Sustainable design

Ali bin Towaih, director of Tecom Investments' Sustainability Energy and Environment Division outlines the organisation's aims for reduced energy use throughout the region.


Ali bin Towaih, director of Tecom Investments' Sustainability Energy and Environment Division outlines the organisation's aims for reduced energy use throughout the region.

With the focus in the Middle East now firmly on sustainable building, many firms are raising their game in an attempt to cut their consumption of energy and water.

The impact that such moves can bring is raised significantly when the organisation involved owns several properties or developments as is the case with Tecom Investments.

There is no risk in going green or using sustainable solutions. Whatever you put in you will get back.

Tecom made its intentions towards sustainable design clear with its launching of the Energy and Environment Park (Enpark) in Dubai, but this forms only part of its long-term vision, reports Ali bin Towaih, director of Tecom's Sustainable Energy and Environment Division (SEED).

Enpark is a free zone area that is intended to house firms offering clean energy and environmental technology. It includes research and demonstration facilities and one of its most recent additions has been the installation of the Middle East's first solar power tracking device.

An advanced photovoltaic (pv) power system that uses sensors to follow the sun, hence maximise energy production, this is intended to provide 100% of power needs for the food court in the nearby Knowledge Village.

Tecom's latest plans involve the large-scale analysis and adaptation of its developments to ensure they meet international standards for sustainable design. Towaih, as director of SEED, is heading this initiative.

The move towards green buildings

"Under the SEED initiative has come a very long to mid-term strategy...we launched a sustainable development policy in August 2006 and that has many major elements," explains Towaih.

One of these elements is the decision to ensure that all the new Tecom buildings will be constructed to internationally recognised green building standards such as the US Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED).

"We have done our homework internally to understand green buildings and what [technologies bring] added value," assures Towaih. "We have two LEED-accredited employees, so we have a team that understands what they are talking about and how to achieve [the targets]," he adds.

Following analysis by the team, a decision has been taken to aim for silver LEED rating for the new buildings as this can be achieved with minimal or no additional costs. To date, the organisation has 12 buildings registered on the US Green Building website that are currently under construction.

The organisation's existing stock is far from forgotten in this process. A thorough auditing programme is currently underway to determine how savings in energy and water consumption can be made at each of the existing buildings, with the aim of achieving the minimum LEED certification.

This year we are starting to implement some of our projects to convert [the existing buildings] to become green.

That is a very big task," stresses Towaih. "It's not just about engineering, it's about the maintenance and operation of these facilities. We really need to know how the building behaves, it's a living thing," he adds.

Sustainability mission

In addition to its sustainability policy, Tecom has launched an energy and water conservation programme for its buildings. "We are aiming for a 25% saving in electricity and 30% in water conservation over five years and are pushing towards this," reports Towaih.

Water conservation projects that will be undertaken include installing water restrictors on all potable water supplies within Tecom's buildings. "This reduces the consumption by 50%. We have more than 1,000 taps done already, so this is around 21 million gallons/y saved," Towaih states.

Further savings have already been made by the optimisation of equipment following advice provided by the energy audit team.

We have achieved a 9% average energy saving, [which equates to] around two million dirhams, by the optimisation of equipment," Towaih reports.

These measures are taken by the team in a serious matter to optimise the equipment in a building by a number of investments including method statements for the maintenance and operations approach," he adds.

"By taking all of the elements in an holistic approach we will achieve a lot [for the overall environment]: restrictors reduce water use, the need for water recyling and the stress on the infrastructure, tankers to collect wastewater, plus CO2 emissions due to the generation of power for desalination," he stresses.

The measures are being undertaken throughout Enpark. "To walk the talk you need to implement [sustainability] in your masterplan. We want to have more sustainable running projects and we have surveyed the site and sought advice to maintain [natural] habitats," he adds.

Efficiency is one of the major things, but we are looking further ahead to the operation and maintenance of buildings afterwards in terms of how to optimise operations to not harm the environment. Many things come in to reduce power and water use in infrastructure.

SEED is also intent on spreading the awareness that each individual can make a difference to environmental problems, reports Towaih.

A programme of internal staff training has seen 200 out of 600 staff to date undertake a course in sustainable development, with the remainder to follow their lead over time. "It's about sustainable development in general, sustainable policy in part and their roles as responsible citizens," explains Towaih.

[Staff] must pledge three things that they will do to reduce their carbon emissions, such as car pooling, using energy efficient lightbulbs at home or changing their car type. Our employees are now more environmentally conscious and if we are conscious of what we do at work, we will be at home also," he states.

The wider message

Towaih stresses that all developers and those in the construction industry must get involved now if a sustainable future is to be realised. "Sustainability has got to be in the broader range from building design to destruction.

we rely on designers to be more sustainability conscious and to avail of these technologies," he states. "Dubai and the wider region is in a very good position to lead the market, because it is in the development stage. There is an excellent opportunity to tap green technologies. The appetite is there and developers want to be better," he adds.

There is a need for more education opines Towaih, but the open market in the region also means that the opportunities available are greater. "The challenge is for industry to come up with solutions," he states.

"We need to take the benefits further outside the region. This is the broader message: there is no risk in going green or using sustainable solutions. Whatever you put in you will get back," he concludes.

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