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LEED by example

Green building veteran, Dr Mohsen Aboulnaga, explains to facilities management Middle East how going green is not just about improving a buildings environmental responsibilities.

INTERVIEWS, Facilities Management

It�s unusual for someone to dedicate two years of their life to an industry association without giving up work. However, when that person truly believes in what they are doing and is so passionate about their interest, it is easier to understand.

When speaking to Dr Mohsen Aboulnaga, chair of the Emirates Green Building Council (EmiratesGBC), it is clear to see how devoted he is to sustainable and green buildings in the UAE.

“This is one of my main focuses for the next two years. I believe in it and it�s a challenge for me,� he states. “I am very passionate about green buildings and about my research work and background. My research work was focused on sustainability in terms of design and how people can design buildings to be more sustainable, more environmentally friendly and more environmentally responsive.�

But before the interview starts to go into more detail about the EmiratesGBC and green buildings, Aboulnaga feels its important people understand what a green building actually is.

“A green building is one that produces less waste to the environment, it encompasses excellent practices to ensure the highest level of sustainability in a building.�

Currently, Dubai plays host to two green buildings – Wafi City�s (Dubai) district cooling plant achieved Gold Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) status and Pacific Controls achieved the LEED platinum rating for its new headquarters in Dubai.

In the UAE�s vast collection of current, under-development and proposed buildings, there needs to be more sustainable design taking place. And for older buildings, retrofitting to minimum standards relative to the UAE�s conditions would help.

While the examples given are innovative and commendable to those people involved in leading the way, it simply isn�t enough. So what can be done?

Aboulnaga comments on three initiatives that can start helping with the development and promotion of green buildings.


The Emirates should be establishing their own rating system that is unique to the region and its harsh climate conditions.

“It�s a big challenge for us because you cannot adopt LEED or BREEAM or Green Star or others systems.

The UAE needs its own system so it is customised and build to suit its environment, the culture and, of course, the availability of the industry to deliver,� explains Aboulnaga.

The performance benchmarking system used in the American LEED rating system gives companies ‘credits� and depending on the credits gained silver, gold or platinum status is awarded. This concept could be taken and used in the UAE, but the criteria being judged should be changed and adapted. “We (EmiratesGBC) are aiming to achieve the highest level of sustainable built environment in the UAE through the promotion of high performance green buildings and green technologies,� adds Aboulnaga.

“A combination of the two is better because technology alone cannot help you. You need the fundamentals to allow you to operate the technology. I believe both of them are very important.�


Education. The UAE as a whole is an emerging entity that needs guidance on many different issues – green buildings is just one of these says Aboulnaga.

“We are in a very unique situation because the rate of getting things done here is so different than anywhere else. It�s a very skyrocketing society in terms of the time record and also the quality, but we have to think very carefully about how we design the buildings.�

He explains that developers need to be educated about how developing a green building will add additional value to the asset and prolong the life cycle of the building.

But it�s not just about the developers. Facilities managers who have been tasked with an existing building retrofit also need to understand the concept and what can be done to achieve a more sustainable building.

“It is easier and cheaper to make a new building green, but it�s still possible to adapt an old building. For example, you can improve and enhance the façade, elevation, replace the glazing, improve the equipment for air conditioning, install high efficiency water fittings to ensure water is conserved and also retain the waste and minimise it.�

Aboulnaga has dedicated most of his career to sustainability. With an academic background in the subject, he understands the theory behind the concept but realises most people don�t.

“The problem is you have to bridge the gap between academia and industry by bringing academia to industry and industry to academia. You can actually blend the two together to make it more united to achieve best practice.�

Also, the amount of construction in the region is attracting young and enthusiastic architects and engineers, so it�s important to make sure they too are educated. “One of our objectives is to promote and facilitate education. This could be through the universities giving research to green projects.�


The Government needs to implement strict laws and regulations forcing the developers, contractors and FMs to comply.

The EmiratesGBC�s vision to achieve high level international status and recognition for the amount of green buildings it transforms and creates over the next 10 years could well be seen as a positive start to the legal process.

“I feel that with the full support of other colleagues, people within the industry and the government, we can all achieve a lot more,� insists Aboulnaga.

