Green agenda

Sarfraz Dairkee, of the Emirates Green Building Council, explains why commissioning is key to avoiding "obese" developments.

 arabianbusiness.com/web/sarfraz1_thumb.jpg - SARFRAZ DAIRKEE: Green increases productivity.
arabianbusiness.com/web/sarfraz1_thumb.jpg - SARFRAZ DAIRKEE: Green increases productivity.

I have watched over the years as the environmental agenda has gathered and then lost momentum, before returning to the forefront of the construction industry. It is an issue that must be considered throughout the pre-construction, and the on-site construction phase.

It is only very recently that green building has attained its rightful place at the forefront of the industry's conscience. In 2005-'06 there was very little awareness. Even in 2006 everybody thought "well, maybe there's a problem, but it's a problem for everyone else to solve."

Well thankfully this changed. People began to think: "I am involved. I am part of the problem, and also part of the solution." It's our choice what we want to do. Any contribution we can make will help. This brings me to commissioning, which can make a very large difference.

Commissioning is the key to successful green building. The process runs throughout the construction process. Commissioning is a discipline, and a quality assurance program that runs right from the inception. The person who is negotiating the deal may not have the competence to check that their plans will be carried out, and to get into the nitty gritty of the whole thing. A trained commissioner does have the competence.

The owner's requirement is very clearly defined before the designer puts pen to paper. It has to be agreed on the basis of design, and that agreement has to be signed by a commissioning agent. It is the trained agent's obligation to verify any issues between the two parties, which must be incorporated into the construction document, which then goes for bidding.

If this is not done then how are all concerned parties going to check that the owner's requirements have been met? Everything must be working in harmony. If it is, then on-site construction will meet the owner's requirements, and you are going to get a healthy building. That is what is ensured by commissioning.

People talk about the additional cost of building a green building, and at times, it's not very convenient to tighten our belts.

To be frank, there is nothing wrong with marketing a green product, and there is nothing wrong with doing green business. What is wrong is if you claim you are delivering a green building, when you are not.

Most of the design here, I call it obese. I call it fast-food design. Picture the individuals involved in the construction process as rifle sights. Problems arise when both sights are not aligned properly.

If you are precise with your decisions you will hit the bulls-eye with one bullet. But if both eyes are not aligned you require an AK-47, with which you will fire the bullets in all directions. Hopefully, one will hit the bulls-eye. This is what is happening to many of the designs here.

You will find designs where you require 1.5 tonnes of air conditioning. One of my officers used to say that it was the ignorance factor. If you don't know about something then you assume something. If you don't do your homework properly, there will be an ignorance factor, and the design will suffer. It's like fast food. If you eat a lot, at that particular time you feel the satisfaction, but later, you will pay the price.

It doesn't take much to remain healthy if you choose your food carefully. The same is true for building design and on-site construction. If you don't exercise care, if design contains too much of everything, such as air conditioning, and lighting, your building will become obese. Commissioning is the key to avoiding this outcome.

I believe that there are two kinds of people. One kind has taken these issues to heart and means it. The other kind is making all the right noises, but still doing the things that are in the short-term interest, without even realising it. Sometimes when I see the articles and advertisements, it frightens me.

People have expressed cynicism about how building green can increase staff productivity, and decrease absenteeism. It is a well-established fact that natural light and access to views increases human productivity. By making your building mirror the natural environment as closely as possible, accounting for views, temperature and natural light, the cumulative effect of all of this is that you have a healthy building.

For me, green is a way of life, and green makes very good business sense. I don't believe in subsidies and charities to ensure green building is undertaken. Commissioning ensures that awareness is present, from planning, through design, and throughout construction.

If you would like to write for Construction Week in this column, please email rob.wagner@itp.com.

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