Build sustainability from the ground up

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Aden - Yasmin Abdel Azim - The switch to green buildings must begin right from design and planning. Picture is for illustrative purposes only. Image Credit:

Sustainability pledges are no more a matter of grandstanding. The real estate industry and its players need to take the lead at the time of design, development, construction and operations. Even end-users need to forge alliances for the greater good.

But where does it all begin? In the real estate context, the design stage itself has to adopt this from a day one.

Like other important considerations done at the design stage, sustainability considerations - commonly referred to as the “Green Building Code” - set the basis for an advance review of building design and its equipment specs as well as other elements like greenery, choice of colours, natural light, air ventilation and others.

However, the issue is that such critical prerequisites implemented are confined to a select few projects. Only a few countries have adopted this as a regulatory measure.

Spec issues

An issue that requires a fundamental review relates to building equipment specs, to ensure low energy consumption and ease of maintenance. Particular building designs are specific to its facades, front elevation, and roofs, and these often add significant challenges for both maintenance as well as energy costs. High ceilings in common areas with complex lighting fixtures can pose challenges in performing cleaning and maintenance tasks.

The choice of heating, ventilation and airconditioning, plumbing systems, water tanks and fire systems and the options on a building’s fabric - such as tiles, stones and glass - can impact sustainability targets. In fact, these are some of most significant factors in utility cost management.

Fitting in

While we may have the best technology, inadequate training and inferior maintenance can add more woes in achieving the goals. A common issue is that building maintenance systems (BMS) supposed to ensure efficiency are often not aligned to the overall building design or fixtures. These systems mostly have features either not compatible with the necessary building code or not used appropriately.

A common issue with BMS systems is either due to inadequate configuration with core systems or lacunae in training to help achieve desired results.

Waste management has been at the top of the agenda of sustainability now. It is not just the household and community waste disposal, but water and ablution waste that must be recycled for near-zero transfers to landfills. The design of landscape and irrigation system can ensure economical use of water, while eco-friendly vegetation improves the quality of air.

Extend the green

In urban areas, a greener footprint must be made compulsory to ensure people have additional oxygen levels intake in the vicinity. In essence, design elements must be sustainability-focussed, and these buildings must have specific features that comply with the green code as per global best practices.

Organizations such as the Green Building Council can assign specific ratings so that those projects with low ratings will not get through. These review processes will take into account all considerations for a lower carbon footprint. This must not be an afterthought but has to be part of a well-planned policy powered by a practical framework.

There needs to be an environmental board at the city council level to monitor and license constructions. All buildings must be reviewed from a sustainability perspective and rated so that people can make a choice based on these merits.

Tariq Chauhan is Group CEO at EFS Facilities Services Group.

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