Green dreams

Construction can play a role in creating a green economy for the GCC

Marcos Bish is managing director of fit-out contractor Summertown Interiors.
Marcos Bish is managing director of fit-out contractor Summertown Interiors.

The first World Green Economy Summit recently came to a close in Dubai. Addressing the five strategic pillars that make up the Green Economy Framework – green regulation, green finance, green innovation, green marketplace and green partnership – the summit brought some of the world’s leading industry experts to the region to discuss key issues facing government and private businesses.

As defined by the United Nations Environment Programme, a Green Economy is one that results in improved human well-being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities. In its simplest expression, a green economy can be thought of as one which is low carbon, resource-efficient and socially inclusive.

As a leading green fit-out contractor in the UAE, Summertown Interiors has been a longterm proponent of creating a green economy and a more sustainable future.

With the value of construction projects completed in the GCC in 2013 worth $69.91bn and as the fastest-developing region in terms of infrastructure, the role of construction in creating a green economy is of critical importance.

The new Dubai Green Building Codes that recently came into effect for all residential and commercial construction earlier this year is one measure the government has taken to drive sustainable construction. This, in addition to the establishment of green building councils to address sustainability issues in Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, are significant milestones in the region’s ambition to follow the highest levels of sustainable development.

As a fit-out contractor, Summertown Interiors has noticed an increasing demand for green materials in our projects, something that is mirrored in the wider sector. According to Frost & Sullivan’s Strategic Analysis of Green Materials in the GCC Construction Sector, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE remain top countries for investment in green construction. Fuelled by the need to meet new regulations, a growing population and colossal expansions in terms of infrastructure, the green material market revenue is estimated to reach $22.97bn by 2016.

What is equally encouraging is the surge in interest from clients to re-use existing material in conventional fit-out projects. For example, in one of our recent projects for ES Bankers Dubai a large amount of existing wood panelling, custom-made cabinetry and marble flooring was refurbished.

This delivered a new lease of life to the materials so they would last for many years to come. Although the project isn’t certified under LEED, the client recognised that by taking these measures it not only enjoyed cost savings, but also met with sustainability best practice.

Recycling and re-using materials is a simple and effective way of minimising waste, and its integration into mainstream projects is an encouraging development.

Unlike established cities and markets, the region’s infrastructure is still developing – the UAE alone is forecast to spend over $300bn by 2030 on infrastructure projects, according to a report by hospitality consultancy firm HVS.

Given that it is easier and more cost-effective to implement green features during the early stages of a project, coupled with the government’s desire and financial means to support green initiatives, there is real potential for the construction sector to lead the green economy charge.

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Construction Week - Issue 767
Sep 01, 2020