Construction Week Newsletter 23rd July 2005

The UAE could do more to build environmentally sound projects.

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By  Sean Cronin Published  July 23, 2005

Sunny side-up for UAE in its bid to ‘go green’|~||~||~|With 365 days of sunshine a year, you would expect solar power to be reasonably popular here in the Gulf. But the oil-dependent economies of the region have never really rated solar power. It is the proud home of environmentally-hostile projects where CO2 emissions and greenhouse gases are embraced, encouraged and made to feel at home. And so it is perhaps not surprising that in the UAE, there is only one building that carries a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) rating. Apparently the LEED system offers buildings a bronze, silver, gold or platinum rating according to their environmental credentials (see page 14). If only the boffins at LEED had extended the system to incorporate lead, arsenic or plutonium ratings, then they could have had a few more takers in this part of the world. But the times are a changin’ and it is encouraging to hear that more buildings are ‘going green’. And there is a commercial argument for that to happen, even if clients may be reluctant to hear it. They may find it difficult to see past the extra costs involved in developing a ‘platinum-rated’ building, for example — which can involve a 30 or 40% premium on the construction costs associated with more traditional building. But it is worth remembering that the extra costs involved in ‘green building’ can often be recovered within five years. It is clear that many developers of residential schemes in the region have got their long term maintenance sums very wrong. So wrong in fact, that potential owner occupiers are thinking twice before committing to a long term maintenance charge which can often be like a mini-mortgage in its own right. So if the use of solar power can cut the long term costs of running a building, there must be a commercial imperative just waiting to be marketed to customers. ‘Whole life costing’ is still one of those expressions that is talked about more than it is applied to real projects. And developers are still slow to take on board extra costs at the early stages of a project to ensure a cheaper whole life cost. But that is the way the industry must go, and nowhere is the need for this to happen more pressing than in the Middle East. ||**||

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