But is the term ‘green buildings� familiar enough to ensure that the above is carried out? Aboulnaga thinks so. “If you asked this question about a year ago then no, but now with the support of the board and the environment around us I believe that it is starting to be effective. The Ministry of Public Works is actually supporting us.�

There are many benefits to developing or retrofitting a building to make it green. Aboulnaga recalls when he and his colleagues first thought about forming the EmiratesGBC back in 2004 and how they would educate people.

“It was a big challenge for us. Building green, efficient and highly sustainable buildings gives the consultants something to be proud of and it�s very good for the developer in many ways. Developing buildings like these will help them in being the leader in progressive thinking in terms of leading the society in achieving the highest level of sustainability. Also, the users will be in a very healthy building.�

A report published in October 2006 called Greening America�s schools – costs and benefits is a fine example of introducing more green buildings.

The report was conducted over 30 green Amercian schools and concluded that:

• Green schools cost under 2% more than conventional ones, but provide as much as 20% more financial benefits.

• There was a reduction in energy and water consumption/costs – the Middle East�s high profile reputation on these areas could benefit from such schools.

• Teachers and students were more likely to stay in the school and be more productive.

• Health costs were cut.

“They find that people in green schools are achieving better results because they are actually performing better. The green schools have increased daylight, comfort and indoor air quality – this is turn helps with concentration. There is a big link between daylight and the body.

“Also, green buildings can prolong the life cycle of a building, increase productivity and save energy by up to 40 and 50%,� adds Aboulnaga. Before the interview ends, Aboulnaga insisted on making one last point to emphasis the importance of green buildings. “In a nutshell, think green. Think about a better future for the next generation and lets enhance the green building community together.�

What is a green building?

A green building is one that produces less waste to the environment, it encompasses excellent practices to ensure the highest level of sustainability in a building.

Emirates Green Building Council Timeline

August 2004

Professor Mohsen Aboulnaga and Mario Seneviratne were guests at the World Green Building Council (WorldGBC) Congress, India. WorldGBC encourages UAE to form EmiratesGBC.

Early 2006

First international conference on green buildings held in Dubai. Over 450 delegates attend with 14 international speakers.

Throughout 2005

Steering committee formed to help develop EmiratesGBC. Work continued throughout the year to increase membership.

November 2005

Emerging EmiratesGBC is approved by the WorldGBC board of directors.

December 2006

Prospectus created. Including the vision, mission statement, structure of the council, benefits to founding members and to members.

March 2006

41 companies registered as members.

May 2006

Council gets government approval.

June 2006

The DCCI approved the council.

July 2006

First board meeting took place at Park Hyatt hotel, Dubai.

September 2006

EmiratesGBC became full member of the WorldGBC and is currently country number eight worldwide.

Early spring 2007

Official launch of the Emirates GBC.

Founders and founding members organisations


• Professor Dr Mohsen Aboulnaga
• Dr Sadek Owainati
• Mario Seneviratne
• Bassam Elassaad
• Habiba Al Marashi
• Samir Jaafar

Founding member organisations

• ABB Industries
• Al Habtoor Engineering
• Al Meraikhi General Contracting Al Naboodah Contracting
• Aluminium & Light Industries
• ARUP Gulf
• Asteco Property Management
• Atkins (WS Atkins Overseas & Partners)
• Bin Hamoodah Company
• BK Gulf
• BASF Construction Chemicals
• Desert Landscape/Desert Group
• Emirates Environmental Group
• Emirates Glass
• Energy Management Services
• ETA Star Property Developers
• Grand Hyatt Hotel, Dubai
• Green Technologies
• HO+K (Hellmuth, Obata + Kassabaum)
• HSBC Bank – ME
• Hyder Consulting ME
• Interface Europe
• Jotun UAE
• Khatib & Alami
• Majid Al Futtaim Investments
• MAHY Khoory & Co
• Pacific Control Systems
• Parsons Brinkerhoff (ME)
• RAK Ceramics
• RMJM (Robert Matthew Johnson Marshall & Partners)
• Sabban Property Investments
• Scientechnic – Siemens (Easa Saleh Al Gurg Group)
• Shadid Engineering Consultant
• Shankland Co
• Shell Abu Dhabi
• TECOM Investments
• Mammut Group FZCO (Thermo-Shield ME)
• WABCO STANDARD TRANE BV (Trane – Air Conditioning)
• TRANS GULF Electro-Mechanical
• Universal Concrete Products
Welcare World Health System

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