Global sustainability experts share blueprint for green development

Emirates Green Building Council annual meet present a compelling overview of sustainable development advances in region

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“The building sector contributes to 32 percent of global energy expenditure and 19 percent of greenhouse gas emissions,” said a UN official in charge of the West Asia region.

Fareed I. Bushehri, Regional Resource Efficiency Officer, UN Environment, West Asia Office, was speaking on the topic of ‘Sustainable Buildings, Resilient Cities from the Global Context,’ at the fifth Congress of the Emirates Green Building Council (EmiratesGBC) , held in Dubai.

At the two-day Congress on October 25-26, held under the theme, 'UAE of the Future: Looking Backward as a Way Forward,' international experts in sustainable development for the built environment presented actionable insights that contribute to developing sustainable built environments.

Bushehri said the global stock of buildings was expected to grow by over 180 billion sq. meter (i.e. by over 90 per cent). “Greenhouse gas emissions could double by 2050 if we carry on business as usual. If we have to change, we have to think of sustainable development,” he said.

On the other hand, Bushehri said that it was not all bad news and the building sector had achieved a lot with regard to efficiency, by responding to global mandates.

“The outcome of this big challenge was important for the region as well. No longer are we looking at development as a standalone approach. We have to go forward in an integrated manner – sustainable development solutions as well as poverty alleviation have to go together.”

Bushehri said the targets set were achievable. “But it needs action and each of us have a role to play.”

Smart, sustainable city

The event opened with keynote addresses by Eng. Anwaar Al Shimmari, Director of Design, Ministry of Infrastructure Development; and Ahmed Bukhash, Director - Urban Planning, Dubai Creative Clusters Authority, who presented compelling sketches on the UAE’s experience in driving built environment sustainability and the future vision of Dubai to build a smart and sustainable city.

Saeed Al Abbar, Chairman of EmiratesGBC, in his welcome address said: “The annual EmiratesGBC Congress brings together local and international experts in sustainable built environments to identify future trends and emerging challenges in our concerted efforts to create more sustainable urban environments. The remarkable participation of industry stakeholders at this year’s Congress is a strong demonstration of the keen interest of the UAE and the wider region in promoting sustainable buildings.”

The theme and the discussions have been specially curated to reflect the achievements of the UAE in greening urban environments and how the nation – and the region – can achieve transformational growth through a clear focus on embracing innovative green building practices.

Experts from across the construction industry supply chain, as well as government departments, non-government organizations, financial institutions and academia took part in the Congress.

With its focus on both theoretical discussions and visual presentations to emphasize the new technologies that can be used in future ‘green’ planning for the region, the Congress discussed the opportunities and challenges from diverse industry perspectives – covering the financial, governance and material management aspects, among others.

A presentation on the ‘Buildings of the Future’ was addressed by Talik Chalabi, Partner, Chalabi Architect, who presented an overview of the Sheikh Zayed Desert Learning Center in Al Ain, and Matthew Utley, Associate Principal, Grimshaw Architects, who underlined the features of the Expo 2020 Dubai Sustainability Pavilion.

With sustainability as a core theme of the global event, the insights offered served as a referral points for the audience in managing their projects for a greener future.

Shaima Sharif Abu Baker Al Aydarous of the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment, spoke on ‘UAE’s Transition to a Green Economy.’ The UAE was one of the first countries in the region to introduce building codes. She outlined other efforts at energy and water conservation through moving to district cooling, smart transportation and by involving the private sector, including business councils, research centers and the country’s youth.

The second day of the Congress on Wednesday featured a guided tour of Al Fahidi Historic Neighborhood (Bastakiya) in Bur Dubai, to put the spotlight on the architectural and cultural influence on the UAE’s built environment. It was followed by a facilitated discussion on architecture heritage led by Scott Coombes, Director, Alabbar Energy and Sustainability Group (AESG).