Conservation of resources is a moral responsibility for every individual and corporate entity in the world today. The concept of eco-friendly building is based on the need to stay tuned with the growing concern for environmental sustainability. Construction companies are currently coming up with plans to ensure all future construction projects are eco-friendly.
Numerous techniques for sustainable construction projects are being integrated into building plans. Such techniques include recharging ground water, solar power heating, water recycling, and water harvesting.
Making changes in building designs to adapt to sustainability concerns is essential for saving the environment and reducing the cost of building operation. This paper seeks to explore this statement further from the context of the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
In the past, buildings were identified to have a negative impact on the natural environment. Radhi (2009) identifies that the building process failed to use resources especially water and energy in an efficient manner. The state of health of building occupants’ were sometimes imperiled by the building environment.
In addition, employee productivity could be low as a result of the poor state of buildings. Consequently, AboulNaga and Elsheshtawy (2001) say that green technologies in building and construction had to be adopted in order to reduce environmental degradation, pollution, and waste of resources.
Engineers and architects in the UAE are using resources such as water, sand, and the sun to transform the country. They have wide imaginations and have written a new chapter in the building and construction industry. Through the emirates green building council, engineers and architects think towards green initiatives in building and construction.
The council was formed in 2006 with the mandate of advancing the concept of sustainable buildings in the country. It ensures every local building is made to meet the standards of green technology. Engineers and architects in UAE have incentives that allow them to dream on projects that have hardly been tried before.
This further gives them the opportunity to bring ona board everything that makes construction feasible and efficient based on the current market standards. The Burj al-Taqa in Dubai is an example of a modern building constructed under the standards of sustainable buildings.
This research paper seeks to answer the following questions:
- How does the concept of sustainable building help to reduce cost and increase income revenue in UAE?
- What are the goals of advancing eco friendly principles in UAE?
- How is the concept of sustainable building achieved through planning and designing?
- Is there evidence of sustainability in some of the recent buildings and construction projects in UAE?
- In the context of the emirates, what are some of the benefits and disadvantages of sustainable buildings?
Concept definition: Sustainable buildings
Vos and van der Voordt (2001) define sustainable building as the process of constructing buildings which are resource efficient and environmental friendly. The two authors say that this process begins from the planning and designing stage and lasts throughout an entire life cycle of a building.
A similar definition is also provided by Warnock (2007) who further adds that the process particularly entails utilizing resource efficient and environmental friendly techniques during demolition, renovation, maintenance, operation, construction, and design. As a result, Warnock says that there is need for close collaboration by all the key stakeholders during all stages of a construction project.
This implies that clients, engineers, architects, and designers have to work together from the initial step of planning and designing to the time when the building needs to be demolished. All the parties work together and cooperate throughout an entire project.
The current practices in sustainable building may not be sufficient to establish perfect eco friendly buildings. However, Warnock (2007) says that constant development of new technology is ideally placed to expand and compliment the current building construction practices and enhance the concept of eco friendly buildings.
The following section of the paper seeks to review literature materials in relation to the research questions. The information is retrieved from online database journals and printed journals.
The goal of advancing eco friendly principles in the UAE
The concept of sustainable development is a direct response to the concerns for environmental degradation and the energy crisis. In United Arab Emirates, the Green Building Council (GBC) is the body charged with the responsibility of advancing the eco friendly principles in the country (AboulNaga & Elsheshtawy, 2001). According to the council, the primary goal of advancing eco friendly principles is to foster sustainability and help protect the environment.
Nonetheless, there are a number of motives and goals which create the desire to advance eco friendly practices in building and construction. These motives relate to environmental concerns, economic, and social concerns. Current initiatives of eco friendly buildings advocate for a synergistic design to construction of structures.
They call for an approach referred to as sustainable design whereby green construction practices are integrated in the entire life cycle of a building thus creating a synergy in all the practices involved.
Advancing eco friendly principles in UAE helps to integrate a wide range of techniques and practices aimed at environmental conservation. In order to achieve this goal, building maintenance practices have to make use of renewable energy. For instance, constructions involve the use of photovoltaic techniques, active solar, passive solar techniques, and reduction of rainwater runoff.
Additionally, eco friendly practices in construction also involve planting trees and gardens on buildings. The building materials used have to be in line with environmental and human health concerns. For instance, wood is a preferred building material compared to asphalt or conventional concrete. Other sustainable building materials include: permeable concrete and packed gravel.
