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1 August, 2014

As the awareness of the need for more green buildings is growing in the Middle East, both public and private sectors are aiming for advancing the development of sustainable real estate practices in the region.

The evidence of the advantages that more sustainable real estate confers on developers, occupiers and investors in overseas markets is gradually leading to the development of more sustainable practices in the Middle East; a trend which is reflected in the increased number of accredited green buildings in the region over the past few years.

On an international level, two accreditation systems have been widely utilised in the Middle East – the U.S. based LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) system and the UK based BREAM system. According to JLL’s “Sustainability in the Middle East & North Africa Real Estate Market” report, there are now over 1,200 LEED certified projects across the region, with more than 65% of these within the UAE. Out of the eight LEED-platinum certified projects in the Middle East, seven are based in the UAE. The UAE accounts for 32 Gold certified projects, far ahead of Qatar (two), Egypt (one) and Jordan (one). There are also 24 Silver certified projects in the UAE, compared to only one in Jordan and one in Egypt.


One of the examples of sustainable real estate in Dubai is the Standard Chartered Tower, the new office of Standard Chartered Bank which meets the UAE-approved green building standards and has achieved LEED Gold certification by incorporating various sustainable strategies. This building is designed to use 30% less water compared to conventional buildings by using recycled wastewater for irrigation and installing water-conserving fixtures. The building facade is designed to decrease heat in the interior spaces, thereby reducing the energy required to cool the building in the hot summer months.

“When planning the office we considered a range of criteria. These included creating a sustainable site through erosion and sedimentation control; bike racks; solar roofing materials; great water efficiency; reduced energy consumption and increased energy conservation; the right materials and resources; and finally creating the right indoor environment quality for our staff and customers by using the right materials,” commented Nick Hughes, Regional Head of Corporate Real Estate Services (UAE & Middle East), Standard Chartered Bank.

Majid Al Futtaim properties, one of the biggest real estate developers in the Middle East, have created their Corporate Social Responsibility (CRS) programme focusing on four areas of material impact: resource efficiency, labour conditions and the supply chain, community & economic development, and people (tenants, customers and staff).

“We have achieved numerous CSR successes that we are proud of: committing to green building standards (LEED and BREEAM) for all of our new developments since 2012; pursuing green building certification for our existing assets (e.g. Earthcheck for hotels and LEED EBOM for Mirdif City Centre, MAF Tower 2 and Bahrain Kempinski); launching Majid Al Futtaim Properties Green Star rating system for sustainable retail fit-outs; setting like-for-like reduction targets for energy, water and waste for all our asset types; investing AED 25 million to improve the energy and water efficiency of our assets,” said Ibrahim Al-Zu’bi, Head of CSR, MAF.


In addition to the international green building ratings and assessment systems such as LEED, a number of countries in MENA have developed their own rating systems. For instance, in UAE, the Abu Dhabi Urban Planning Council introduced its green building rating system Estidama in 2007. It is a framework for sustainable design, construction and operation across the emirate. Every new building and community must adhere to the system’s minimum requirements, with higher levels of sustainable achievement encouraged to promote positive change and competition. The Estidama Pearl Rating System has already made headway, with over 230 developments (equating to 6,630,000 square metres of GFA) currently being rated.

Masdar City in Abu Dhabi is an example of the need to address the three interdependent aspects of sustainability – economic, social and environmental. Located adjacent to Abu Dhabi’s international airport, Masdar City was launched in 2006 as the world’s first zero-carbon city, to develop and showcase the latest green and sustainable technologies. The masterplan for Masdar City has subsequently been refined to reflect not just the initial and ambitious environmental objectives but also economic realities, current market conditions and the requirements of both occupiers and investors.

“While sustainability is still in its infancy in the Middle East, we are seeing increased signs that real estate stakeholders are now adopting more initiatives. It is hugely encouraging to see initiatives like Masdar City and Estidama setting the sustainability agenda in the region. The combination of such initiatives, along with greater government legislation and an increased awareness of the financial premium associated with green buildings, will provide a further impetus towards the concept of sustainability,” commented Alan Robertson, Chief Executive Officer, MENA at JLL.

In the emirate of Dubai, sustainable regulations and practices are also being developed.

The DEWA Building in Al Quoz, Dubai, is the largest government building in the world to secure a LEED Platinum rating. It has been completed in accordance with DEWA’s Green Building regulations, with recycled materials accounting for 36% of the total construction materials used, and designed to achieve an energy efficiency level of over 66% through extensive use of roof and wall insulation.

The Dubai Land Department (DLD) is also actively engaged in employing sustainable real estate practices in the emirate.

“DLD encourages and disseminates its principles and policies relating to this important area at both the local and global level. One way we do this is by hosting conferences and organising workshops that collectively contribute to raising the sustainability awareness level among stakeholders and other interested parties,” said Sultan Bin Mejren, Director General of Dubai Land Department.

Last year, during the Sustainable Real Estate Conference, DLD launched the Dubai Real Estate Sustainability initiative “Takhdeer” – the programme which aims to create a green real estate environment and promote a safe and comfortable life for citizens living and working in Dubai.

“To ensure that sustainability criteria are met, DLD formulates and issue laws through the Real Estate Regulatory Agency, its regulatory arm. These laws aim to promote investment and transparency in sustainable real estate in Dubai, thereby benefiting both the city’s economy and its society through facilitating improved public health,” further commented Bin Mejren.

In March 2014, the 2011 Dubai Green Building Regulations were made applicable to all non-government buildings by the Dubai Municipality. The Green Building Regulations set out a broad range of requirements in the areas of ecology and planning; building vitality; energy; water; materials & waste and consist of international standards adapted to the local conditions of Dubai.

“The future outlook for development of these regulations in the region is bright. As with any new policy there will be some initial challenges to implementation (including making sure developers understand the cost/benefit ratio and shortage of green building professionals in the region) but these are being addressed through education and training programs and the development of strategies to attract experts in the field to this part of the world,” concluded David Pine-Coffin, Associate Director, MENA at JLL.