The Future is Green

October 01, 2018

undefinedIn the coming months Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA) will open a new solar innovation centre located at the heart of the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park, destined to eventually become the biggest single site solar power project in the world. Designed to achieve LEED Platinum Certification, the innovation centre will showcase Dubai’s ambition to play a leading role in the expansion of renewable and clean technologies in the region. Visitors to the centre - which will host events, workshops, conferences and exhibitions - will be able to learn not only about the solar park itself, but about the history, development and application of solar technologies.

Ted Jacob Engineering Group was commissioned for engineering design and project management for the prestigious project during both the design and construction phases. Green Technologies, a company that has been at the forefront of introducing sustainability and LEED design in the Middle East, was brought in to oversee and corroborate part of Ted Jacob’s design on the interior design of the centre. In June the two firms announced they had merged and are targeting growing demand for sustainability and implementation of LEED and Net Zero Energy design buildings in the Middle East.

Ted Jacob first met Mario Seneviratne, principal at Green Technologies, while working on another DEWA project for its sustainable headquarters, which is designed as a net zero energy building. Though it has long focused on delivering energy efficient projects, especially in the healthcare and research sector, Ted Jacob says bringing MENA focused Green Technologies into the fold is like “adding a whole new separate department focused on sustainability and net zero” to the company. He confirms that no money changed hands during the merger, with the unified company set to continue trading under the banner Ted Jacob Engineering Group, an established international brand with a worldwide portfolio of projects to its name.

undefinedThe company’s founder and owner, Ted Jacob strongly believes that the future of construction lies in advanced engineering and energy efficient building design. “We target projects for net zero energy and sustainable design and that’s where the market is going, to reduce energy in buildings,” he tells The Big 5 Hub in an interview. “Energy prices will go up which will make green technologies much more feasible. So I don’t think there will be any choice but to go towards green technology and net zero. And with the merger I think we’ll be way ahead of the curve.”

Proof that regional governments are starting to get serious about improving energy efficiency in buildings comes in the form of Abu Dhabi’s Estidama building ratings system, with its five different pearl levels, and Dubai’s Al Safat system. These were largely modelled on the US Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) ratings system. For a design to get official approval in Dubai it must go through Dubai Municipality who’s standard is the same level as LEED Silver.

For over two decades, TJEG has built up a track record of developing projects in its home market of the US, specialising in “big energy guzzling projects” like healthcare and research. Having a net zero energy building is particularly attractive to these types of institutions because profit margins in the healthcare sector can be very low so saving energy can make a big difference to the bottom line.

“In the US some big healthcare buildings have an energy requirement costing $1mn per month,” Ted Jacob says. “Power is every expensive and it’s just going to get worse. We’ve been at this for about 20 years. We’ve developed and implemented our innovations on real projects so we know they work.”

The company’s design innovations have allowed it to reduce the energy in a hospital by as much as 50%. The addition of technologies like solar panels and wind energy can bring it down to zero energy. It also helps that some technology, such as photovoltaics is becoming cheaper and more efficient. “Before a lot of products were patented and now the patents are expiring so there’s mass production. The science and technology is improving,” he says.

TJEG uses off the shelf technologies in its designs, which can take up to five years to develop from conception to implementation in a real project. “We don’t develop products, we just think differently,” Ted Jacob says. “We did Cleveland Clinic in Abu Dhabi, which is one of the largest hospitals in the world. We implemented a lot of our innovations there and that was extremely successful.”

Government organisations such DEWA are leading the way in this part of the world. But TJEG says it is seeing plenty of interest from other owners keen to cut energy costs now and in the future. Hospitals are a prime example but TJEG says there is ample scope to apply the same principals to the hospitality sector and the company has gained significant experience working on hotel projects in this part of the world.

Retrofitting of older buildings is another emerging opportunity. A hospital or research institute might be designed to last 50 years, but the technology or way of doing business changes rapidly so needs to be revamped and remodelled as you go along. “We are already seeing requests from clients for feasibility studies for old buildings in the UAE of 30 - 40 years old, to see if we can make it a LEED platinum building or what we can achieve and we’re really happy to see that,” Ted Jacob says.

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