Going for gold

With a global corporate commitment to sustainability, ABN Amro's new headquarters is set in Dubai Outsource Zone to become the first LEED for Commercial Interiors project in the region.

ANALYSIS, Projects

With a global corporate commitment to sustainability, ABN Amro's new headquarters is set in Dubai Outsource Zone to become the first LEED for Commercial Interiors project in the region.

In a region that lacks experienced sustainable staff and manufacturers, going green isn't the easiest or most cost effective way to do business.


We have spent 15% more but we expect to get that back in around two years.

But HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Prime Minister and Vice President of the UAE and ruler of Dubai, was keen to see the region develop into a more sustainable one and one that was proactive about looking after the environment.

As a result, from January 2008 he instructed that all new construction projects would have to adhere to a set of minimum green standards.

Currently, there are four US Green Building Council (USGBC) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified buildings in the UAE and a further 38 registered projects.

There are nine rating systems, with LEED for Commercial Interiors being one and four projects in the UAE are currently going through the process of applying for LEED for Commercial Interiors.

Situated in Dubai Outsourced Zone (DOZ), is ABN Amro bank's newly built headquarters. As a company, it is dedicated to sustainability and has its very own in-house sustainability team based in Amsterdam.

When it chose to move to DOZ, there was already a plan in place to ensure it would comply with LEED standards.

But because the base building was not designed with LEED in mind, ABN Amro decided to pursue the LEED for Commercial Interiors rating.

Last month it completed and sent off all the required documentation for the gold rating and the company is now waiting to hear if they have been awarded the prestigious accolade.

But what kind of sustainable measures did they have to undertake to qualify in order to go for gold?

In the beginning

"We employed Green Technologies as a consultant to ensure we complied with all the necessary measures. They held a one-day workshop for all the short-listed vendors to guarantee they also matched the right standards to make sure we were procuring in a sustainable manner," explains Pawan Koyal, head of corporate services, ABN Amro.

Due to the company's corporate commitment to sustainability, applying for the LEED certification wasn't a new process. Koyal feels the company's experience worked in its favour and between its in-house team and Green Technologies, a solution was found and LEED for Commercial Interiors started taking shape.

To ensure the message was correctly communicated to all contractors and sub-contractors, ABN Amro employed Al Reyami as the main contractor.

"By giving control of the fit-out to one company, it was easier to drive the sustainable message," says Koyal.

The new headquarters are 10,000m2, ground plus three floors.

There are two buildings, one left and one right, with breakout areas connecting the two on each of the three floors.


We do have recycle bins but recycling is difficult out here.

Each floor houses around 200-250 people and Pawan explains that the reason the floors are not full, is because the company envisages growth.

ABN Amro's careful planning will ensure its headquarters will be able to handle an increase in staff numbers.

The floors are colour coded, red, yellow and blue and are open-plan with meeting rooms situated around the edge of the floors.

They are separated from the operational areas by glass partitioning.

Each meeting room has been named after a river, ocean or mountain to continue the sustainable feel.

Many companies argue that going green is an expensive option, but Koyal believes that does down to them not fully understand the return on investment (ROI).

"Usually when you talk about LEED, you need to invest a lot more money. We were lucky and managed to control the costs. We ended up spending 15% more than what we would have done if we weren't going for certification, but we expect to get that back in around two years," he claims.

LEED measurements

By achieving gold certification, ABN Amro says it will reduce operating costs by more than 30% due to lower energy and water consumption, incorporate best operational practices and the latest technologies, enhance occupant comfort, reduce sickness and improve occupant health and safety, improve productivity by up to 16%, reduce liability, improve risk management and gain marketing exposure.

The following are just some of the areas the company has acted on to ensure it achieves gold certification.

Materials and resources

Where possible, the materials used were procured because they were energy efficient, eco-friendly and contain recycled components.

For example, the partitions used with the workstations all have recyclable components, apart from the cloth used to cover them.

Gypsum was used for the partitioning and ceilings, system furniture and raised access floors.

During construction, more than 75% of the waste was recycled and diverted from the landfills.

In addition, ABN Amro has made provisions to segregate and recycle during operations.

But Koyal says recycling is still challenging in this region. "We do have recycle bins but recycling is difficult out here and there are not many companies that do it," he explains.

Water efficiency

The toilets have been fitted with dual flush systems to reduce water flow and other areas have been fitted with low flow fixtures.

The LEED specified flow rate for the project, expects to lower water consumption by 30%.

"We measure water consumption on a monthly basis to make sure we are keeping usage to a minimum," adds Koyal.

Energy and atmosphere


Water consumption is measured on a monthly basis to make sure we are keeping usage to a minimum.

In Dubai along, DEWA (Dubai Electricity and Water Authority) has decided to charge those who consume high levels of energy and water, more, than others who consume less.

DEWA hopes this will force people to think about how they use energy and water and reduce consumption to avoid increased bills.

But when you're working towards a LEED certification, energy usage is high on the agenda and solutions must be implemented in order to evidence energy reduction.

ANB Amro chose has done this, is by automating energy consumers like air conditioning and lighting, on the building's central building management system (BMS).

"We have a central control room that is manned 24/7. The BMS is from Siemens and it allows us to monitor the amount of energy we consume, against our original benchmarked figure," explains Koyal.

The company uses a lighting system that has been designed to consume 15% less energy that the specified limit of ASHRAE and daylight control, dimmers and motion sensors has been used throughout the building.

Because of the Middle East's hot and humid climate, it's important to think about the type of glass you use to house the building.

"Our glass is reflective to block out the sun coming in and the building's roof has a solar reflective coating to reduce heat island effect and make the building more energy efficient," he adds.

No CFCs are used throughout the project either, with the chilled water system using R134a as a refrigerant.

As a worldwide company, it approaches sustainability by focusing on six key areas: accountability, asset protection, financial services, employer of choice, impact and community investment.


There are six key areas LEED for Commercial Interiors addresses

• Sustainable site

• Water efficiency

• Energy and atmosphere

• Materials and resources

• Indoor environmental air quality

• Innovation in design

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