Green Buildings and the Middle East

The Middle East region faces a unique set of challenges in terms of sustainable buildings and cities. For example, water shortage is mitigated by costly desalination and we are faced with high water consumption which leads to a higher carbon footprint and ultimately impacts climate change. Middle Eastern countries are at the top of the list of largest per capita ecological footprints. Qatar has the highest per capita level of carbon dioxide emissions, at 44 metric tons per person annually. Kuwait is second with 30.3 tons, followed by the UAE with 22.6. Therefore, integrating energy efficiency is a critical need.

Benefits of Green Buildings for Middle East

The benefits of green buildings for the Middle East are not only environmental, but also economic and social. Long-term operating costs are lowered via reduced energy consumption, reduced emissions, improved water conservation and management, temperature moderation, and reduced waste. Avoiding scarce natural resources, like water, opting instead to recycle, can cut down building costs by an estimated 10 percent.

With a third of the world's energy being utilised in construction and building operation, the concept of green buildings is becoming more and more popular worldwide. General construction work uses excessive amounts of energy, water and raw materials and tends to generate large amounts of waste and potentially harmful atmospheric emissions. As a result, companies are facing demands to build environmentally friendly and eco-efficient buildings, while minimising their actual impact on the environment.

Green buildings do not require complex processes and costly mechanisms. Affordable green technologies include tankers to store and harvest rainwater to cut water consumption, intelligent lighting systems to cut electricity use, natural ventilation and a ground source heat pump that reduces heating and cooling costs. Energy efficiency is another cornerstone of green building. Careful window selection, building envelope air sealing, duct sealing, proper placement of air and vapour barriers, use of clean energy-powered heating/cooling systems all contribute towards an energy efficient building.

Use of renewable energy, such as solar, wind or biomass energy, to meet energy requirements can significantly reduce carbon footprints of such buildings. Other green trends that are currently being advocated include carbon neutral communities, public transport and no-car cities, self-sustaining urban planning, on-site water treatment plants, and cultural sensitivity incorporating traditional design elements.

Green Building Trends in Middle East

The Middle East region has made great progress in the field of green buildings in recent years. Sustainable building design is gaining popularity in the Middle East with designers and construction firms finding the most eco-friendly ways to get buildings made. Sustainability is now a top priority in the region and countries like Qatar, UAE and Lebanon have come up with their own green building rating system to incorporate socio-economic, environmental and cultural aspects in modern architecture. Qatar's Global Sustainability Assessment System (GSAS) is billed as the world's most comprehensive green building rating system while Abu Dhabi's Pearl Rating System (PRS) has carved a niche of its own in global green buildings sector.

United Arab Emirates and Qatar are spearheading the sustainability trend in the region, having the highest share of green buildings in the Middle East and North Africa. There are about 1,200 green buildings in MENA that have a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) accreditation. Of these buildings, 65 per cent (802) are located in the UAE. Qatar is ranked second on the list, with 173 green buildings, followed by Saudi Arabia (145), Lebanon (25) and Egypt (22).

The number of LEED-registered buildings has increased rapidly across the region, especially in GCC, in the past few years. Some of the notable examples of green buildings in the Middle East are Masdar City in Abu Dhabi, KAUST in Saudi Arabia and Msheireb Downtown Doha in Qatar. Masdar City promises to be a model for green cities all over the world. The King Abdullah University of Science in Saudi Arabia employs many forward-reaching green features while Msheireb Downtown Doha promises to be the world's largest sustainable community with 100 buildings using an average of a third less energy.

If Middle Eastern industries embrace 'green building' technologies instead of conventional ones, they could significantly help in tackling environment problems in addition to long-term financial returns. Although the MENA region still lags behind other markets in terms of overall sustainability, 29% of firms in this region have over 2 million square feet of green projects planned in the next 3 years, by far the highest of any region. Green building systems technologies can serve as catalysts for smartly shaping urbanization, ensuring energy security, combating climate change, and opening new diplomatic and economic opportunities. 

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About Nadine Katkhuda

Nadine Katkhuda is a graduate of McGill University (Montreal) with Bachelor's degree in Environmental Sciences and International Development Studies. Her work experience includes research, field work in Canada, devising awareness campaigns on energy and water conservation in Jordan, and event planning. Her interests range from renewable energy resources and sustainable water management to nutrition and access to healthcare in less-privileged countries.
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4 Responses to Green Buildings and the Middle East

  1. Burning matter [ coal / Gas / fuel ] for energy is the unsustainable practice humanity is doing. Whereas transport fuel is inevitable, by partial electrification of rails & surface roads carbon foot prints can be reduced. As far as ultra mega electric power plants are concerned, the best option for the gulf region is to go for Marine Hydro Power generation, in stead of fuel / Gas.

    This is being enhanced by a new technology, in which, sea water is drawn by gravity into a Giant Ram pump, which lifts the in flow water to the given Q. Sec & designed head of lift, so as to fall into a over head municipal storage type tank in an alternate fashion. The release water from over head tank lead to hydro power generation [ Med / Low head turbines ] & water let back into sea. The Ram pumps work at Efficiency range of nearly 90 % and above and needs no direct electric or fuel energy of any sort. This Dam less hydro power technology is ideally suited for Gulf region to produce green electric power without any carbon prints. The power plant capacity ranges form 10, 20. 50, 100, 200…….. up to 1000 MW as per design criteria.
    Zero fuel emissions & lowest electricity leads to the following advantages.

    1] Green buildings using abundant green electricity

    2] Cheap electric power to run membrane based desalination systems & reject being let back to sea without the need for evaporation.

    3] One can convert existing gas / fuel prime movers to hydro systems using the above water lift technology.

    4] STP / ETP plants can use hybrid hydro power generation & recover pure desalinated water using combined membrane & electrical evaporation systems, apart form additional revenue by power generation & selling as well as minimizing their desalination costs

    5] Plenty of availability of desalinated water can be used for non cooking uses, industrial & agriculture as well a as green development.

    6] Even the existing wind mill prime movers can be converted to hydro systems so as work, round the clock all the years.

    So, production scope of lowest cost sustainable electric power is the primary requisite & the new water lift technology accomplishes the same by extracting gravitational energy via fluid behavior.

  2. Nadine says:

    Thank you Subramaniam for your insightful and informative reply. We do have the scientific facts and the technologies to make a shift from conventional fossil fuels to renewable energy forms. Political will is the only obstacle that is preventing this shift. Are there any marine hydropower generators currently operating in the Gulf?

  3. Nurzat says:

    Dear Nadine, thank you for the very useful article about green buildings in the Middle East. Can you please clarify where did you get numbers for the green building projects in the Middle East, i.e., what are the sources?

    • Salman Zafar says:

      Dear Nurzat

      Thanks for your interest in our article. 

      The information about green building projects in Middle East is available through multiple sources. One of the useful links can be found here http://www.thefreelibrary.com/UAE+leads+region+in+sustainability+trend.-a0334498723

      Hope I have been of some help.

       

      Best wishes

      Salman Zafar

       

      Founder, EcoMENA

      http://www.ecomena.org

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