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A revolution to sustain industry and the earth

George Berbari, CEO, DC Pro, discusses how his company is trying to lead the way in sustainability in the Middle East.

GEORGE BERBARI: Middle East's green pioneer.
GEORGE BERBARI: Middle East's green pioneer.

George Berbari, CEO, DC Pro, discusses how his company is trying to lead the way in sustainability in the Middle East.

Tell me a bit about your company?

DC Pro has two divisions: district cooling engineering and green building design.

We are working on some of the major projects in the Middle East, including Motor City and Dubailand and the West Bay scheme in Qatar.

We have found that by using district cooling, as opposed to cooling each building, it individually can save 55% of the total energy output.

Is enough being done to promote sustainability?

When it was first announced that sustainable building was to be promoted in the region, the steps taken by the authorities were disappointing.

But now the Dubai Municipality hired WSP as consultants and they seem to be taking it more seriously. We expect a much more aggressive plan will be released by the year end.

HH Sheikh Mohammed is not doing this just because he loves the environment, although this is part of it.

The problem is that there is not enough power and so he also supports it for economic reasons as otherwise all the development will stop.

A number of projects have had to stop, and one of the reasons is a lack of power. Power is sparse because the rate of expansion has increased beyond anyone's imagination.

How do you go about designing a 'green' building?

We focus on installing green air conditioning systems, which reduce energy output and recover energy.

We look at reducing air-conditioning output and efficient lighting to minimise artificial lighting. Reflectors and fibre optics are still quite expensive, so we try to reduce the amount of glass but still let in natural light.

We also use state-of-the-art materials to make buildings more energy efficient.

For example, 5cm of polystyrene has more insulation than 1.5m of concrete. It is not the thickness but the type of material used.

Do you think many new building designs in the Middle East are sustainable enough?

No, because many of them still use too much glazing.

We are really trying to see the amount of glass reduced because it is very inefficient.

We try to keep it to no more than 40% but some of the buildings in the region have 100% glass façades.

If you look at the Bahrain World Trade Centre, we used a lot of aluminum but you cannot see any difference between the glazing and the aluminum cladding.

Some architects are wasting a lot of valuable resources by making the building completely glass-covered, rather than doing it smartly.

The developer and the architect need to be educated about the availability of better solutions.

Is the construction industry not really interested in being sustainable?

No, the engineers, developers, contractors and architects are all interested; they just need someone to educate them.

Because time is expensive, a lot of people think that using these methods will add to costs.

But if you take these measures right from the beginning then you will not lose any time or have extra costs. We need to create a tradition of thinking about sustainability, where four-sided glass boxes are not seen as the answer.

Why is sustainable construction important?

It is not important now what people think, it is not an option to be unsustainable.

We are living in a period called the 'energy revolution'.

We have finished the information revolution, with the internet, and now we need to focus on the precious resources we have.

Natural disasters are increasing and global warming is a reality. Some scientists believe that this will increase the extent of wiping the human race from the planet.

We need to move to a zero-carbon solution, we need solar power plants and to utilise the most efficient systems, such as district cooling, before it is too late.

In the EU, the governments are giving subsidies for solar power and that needs to be brought in here.

Can governments in the GCC do more?

The government needs to be more aggressive in pushing the building industry to be sustainable.

The need is great over here because there is an unprecedented explosion in the amount of building work.

Combined with this, the resources are scarce, so it is becoming a human necessity to embrace these techniques.

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