The practices of eco friendly buildings may not be the same in all countries and regions however the fundamental principles apply in general. The principles include:
- Reduction of waste and toxic materials
- Optimization of maintenance and operations
- Enhancement of indoor environmental quality
- Material efficiency
- Water efficiency
- Energy efficiency
- Structure design efficiency
- Sitting design efficiency
The essence of sustainable building is to ensure that at least one or more of these principles are optimized. At the same time, when the techniques for eco friendly buildings are used together, the overall effect is maximized.
Aesthetically, eco friendly buildings are attractive because of their nature to be in harmony with the environment. The buildings have natural features such as green roofs and sites that maintain the natural state of the surrounding environment.
Some of municipalities in the UAE are already in the process of creating awareness in within their jurisdiction in order to ensure advancement of eco friendly principles in the country.
Architecture and sustainable design
Ji and Plainiotis (2006) identify two steps involved in the foundation of building projects. The two steps are design and planning. The authors say that the latter is in fact a vital step of a building project. This is because its impact on performance and cost is particularly significant. The designing stage focuses on ensuring that the building remains sustainable throughout its entire life cycle.
The primary goal of sustainable design is to reduce the environmental impact linked to the life cycle of a building. However, designing varies with buildings because the process of construction is not as streamlined as the general process within the construction industry.
A major advantage of sustainable buildings as identified by Allen and Iano (2008) is the materials used in construction. The authors say that there are materials typically considered green. They identify lumber to be generally ideal for construction however, obtaining the materials requires cutting down of trees which generates another environmental concern.
Nonetheless, lumber from a certified forest are highly recommended (Allen & Iano, 2008). Lumber can be generated from renewable trees such as straw and bamboo. Woolley (2006) confirms the assertions of Allen and Iano (2008). In addition to lumber, he says that other sustainable building materials can include recycled metals, recycled stones, and other renewable non toxic products.
In essence, both authors say that the materials used for building have to be manufactured within the local surrounding of the building site in order to maintain the natural state of the surrounding (Allen & Iano, 2008; Woolley, 2006). For instance, United Arab Emirates is a desert and therefore sand is a common material used in the construction of its green building projects.
Sustainable buildings’ cost and profit
Traditionally, investors in the building and construction industry have been aware of the ever rising cost of operation on one hand while on the other hand revenues keep on decreasing. Kennedy, Smith, and Wanek (2002) identify that the cost of maintenance, water, energy, waste, and insurance have continued to rise. Amidst these concerns, the need for efficient use of resources and green technology is also begging.
According to the authors, construction of sustainable buildings has therefore proven to help investors, not only in UAE, to reduce the cost of operation and enhance the impact of buildings on the surrounding environment. Building without considering the concept of sustainability is unreasonable (Kennedy, Smith, & Wanek, 2002). Sustainable buildings are known to promote quality of human health.
They enhance the well being of occupants. From this argument, it can be deduced that sustainable buildings help to reduce illness thereby increasing the productivity levels of employees or any other occupants of a building. In the case of the work space, the concept of sustainable buildings implies reduced turnover through high level of retention.
If the cost of turnover for single employee in the UAE is assumed to be approximately $20000, sustainable buildings can help prevent such a cost. However, there is still need for further research to be done in order to affirm such a claim. Specifically, the studies should be able to link retention, sustainable design, and high performance to employee turnover rate.
According to Becker (2002) there is a significant increase in value when an office is transformed from non green to eco friendly. Through sampling of almost 10000 buildings, the study found that the buildings which were either LEED certified or Energy Star certified had a significant gain in rental income with a rise in occupancy levels. This study asserts the cost effectiveness of sustainable buildings.
In essence, sustainable buildings have a high rate of return on investment by increasing the asset value of the buildings. In relation to the risk management, insurance companies have recently started to embrace approaches that address the impact of climate change on properties. The companies are revising their terms and conditions to increase awareness of climate change.
Advantages and disadvantages of eco friendly buildings
Energy efficiency is the main benefit of eco friendly buildings. This is according to Ha¨kkinen & Nuutinen (2007) who add that the buildings are incorporated with measures to reduce excessive consumption of energy. The measures are aimed at reducing energy consumption in the process of construction, operation, and maintenance. For instance, services such as heating and ventilation in buildings rely on energy from renewable sources.
