Sustainability must start from project's birth

Industry experts discuss policies at Construction Week's Building Sustainability Conference

NEWS, SUSTAINABILITY, Business, Dubai Building Code, Estidama

If the UAE is ever to become sustainable, policies must be in place from the birth of a project, according to a panel of experts at Construction Week's Building Sustainability Conference.

Industry experts discussed how best to implement these strategies and compared Abu Dhabi's Estidama efficiency rating system, which has set mandated rules, to Dubai Muncipality's green building code, which is slightly more flexible, according to Daniel Palmer, sustainable planning manager at Hyder Consulting.

Palmer says Dubai Muncipality is inviting developers to go through the process with them and together identify issues. "One of the good things Dubai is doing is interacting very well with developers and designers," he said.

"They have a certain amount of flexibility meaning it is more achievable to be implemented."

He says he has found developers are more interested in implementing sustainable features when they are involved in the process.

"If you come up to a barrier saying ‘you need to do this’ it chases people away, but [Dubai is] inviting people in," he said.

But does that leave more room for cutting corners?

Gus Schellekens, director, sustainability and change team, Price Waterhouse Coopers (PWC), thinks so. "If you don't have set rules people will find ways of not doing it," he said.

He also shared his concerns about sustainability measures introduced now, working in the long term.

"The worry I've got is how this is looked at in its entirety. What does this all add up to - 200 hotels for 2020 [in Dubai] – what does this look like? How do you measure, manage and incentivise it going forward as well?" he said.

Palmer said developers must look beyond the "red dotted line of their project" and consider what their neighbours are doing if they are to develop buildings which will succeed in years to come.

"There's no point implementing a masterplan that only works for today, we need to look what will happen in the future," he said.

"You want it to work through time. A problem we face all the time is opening developers up to the wider picture. For example, not every building needs offices if there's offices next door. Buildings should complement each other."

He hopes developers will take on board the fact they need to focus development in the wider community and create "strategies that build part of the wider jigsaw puzzle".

"They are not an island in the middle of the ocean with nothing else on it," he said.

"We still must insist that this starts from the front, whether it's in planning engineering and policy.

"It's not always easy - neighbours often have coflicts over what's happening on ‘their side of the fence’." 

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