Middle East first as ‘green’ cooling plant takes award

Mario Seneviratne, founding member of the Emirates Green Building Council, believes Dubai and the wider region is getting closer to adopting environmentally friendly building standards as Wafi City’s district cooling plant picks up ‘green’ award.

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By  Zoe Naylor Published  August 5, 2006

|~|133int200.gif|~|With the first LEED-certified project in the Middle East — the Wafi City district cooling plant — Seneviratne is confident that there will be more.|~|What is the Emirates Green Building Council (GBC)?

The Emirates GBC is part of the World GBC, which has an overall mandate of making buildings ‘green’ across the world. There are around 10 country members including the US, Canada, Taiwan, Mexico, Spain, Brazil, Australia, India and now the UAE.

The goal of the Emirates GBC is to foster the GBC’s programme here in the UAE. In 2004 we were invited to participate in the World GBC conference in India. From there, the World GBC suggested that we start our own GBC in Dubai as we are so firmly on the map in terms of construction. The Emirates GBC was formally established on 2 July 2006.

So far, who is involved in the Emirates GBC?

The council comprises six founders (of which I am one) and 41 organisations in the UAE covering different sectors of the building industry including developers, consultants, contractors, energy companies and civil bodies.

How do you define a ‘green’ building?

A green building is an environmentally responsible building that takes into consideration five key elements. Firstly, it incorporates sustainability of the site i.e. the environment is not destroyed when the building is constructed. Second is conservation of energy; third is conservation of water and recycling of water; fourth is what type of materials are used; and the fifth is indoor environmental quality.

What will be the initial aim of the Emirates GBC?

First of all we will be conducting an awareness programme on how we can approach building in a more environmentally friendly manner. This will also get everybody reading from the same page and create a platform for people to exchange ideas.

Will the Emirates’ GBC certify green buildings locally?

Eventually, yes. Initially we will be rating our buildings in the UAE using another international rating standard until ours is in place. Rating standards from some countries are not pertinent to the UAE and vice versa, but to get our system into motion we have to see how we compare with world standards. While the five criteria will always be present in the rating standards, some may be more weighted for us in the UAE than for Australia, for example.

What is the significance of Wafi City’s recent ‘green’ building award?

The Wafi City district cooling plant in Dubai is the first building in the Middle East to be LEED-certified. This means it was rated based on the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) system, which assesses building performance and sustainability goals based on industry standards developed by the GBC in the US. Green Technologies is the engineer and project manager for the Wafi district cooling project for the client MKM Commercial Holdings.

What does the project entail?

The first phase of the project is an 8,100-tonne central cooling plant that features Trane’s EarthWise CenTraVac chillers, and will come on line in the next few days. The overall project incorporates five or six different phases and will provide a total of 20,000 tonnes of district cooling for the new Raffles Hotel, as well as for the existing Wafi City.

What makes this district cooling plant a ‘green’ building?

The project has ‘sustainability of site’, it saves water, it saves energy, it uses the correct materials and it also has the correct indoor environmental quality. It was declared a LEED Silver Building, and now we’re trying to get a Gold accreditation.

From a district cooling point of view, approximately 95%
of the energy in a district cooling plant is used for generating district cooling — a very small amount is used for the building. If you can make that 95% energy efficient then you’ve done a great job on the project.

Around 40% of Wafi’s air conditioning energy costs will be reduced when this new district cooling plant comes on line, which is a massive leap in energy conservation.

Do you think the idea of green and sustainable buildings are set to make an impact in the UAE?

Take a building like Dubai’s Hyatt Regency — it may not have all the five features of a green building but it has stood the test of time for 27 years and has one of the most energy efficient air conditioning plants in the region.

It’s not that people in this country are ignorant about constructing green buildings, it’s more that it’s taken a back seat compared to the fast tracking projects that are underway here. But I don’t think we’re too far off from getting green building standards into mainstream construction.||**||

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