Hot air

A sharp debate can help us see the truth beyond the environmental hype

Stuart Matthews.
Stuart Matthews.

Ever since Al Gore made a surprisingly famous feature-length documentary, out of what was essentially a PowerPoint presentation on hot air – An Inconvenient Truth – the concept of global warming has cascaded through the populous and diversified into a myriad of more precise environmental concerns.

Although it was far from the start of an environmental movement, the film was a catalyst for greater awareness and responsiveness. Since then the concepts of energy use, carbon footprints and water conservation have become headline issues that pervade the environmental landscape.

Despite the staggering quantity of nonsense that still gets spouted about sustainability in the construction and property sectors, the real issues are gradually taking a tangible hold. A difference, however small, is starting to be made.

In part, we can thank the role of consumer demand. Gore’s documentary is just one example of the consciousness raising activities that have put environmental issues at front of mind for many consumers.

This consumer influence has persuaded manufacturers of all varieties to develop ‘eco’ products and use more thoughtful manufacturing techniques. Admittedly, some are just hype, but smart buyers can find items that will make a real difference to the amount of power and water they consume.

Industrial consumers have also benefited, with a growing array of solutions – no one sells products any more – able to lend some degree of environmental credibility to construction projects.

Leadership actions, such as when Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum – vice-president and prime minister of the UAE and ruler of Dubai – decreed that new buildings in the emirate had to adhere to environmental standards, are essential too.

Around the Gulf, government regulatory authorities are developing workable frameworks that will encourage and foster more environmentally effective construction and design.

These actions have enlivened the environmental debate, drawing in a wider and more interactive audience. This has helped to develop a strong core of people in the region who want to make a difference to the way things are done, people who want to turn an environmental vision into reality.

At the Construction Week: Building Sustainability into the Middle East, Abu Dhabi conference 2010 – being held on September 28 – regional leaders will debate the issues at one of the most successful environmental conferences in the region.

These leaders will share their experience of working on some of the GCC’s most environmentally advanced projects. Emerging regulations and sector-specific performance issues are also on the agenda.

The talk will be of ways to make a real difference and the developments that are already happening.

While it’s just one event, it will make a strong contribution to the issues and help the industry meet the demands of building sustainability into the Middle East.

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