Green Buildings and the Middle East

MsheirebDowntownDohaThe 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. An interesting development is to build using sustainable steel which can substantially lower the carbon footprint of buildings. 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. 

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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10 Responses to Green Buildings and the Middle East

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