong focus on efficiency that has the by-product of creating what you’d call more environmentally friendly systems,” says Appleton.
Waste management has been made a matter of priority by countries such as the UAE. With the full backing of the rulers, it seems an inevitability that the country will drastically improve its waste management solutions further in the coming years.
And when the country moves on, so must the buildings inside it. MEP firms should now be considering waste management solutions inside sustainable and green buildings to be an important part of their Middle East business going forward.
Focus: Sustainability at The Galleries
Project name: The Galleries
Location: Downtown Jebel Ali, Dubai
The Galleries Buildings 1-4 feature water efficient toilet cisterns and tap heads that cut water consumption by up to 30 percent. Energy consumption is reduced as energy efficient light ﬁttings and movement sensors are installed in all lobby areas.
Air conditioning costs are reduced due to high performance glass facades, which allow the optimal amount of natural light in, but keep heat out .The buildings are a no smoking zone, leading to improved employee comfort and productivity Condensate (distilled water) from the AC system is collected and reused within Downtown Jebel Ali, further reducing demand for potable water.