Urban sustainability is making business sense for future builders

The historic drivers and successes of sustainable construction are influencers on urban living plans — just look at Dubai Metro

Neha Bhatia is the editor of Construction Week.
© ITP Media Group / Rajesh Raghav
Neha Bhatia is the editor of Construction Week.

The global construction industry has graduated from the baby steps it took more than 40 years ago as the energy landscape changed in the midst of oil supply – and its resultant price – fluctuations. A growing awareness of resource shortages further encouraged decision-makers to seek efficiencies, and real estate owners were gradually roped into the drive for greener living.

In the years since, building owners, designers, and contractors – and even product manufacturers – have all sought to build in a way that matches contemporary environmental requirements. In the recent past, end-user demands for more resource-efficient homes and offices have also furthered sustainable construction practices around the world.

Regulation has been critical to the growth of green buildings. Take the example of Dubai, where building sustainably is not just recommended, but mandated as well. The Leed and Bream green building systems are already adopted by builders in the city, but Dubai has also formulated various guidelines and regulatory structures in an effort to localise sustainability.

The UAE government’s initiatives to safeguard environmental sustainability are the driving force behind the greener future that Dubai and its sister emirates are headed for. This support has led to the creation of a strong business case for building greener.

It is important to trace the history of green buildings to understand their future. Our tools will evolve, and regulation will continue to help, but the future of sustainable construction rests in the hands of the builder.

Asset owners are starting to recognise that a building fitted with smart lighting and water systems will reduce their hefty utility bills over the years. This, in turn, may encourage end-users to invest in the property, as they seek the benefits of lower maintenance costs.

In the years that I have covered the Middle East’s construction sector, a common grumble from contractors has been their perceived inability to effect real change in energy-inefficient building models. The advent of building technology is fortunately changing this situation, and the region’s largest builders today are not only able to adapt to client demands for greener buildings – but are also able to make recommendations to spur the process along.

Micro-level change is the first step to redefining this – and the construction industry is no different. Take the example of Dubai Metro, which was launched in 2009 with the promise of cutting road traffic in the city.

READ: The social impact of Saudi Arabia's Riyadh Metro

The metro network, which is now being expanded to reach the Expo 2020 Dubai site, is unlikely to save you from a traffic jam on Sheikh Zayed Road. However, its rapid acceptance paved the way for Dubai’s smart city ambitions, and a decade after the metro network’s launch, the emirate has rolled out regulations for the testing of autonomous vehicles.

It is important to trace the history of green buildings to understand their future. The industry’s tools and dynamics will evolve as they have over the years, and stronger regulation will continue to help, but the future of sustainable construction rests, as it always has, in the hands of the builder.  

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Construction Week - Issue 765
Jun 29, 2020