The Burj al-Arab in Dubai uses energy from the sun to maintain the internal temperature of the building. The materials used on the outside, tend to maintain a constant cool temperature no matter how hot or cold it gets on the outside. The buildings also embody energy and are made to recycle the embodied energy so as to avoid wastage.
As a way of reducing operating energy, architects and designers use methods of preventing air leakages. Sustainable buildings have little need for maintenance. They generally do not require the level of regular maintenance as the traditional buildings.
For instance, traditional buildings require regular renovation and exterior paintings because they succumb to environmental effects whereas the green buildings may not require paintings at all. In effect, this saves resources, energy, time, and money.
Disadvantages of sustainable building
Contrary to the fact that sustainable buildings are cost efficient, Radhi (2009) says that the building methods can be very costly. For instance, the case of UAE popular green building projects reveals a staggering amount of money used in their construction. Eco friendly buildings have the potential to reduce the cost of operations however the cost involved in their construction is can be very high.
Additionally, it is very difficult to control the internal temperature of the buildings especially when the cooling system depends on natural mechanisms. For instance, the Burj al Arab hotel in Dubai uses natural mechanisms that ventilate the internal environment of the building.
The material used to cover the exterior helps to keep the internal temperature cool despite the external temperature (Radhi, 2009). This implies that temperature within the building is constantly cool. It becomes difficult to control the temperature to suit the needs of occupants.
Another disadvantage concerns the structural orientation of the buildings. The structures that depend on solar energy have to be oriented in a way that optimizes exposure to the sun. Such a concern can be disadvantageous because it is likely to cause unnecessary friction among neighbors in addition to affecting how sunlight enters the various parts of the building. A common example is the dynamic building in Dubai.
The building has structurally been design in way to optimize exposure to the sun. There are a lot of complexities involved in order to archive this maximum exposure. For instance, every floor in the building has to be rotating individually in order for the solar panel installed on the roofs to be exposed to sunlight.
Examples of sustainable constructions in UAE
The Burj al-Arab
The Burj al-Arab is currently the tallest hotel building in the world. Its construction came to completion in 1999. According to AboulNaga and Elsheshtawy (2001) “it is situated 300 yards off shore from Dubai. It is one building that strikes out and puts Dubai and the entire UAE on the global map of iconic buildings.
The building’s design is inspired by the modern racing yachts found within the country’s coastal waters.” Dubai is about the relationship between the ancient desert and the edge of the sea therefore pushing the building off shore seems sort of appropriate. The concept for the Burj al Arab is rooted on the traditional activities within the region where people used to come together for trade.
The construction of the building took five years and finally concluded in 1999. Almost every level of the building construction demonstrated engineering and design challenges that had never been experienced before. At the time, the idea of constructing a high rise building on a manmade island had not been tried before.
The immediate concern was that of supporting a structure that tall and heavy on a manmade island. It was settled on the construction of a foundation consisting of permeable concrete on sand below the sea bed. This material would have little harm to the surrounding environment in addition to holding the building together.
Another challenge was that of the eroding effect of waves and sea water. It is commonly known that building constructed around coastal regions erode quickly as a result of the surrounding environment.
However, this concern was taken care of by the building materials used. For instance, in the Burj al Arab hotel, the forces of erosion were handled by the creation of a sponge that helps to absorb the wave action into the island rather than the wave action riding up like a surf wave.
Another challenge was the enormous amount of energy it would take to keep the Burj al Arab cool. In order to address this issue, the engineers and designers came up with a Teflon coated glass fiber. The material is considered eco friendly based on its functions and energy saving ability. The material creates a day light feel but it is not see-through because it is translucent.
This material has been used in similar projects in other countries for roofing. However, it had never been used vertically on building walls. The material reflects sunlight allowing the building to stay cool on the inside no matter the temperature on the outside. The interior of the building is also inspired by the surrounding. Water is considered wealth in any dessert culture. Recycling water fountains are installed on the inside to enhance its attractive nature.
Sand is a major resource in UAE and so is the sun and wind. Engineers in the country always have to battle with harnessing the powers of nature. The dynamic tower is another example of sustainable construction in UAE. The building is also situated in Dubai, one of the fastest growing modern cities in the world. The building uses the energy of the sun and wind for its operation. In other words, it is powered by both solar energy and wind energy.
