CW 2015 UAE Infra Conf: Green Guardians

Dubai's green building codes need to be properly policed to be a success

L-R: Wael Allan, Saeed Al Abbar, Nathan Cartwright, Jehan Panthaki.
L-R: Wael Allan, Saeed Al Abbar, Nathan Cartwright, Jehan Panthaki.

Dubai’s new green building codes need to be properly policed if they are to stand any chance of success, according to the chairman of Emirates Green Building Council, Saeed Al Abbar.

Al Abbar, who is also a director of Dubai-based building consultancy AESG Middle East, said that Dubai’s Municipality has been through around 800-900 designs since it introduced mandatory new Green Building Regulations and Specifications last year, and has been certifying them.

However, he added that the main threat to the effectiveness of these regulations will occur in the coming months as these projects move from the design phase to being delivered on site.

Al Abbar said, “Contractors since the days of the Romans have been trying to cut corners and rip off the client.
“Policing construction is the challenge. That’s going to be the make-or-break in terms of what they are trying to achieve.”

He said designs can be checked for accuracy at any stage, but without frequent visits to site to vet compliance then within a matter of weeks building systems can be buried behind walls or under floors.

Nathan Cartwright, head of MEP design at architects Godwin Austen Johnson, said the introduction of the new code needed to be mandatory to have an impact.

It had been in use for public buildings since 2011, so Cartwright added that Dubai “was certainly ready for it”.

“There are other places in the world that Dubai is trying to compete with; it’s good practice there already. A lot of what’s in the code I wouldn’t say is particularly onerous and consultants are already up to speed. The challenge will be more on the construction side.”

One difference that will be made is that contractors will have to more rigorously stick to consultants’ designs, meaning that they can’t cut corners.


He said that all buildings with a cooling load of more than 1MW, which typicaly equate to those with an area of around 5,000m2, are required to have an infiltration test to check for air tightness.


"The buildings will need to achieve an infiltration rate of 10m3/hr/m2 or less," said Cartwright. "Contractors will not be able to construct leaky buildings anymore which pump energy straight out of the window."

Jehan Panthaki, a senior manager at PwC, said that contractors “will have to pick their game up” in terms of supervising construction and maintenance work. He pointed out that there was “no competitive disadvantage” to this, as all companies have to deliver to the same standards.

Cartwright said that he did not think that contractors would incur any additional costs in meeting the new standards.

However, he argued that building owners may incur additional costs in making sure that they meet operational standards. For instance, all buildings that require more than 2MW of power will need to have airconditioning units reconditioned after five years to make sure they are still efficient. Records will also need to be kept to make sure the work is done.

Al Abbar argued that when it comes to sustainability, there is still too much of a focus on build costs rather than the whole life of a structure.

He said construction costs often represent 25-30% of a building’s whole lifecycle cost, and that too often firms will try to value engineer this to save 2-3% even if this means adding 20% onto its operational and maintenance costs.

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