A green building incorporates environmental considerations into every stage of the building construction and focuses on the design, construction, operation and maintenance phases. The key process difference between green and conventional buildings is the concept of integration, whereby a multi-disciplinary team of building professionals work together from the pre-design phase through post-occupancy to optimize the building for environmental sustainability, performance, and cost saving.
Green buildings offer widespread benefits to a number of building industry stakeholders, including building occupants and society as a whole. Green buildings typically incorporate superior air quality, abundant natural light, access to views and noise control which benefits building occupants, making these building better places to work or live. The major considerations taken into account are the lot design and development efficiency, energy and water efficiency, resource efficiency, indoor environmental quality and the building’s overall impact on the environment.
An integral characteristic of a green building is its stress on protecting existing ecologies, and improving ecologies that may have been damaged in the past. Green buildings are usually constructed on environmentally sensitive lands or previously developed property, with measures taken to restore plant life. Green buildings also utilize fewer materials, through efficient design and elimination of unnecessary finish materials. In addition, green building operations promote material as well as water recycling in their operation.
Energy efficiency is one of the most important factors in almost all green building programs. Careful window selection, building envelope air sealing, duct sealing, proper placement of air and vapour barriers, use of clean energy-powered heating/cooling systems 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.
Green homes lay stress on water conservation by implementing more efficient water delivery and recycling system. Minimization of water use is another characteristic feature of a green building which helps in reducing the detrimental effects of water use and its effects on local ecologies, such as aquatic life.
An increase in respiratory ailments and allergies and the use of chemicals that can give off gas from materials have greatly contributed to sensitive awareness of the air we breathe inside our homes. The green building also focuses on reducing respiratory ailments and allergies by improving the quality of in-house air by controlling the contamination source, diluting the source, and capturing the source through filtration.
Green Building Rating Systems
LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), BREEAM (BRE Environmental Assessment Method) and Green Globes are popular green building assessment and rating systems used around the world. Sustainability is now a top priority in MENA 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.
Green Buildings in the Middle East
The Middle East region has been witnessing rapid developments in the green buildings industry, primarily driven by concerns related to environmental degradation, fossil fuel depletion and energy inefficiency. Buildings in the Middle East consume more energy than those in other parts of the world mainly on account of extremely hot weather and rampant use of glass exteriors. Countries in the region are increasingly promoting energy efficiency as a means to ensure energy security which has become a boon for the green buildings industry. 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.
To sum up, green buildings not only contribute towards a sustainable construction and environment but it also brings lots of benefits and advantages to building owners and users. Lower development costs, lower operating costs, increased comforts, healthier indoor environment quality, and enhanced durability and less maintenance costs are hallmarks of a typical green building.