Rising to greener heights

By Saeed Al Abbar

When tall buildings first emerged in the late 19th century in the USA to meet the growing demand for inner city office space, little did anyone imagine that nearly 8,000 miles to the East and over 120 years later, a small desert country, the United Arab Emirates, would boast the tallest skyline in the world.

In the Middle East, especially the UAE, the construction of tall and super tall structures is on a high growth trajectory. In fact, since 2009, UAE has been home to the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa.

As the Middle East continues to build skyscrapers, the earlier view of tall buildings as large scale energy consumers with little regard for sustainable architecture is now rapidly changing. The new generation of tall buildings are being designed with energy conservation and sustainability as their principal criteria.

The UAE has made significant strides since 2006 to drive the green building agenda with numerous ground breaking frameworks and programmes being implemented by the public sector. Emirates Green Building Council, an independent forum promoting sustainability, has been leading discussions on identifying solutions for existing buildings to become sustainable while ensuring that new ones are designed with ‘green building’ features.

The focus on sustainable built environments reflects His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai’s initiative for a ‘green economy for sustainable development’.

All tall building stakeholders need to look closely at the important aspects of implementing new technologies and features. We need these credible measures by developers to incorporate green building practices to contribute to the green vision of the nation.

 – Saeed Al Abbar is the Chairman of Emirates Green Building Council

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Enhancing building efficiency for a greener UAE

By Saeed Al Abbar

With the UAE’s skyline dominated by skyscrapers, and Dubai alone being home to over 3,000 high-rise buildings,1  it is important that all stakeholders within the construction industry leverage the opportunities available for installing renewable energy systems in high-rises.

The roofs of high-rise buildings are often occupied with installations such as cooling towers, chillers and other equipment, which can limit the space available for installing renewable energy systems.

However, with an increasing number of high-rises in the region, it is important that initiatives supporting sustainable built environments are fully considered and implemented.

Emirates Green Building Council, an independent forum promoting sustainability, recently hosted a workshop to discuss the challenges and potential solutions in installing renewable energy technologies in high-rises.

Experts identified awareness, site issues, codes and financial schemes as key points to be addressed to promote the use of renewable energy systems. They observed that these systems must also be outcome-based to ensure reduction in energy consumption.

To bring a tangible shift, a fundamental transformation of the construction sector is needed by streamlining fragmented responsibilities of different stakeholders and developing business models that attract third-party financing.

Stakeholders must also look at implementing highly advanced yet cost-effective façade concepts, based on multifunctional components and/or new combinations of existing building envelope technologies.

An integrated design and close collaboration among a multidisciplinary team will further drive the implementation of renewable energy systems in high-rises.

With the focus on high-rise buildings continuing to grow, in direct response to meet the urban growth requirements, credible measures by developers to incorporate green building practices will contribute to the green vision of the nation and help secure the environment for our future generations.

Saeed Al Abbar is the Chairman of Emirates Green Building Council.

1 State of energy report