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The godfather of the Greens

David Gottfried developed the Leed building rating system and founded the US Green Building Council. This week he was in Dubai to share his knowledge on how 'green' is measured.

US Green Building Council
US Green Building Council

David Gottfried developed the Leed building rating system and founded the US Green Building Council. This week he was in Dubai to share his knowledge on how 'green' is measured.

What is the aim of your visit to Dubai?

I was invited here by the Middle East for Sustainable Development and I'm here to kick up the level of green awareness, share global knowledge on green issues and to encourage the developers to see that this is about profit, not about added cost. I'm a developer and finance guy who has helped hundreds of clients make more money through going green.

It is imperative that every building generates its own power - they could start with 30%.

When the Leed system was originally designed, was it intended for global application or only within the US?

Leed was designed for the US but other countries started to use it because they didn't have their own rating system. It can be used to certify globally, though this was not the intent. We just didn't close the door. Now it's being used in some 40 - 50 countries. Here in Dubai there are about 250 Leed projects and they're huge which makes it quite significant.

Is it practical for a region such as the Gulf, with its dry, arid climate, to rate its buildings using the Leed system?

It's curious because Leed is for the US and even there it's one system for a whole country that has seven different climatic zones. There has been a lot of debate about whether we should have a different system for each climatic zone - in my opinion the answer is yes.

Australia has developed it's own Green Star rating system that has four tailored systems for different regions. In terms of the UAE, Leed is at least an 80% solution. In time the UAE will need its own rating system tailored to the desert with emphasis on water, but Leed is a great starting point and can be used now.

Dubai is introducing legally binding green building regulations next year. Is this leading the way for the rest of the world?

No, if you look around the world you'll see that dozens of countries mandate a green standard for all government buildings, but for the Middle East it is unique. I know the Dubai Municipality is looking at bringing in regulations soon and hopefully that will apply to both the public and private sector.

Maybe they can introduce a benefit scheme for the private sector like in San Francisco - if you get a building rating of elite gold, you go to the front of the line for a building permit and that saves 8 weeks and millions of dollars.

Do you think Dubai's rating system needs to emphasis the use of renewable energy sources and promoting efficient energy use?

Definitely. I think it is imperative that every building generates its own power - they could start with 30%. It's called a distributed utilities approach and it's the only way we will survive.

This climate is so opportune for solar power, solar hot water and even wind. There's no reason why we can't have solar on every rooftop and stop relying on a central utility.

Unfortunately right now there is a log-jam on solar because you can't sell it back to the utilities company and run the metre in reverse - that should be removed tomorrow. In terms of water, all waste water should be captured and cleaned and reused for landscaping or feeding the toilets.

Other measures such as waterless urinals, dual flush toilets and low flow showers would also have a big impact. Since being in Dubai I've come up with a new term - water footprint, and I think Dubai could figure out what that is and add it to their carbon footprint.

If there wasn't a business case to support going green, would developers do it out of social conscience?

I think a few would do it, but developers are more money focused that anybody. Most developers get their money from investors and have a requirement to get a return on their investment. But if you start early with the green goal you can achieve a silver or gold building rating at almost no extra cost.

So a leading edge developer would take it on because that's asset management and best practice. If they're really smart they'll see the market is moving this way and if they don't embrace green practices their project will be de-valued.

CV

David Gottfried has a degree in Engineering and Resource Management from Stanford University. In 1993 he founded the US Green Building Council and wrote the white paper for the Leed green building rating system. The US Green Building Council is now the fastest growing non-profit organisation in the world with 20,000 member organisations and about 10% of the US market using the Leed rating system. In 1998 he formed the Global Green Building Council comprising fifty other countries including the UAE.

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