Construction Wastes Management in the UAE

Out of total solid wastes generated in the UAE, the construction and demolition (C&D) wastes account for 70% of the total weight of solid wastes. Dubai alone produces nearly 5,000 tonnes of construction and demolition waste every day, which is about 70% of the total solid waste generated every day. In Abu Dhabi, C & D wastes account for 71% of total wastes generated in the year 2011. It is expected that construction and development activities and associated C&D waste production will continue to rise in this region. Hence, if not managed appropriately, it is expected that dumping of C & D will become uncontrolled. This will not only cause negative environmental impact on soil, water and air and the surrounding ecosystem but also result in depletion of finite resources. This also creates social and financial burden to the society and to the country.  Hence, the management of construction waste is an essential aspect of sustainable building development.

To reduce the environmental impacts and improve the socio cultural, economic performance of buildings, various sustainability rating systems and green building regulations are created in the UAE apart from the sustainability rating systems available globally.  These rating systems and regulation have a credit category generally called “materials and resources” credit category, which includes the requirements for construction and demolition waste management. The main intent of having these requirements is to facilitate the waste reduction during construction and to prevent the depletion of material resources and associated environmental impacts.

The common sustainability rating systems used in the UAE are LEED, Pearl Rating System for Estidama and EHS Trakhees in-house certification. Various local Green Building regulations are made to regulate the building design and construction activities in each administrative location or jurisdiction. The local green building regulations are mostly aligned to USGBC LEED v3 but are more specific to the region. As a general requirement, for the purpose of credit compliance, excavated materials such as soil, sand, land clearing debris and hazardous wastes are exempted for calculation of the percentage of wastes diverted from disposal at landfill facilities. However, it is required to divert these substances to places designated by the concerned department of the local regulatory authorities. Let us have a close look at various green building regulations and guidelines for minimizing C&D wastes generation.

LEED

The LEED rating system makes it mandatory for the project owner to develop and implement C&D waste management plan. Like other rating systems the main intent is to reduce the volume of C&D waste that is sent to landfills and incineration facilities by employing strategies such as reduce reuse, recovery and recycle of materials from the C&D waste stream. Apart from mandatory requirements, up to 4 credit points can be earned for building and construction projects in building and material reuse optional credit category and awards up to 2 points in the C&D waste management category which uses reuse and recycle methods.

Dubai Municipality 

Dubai Municipality doesn’t provide in-house certification for green buildings but enforces green building regulations by issuing building permits for projects within its jurisdiction. As per Dubai Municipality regulations, it is a mandatory requirement for all new buildings except the buildings in the CBD area to divert at least 50% of wastes materials by volume (cubic meter) or by weight (kg/ tonne) from the total waste materials generated during construction and/ or demolition of buildings by using reuse and recycle strategies. Excavated soil, land clearing debris and hazardous waste materials are not taken into consideration for this requirement.

EHS Trakhees

EHS Trakees green building department is the regulatory wing of Port, customs, Free zone Corporation (PCFC) jurisdiction. It enforces its green building regulations on all new construction projects of the jurisdiction. Projects seeking in-house certification can earn 1 point for diverting 50% of C&D waste materials from landfill disposal and 2 points for 75% of C&D waste diversion. These requirements can be achieved by using various strategies mentioned earlier. In the building reuse credit category, EHS Trakhees awards up to 3 points for maintaining the existing building structure (including structural floor and roof decking) and envelop (the exterior skin and framing, excluding window assemblies and non-structural roof materials). In the material reuse credit category, 1 to 2 points can be earned by reusing salvaged building materials and products directly or after refurbishing those. These materials can be beams and posts, flooring, doors and frames, cabinetry and furniture, brick, and decorative items. The project can earn 1 point for having 5% of salvaged, refurbished and reused materials based on the total cost of materials for the project. Similarly, 2 points can be earned for using 10% of those materials in the project.

Pearl Rating System for Estidama

This rating system is the sustainability initiative of Urban Planning Council (UPC) Abu Dhabi. It is a mandatory requirement under this rating system to divert a minimum of 30% of C&D wastes through recycling/ salvaging. There is no credit awarded for this but it encourages the reuse of existing building stock, reduce waste and associated environmental impacts by providing credit earning options for retaining percentage of building structural system. 1 credit point can be earned for reusing 25% of building structural system by surface area and 2 credit points for reusing 50% of the total materials. In the material reuse category, 1 credit can be earned by demonstrating that the total materials cost of reused and salvaged materials represent 3% of the total material cost.

Conclusion

If appropriate sustainability rating system is used and the green building regulations are followed aptly and adhered, not only the volume of C&D wastes sent to landfills or incineration will be reduced significantly but also the demand for virgin resources construction materials will be reduced. 

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About Sunanda Swain

Sunanda Swain works as an environmental and sustainability consultant in Dubai, UAE. Previously, she worked in various areas including manufacturing, government environmental agency, and environmental consultancies for over 10 years in Australia. Sunanda worked in various projects in areas of environmental management such as environmental approvals and permits, compliance audits and due diligence, environmental impact assessment, environmental management plans, environmental monitoring and reporting, energy assessment, waste management and natural resource management plans and policies etc. She is an accredited green building consultant as well as IRCA certified auditor for ISO 14001.
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