The tower is considered to be the first building in motion and was completed in 2012. The building’s floors can turn 360 degrees in less than 90 minutes. The bottom floors are programmed electronically to take advantage of solar energy. To maximize wind power, giant wind turbine blades have been inserted horizontally in between the floors.
As the floors rotate independently, their exposure to the sun increases. The floors have solar panels on their roofs and as they rotate independently on a sunny day, their exposure to the sun is increased thus maximizing on solar energy. Basically, the building powers itself by using renewable energy thus meeting the standards of eco friendly buildings.
The Cheese building
The cheese building in Dubai is another building that is built based on sustainability standards. Traditional sky scrapers normally use glass windows to cover the outside of the building and the structural core is inside. But the dessert environment in the country forces designers and engineers to consider another approach in the construction of high rise buildings. The cheese building is pioneers the future of high rise buildings.
In designing the building the traditional approach is basically inverted. An interesting design of the building is a three foot gap between its exterior concrete wall and the interior glass (AboulNaga & Elsheshtawy, 2001). The gap helps to create a chimney effect where hot air enters through the building and rises up past the windows. The phenomenon creates a cooling effect on the building.
Basically, the building does not have to use external sources of power for ventilation. The building can actually power itself to keep the internal environment cool. The narrow space creates a conduit for the warm air to rise and the rush of air substantially cools the building’s interior environment.
Additional, reversing the process of construction has helped to create a shade which further cools the building (Radhi, 2009). The two designs and techniques combined imply that the cooling cost for the building has been significantly reduced by more than 30 percent. The materials used to make the concrete also help to maintain the natural state of the surrounding.
Dubai Floating bridge
The Dubai floating bridge is another construction project showing a great ecological advantage. According to Radhi (2009, p. 240) “the bridge was built to ease up the traffic that became a problem in the city. It is built in such a way that it does not interfere with the flow of water underneath it.” This allows for sea plants to grow and aquatic life to continue.
The paper has focused on the concept of sustainable and eco-friendly buildings in the context of the United Arab Emirates. The paper is based on the thesis statement that says “green technology applied in building and construction is essential for environmental sustainability and cost reduction.”
From the discussions, the paper has determined the validity of this statement and indeed established that sustainable buildings are ideally placed for environmental conservation and cost reduction. The concept of sustainable buildings emerged from environmental concerns and the energy crisis experienced from the early 70s. It involves the use of resource efficient and environmentally friendly techniques in constructions of buildings.
This process begins from the planning and designing stage and lasts throughout the entire life cycle of a building. It particularly entails utilizing resource efficient and environmentally friendly techniques during demolition, renovation, maintenance, operation, construction, and design. As a result, key stakeholders are engaged in close collaboration during all stages of a construction project.
The stakeholders basically include clients, engineers, architects, and designers. All the parties work together and cooperate throughout an entire project. Current initiatives of eco-friendly buildings advocate for a synergistic design to construction of structures. They call for an approach referred to as sustainable design whereby green construction practices are integrated into the entire life cycle of a building thus creating a synergy in all the practices involved.
The study has found out that the future of building and construction in UAE is eco-friendly buildings. The country through the Emirates Green Building Council has already put in place measures that ensure every future building project meets the principles and standards of eco-friendly buildings. The United Arab Emirates has established its goals for advancing the eco friendly principles.
Through the Emirate GBC, the country seeks to foster sustainability and help protect the environment. This study has also determined that sustainable buildings are not entirely beneficial because there are demerits associated with them. Even though green technology is the way to go, there is a great sense of technological innovation required to achieve it.
There is no doubt from the findings in this paper that sustainable buildings are cost-effective. They have a high rate of return on investment by increasing the asset value of the buildings. Advancing eco-friendly principles in the UAE helps to integrate a wide range of techniques and practices aimed at environmental conservation. In order to achieve this goal, building maintenance practices have to make use of renewable energy.
There is also aesthetic value with eco-friendly buildings. They are attractive because of their nature to be in harmony with the surrounding environment. The buildings have natural features such as green roofs and sites that maintain the natural state of the surrounding environment.
Lastly, studies have also shown that eco-friendly buildings have the potential to reduce cost and increase profits especially in the line of a work station. By looking at the status of the UAE in terms of attracting professional workers across the globe, it can be concluded that eco friendly buildings are ideal for the work environment.
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