Sustainable design and implementation requires a different mindset or mental model. What change in mindset do you think will enable the market-shift toward a greener tomorrow?
There are two broad ways of implementing change – government regulations and voluntary action. Both play equally important roles in the market shift toward a greener tomorrow. Voluntary action is largely influenced by the mindset of the public. The Middle East region has shown initiation in sustainability even before governmental regulations on green buildings were in place. So the general mindset towards a sustainable future is appreciable. However, statistics show that only a small percentage of projects that are registered for green building certification have successfully completed certification.
For instance, as of August 2015, only 139 of 1079 (15 per cent) GCC projects registered for LEED certification have successfully completed certification. This is with regards to new construction projects. Usually, the lack of an integrated project team is the cause for low success rates. Increased coordination and cooperation among a project’s stakeholders can positively influence the success rate of green building certification.
Why do you believe that greening of existing buildings can impact the larger objectives of the green building movement?
Climate change and human health are two main priorities of green buildings. While it is important to incorporate green building principles in new construction projects, existing buildings continue to impact the environment as well as human health. Buildings comprise 30 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, and therefore, are still contributing to global warming. Also, on an average, people spend 87 per cent of their time indoors, which calls for improvements on ventilation and indoor air quality.
Greening of existing buildings could address these important issues. For example, the LEED for existing building rating system requires an energy efficiency performance that is at least 25 per cent better than the median energy performance for typical buildings of similar type and that the Indoor Air Quality should meet the minimum requirements of ASHRAE Standard 62 – Ventilation for Acceptable Indoor Air Quality, or a local equivalent, whichever is more stringent.
What is your favorite LEED credit and why?
This is an interesting question. The ‘Heat Island Reduction’ credit of this category has got to be my favorite credit in particular.
Buildings absorb heat and cause cities to be warmer than its surrounding areas or suburbs. This is referred to as the Heat Island Effect. When I speak about this credit, the audience is able to relate to it innately and see the importance of it, given the characteristic hot climate of the Middle East. This would not only prevent the additional warming up of the city, but also reduce the energy consumption of buildings.
One of the ways this can be combatted is by using light coloured roofing materials, with high SRI values. The technical term SRI (Solar Reflective Index) has become quite popular within the construction industry in this region, perhaps as a result of improved construction products and practices. I can recognise when a green building feature becomes a common practice when I don’t have to expand the abbreviation of technical terms related to green features at workshops. This is something I always look forward to. It symbolises progress.
How can the greater understanding of sustainability be addressed on a larger scale?
Education, for sure, and it is constantly evolving. In my time in the green building industry, I have seen education programs change from basic levels to intermediate and advanced levels of programs. I believe we are at a stage where the community is able to distinguish green washing from green building. Green, when it comes to buildings, is no longer mistaken for a hue but recognised as best practice in design, construction, operations and maintenance.
While 2015, I was a period of adapting to changes in the green building industry – especially related to advocacy – we see a lot of potential in 2016 with the new models of education programs that are designed to draw in audiences. The most attractive part of this, from the audiences’ perspective, is that these courses are free to attend - keeping in line with the trend in the construction industry events of this region. I would like to leave you with a sneak peak into our educational workshop at The Big 5 Saudi 2016, called LEED Labs. The audience members are asked to come prepared with questions on real life LEED projects, which would be addressed by a panel of LEED Experts.
Date: March 8-9, 2016
Where: Jeddah Centre for Forums and Events
Who should attend?
Management professionals, architects, engineers, developers, builders, project managers, buyers, contractors