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Face to face: Realistically green

How far can companies go in terms of creating sustainable buildings?

Kathryn Mayes, Sustainability manager, Carillion Mena.
Kathryn Mayes, Sustainability manager, Carillion Mena.
Nicholas Lander, Senior associate ? building physics, Inhabit.
Nicholas Lander, Senior associate ? building physics, Inhabit.

How far can companies go in terms of creating the ultimate sustainable building?

Kathryn Mayes, Sustainability manager, Carillion Mena answers The ultimate sustainable building is a moving target and it depends on many different aspects, such as the clients’ aspirations, budget, regulatory considerations, the physical external environment and what is required internally for operations.

One size does not fit all but lessons can be learned and passed on to continue to raise the bar. It is important to realise the easy wins like air tightness and work collectively with clients to get the most of the opportunity.

Nicholas Lander, Senior associate – building physics, Inhabit, answers The ultimate sustainable building is one that you could build over and over and operate forever without degrading the environment. For example, you can sustain it – you have enough materials to build it and enough energy to run it and you’re not exhausting your reserves to do so.

I do believe it is achievable, even with a modern lifestyle. But that’s not always practical, so you need to look at how you can get your best environmental return for a given budget.

What would you say to people who believe the initial cost of green building is expensive?

Kathryn Mayes answers There are many areas that can be tackled without extra cost. However, people need to take a long-term view and costs may need to be invested up front to make long-term savings.

When it comes to buildings, only 10% to 15% of cost accounts for the construction of the facility. Anyone can make something expensive but it is about using relevant technologies and practises and building on past successes and challenges.

Nicholas Lander answers Green design is about integration of different disciplines and getting the best environmental value for a given investment. So it’s possible to get a really good result with an extra investment at the start of the project, and not much, if any, additional cash.

You can now go beyond the basics and spend a little more on a building to improve its environmental performance, but this is really a matter of good design rather than anything extraordinary.

How much of an impact do you think standards and codes have on sustainability in the region?

Kathryn Mayes answers It has already had an impact with raising awareness and has got people talking, which is a good thing. As a company, we already complete environmental management and waste management plans, which tackle some of the issues raised in rating systems.

Nicholas Lander answers I think both these will raise the bar on construction and give a really good result. The challenge for the best developers and designers will be to take one step further than code in order to stand out. I think these higher standards will spread to other cities and I know several of them are working on their own codes.

Which GCC country is leading the way in sustainable building?

Kathryn Mayes answers Abu Dhabi has taken on a large role to progress sustainability with Estidama and Masdar City. Dubai, with the new green building regulations and the development of the metro, shows vision and commitment.

What is important is to work collaboratively and share successes and challenges to shorten this cycle and enable the rewards to be developed collectively for the region.

Nicholas Lander answers I think all the GCC countries have some really great examples of construction that respects its environment and its users, from construction practices that protect nesting turtles in Oman, to some really innovative double façades in Bahrain and Saudi. On balance, though, you can’t go past Masdar, and what they’re trying to do there.

How does the Middle East compare to Europe and the US in terms of sustainable building?

Kathryn Mayes answers One of the biggest triggers in Europe was the creation of legislation. Once this was in place and enforcement could be seen, companies had no choice than to deal with the changes.

Legislation in the region is developing but I believe, to make this work more effectively, collaboration is the key to success. The government needs to have open dialogue.

Nicholas Lander answers Europe and the US have a much longer tradition of trying to reduce the environmental footprint of buildings. But, they also have millions of non-green buildings compared to just a few tens of thousands of green-certified ones.

In the GCC, though, the environment forces us to look at innovative solutions and the uptake in green building certification has been huge.

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