Even though the ‘green building’ trend is still embryonic in the GCC, a growing number of property developers as well as governments are realizing the environmental, social and economic benefits associated with the initiative. Green buildings are designed to reduce the overall impact of buildings on human health and the environment by efficiently using energy, water and other resources. They also aim to protect tenants’ health, improving employee productivity and reducing waste, pollution and environmental degradation. The lack of knowledge about sustainable technology awareness in developing countries, as well as the low cost of gas and oil, had previously made them reluctant to adopt these measures. In the last couple of years, with the high level of liquidity and the booming construction industry, this has changed. Increasing awareness has resulted in many projects across the GCC, as well as new laws that oblige developers to adopt more environmentally friendly measures in their developments.
As part of Plan Abu Dhabi 2030, the Emirates’ capital is intending to enact the world’s toughest green building standards, the Estidama Program (, Arabic for “sustainability”). Every building in the emirate has to abide by these standards and sanctions will be imposed on developers who flaunt the law. Additionally, Abu Dhabi’s planning council has the right to refuse building permits to any developments that fall short. The aim of the program is to cut the use of water by 30% and energy by 20%, in turn earning Abu Dhabi the title of the Middle East’s green capital within 15 to 20 years.
Abu Dhabi is also planning to deliver the world’s greenest city — Masdar City. The six square kilometer development — capable of housing around 50,000 residents and 1,500 businesses — will be the world’s first zero- pollution, zero-waste city. Construction is expected to start in 2009 and take 10 years. Some of the numerous sustainability features in the city are that all energy will be renewable — solar, power, wind, waste to energy — and that it will be car-free, as people will go around in electric light rail systems that will be linked to the center of Abu Dhabi.
Other green projects are being initiated as well, such as a mixed-use environmentally friendly project launched by Connection Real Estate in the Abu Dhabi Towers that comprises luxury apartments and commercial property.
In July 2006, the Emirates Green Building Council (Emirates GBC) was formed with the goal of advancing green building principles for protecting the environment and ensuring sustainability in the UAE. Currently, a new regulation concerning green building practices will be implemented in Dubai by January 2009. Under the new law, all owners of residential and commercial buildings in Dubai must abide by the internationally recognized environmentally friendly specifications. This new regulation aims to make all property developments to be environmentally friendly in five to 10 years.
Many developers have already started implementing green building standards. For example, Dubai Properties is promoting these strategies in both Jumeirah Beach Residence and Business Bay, where energy sufficient measures are employed as well as water saving methods, district cooling systems, double cavity walls and centralized garbage collection.
Moreover, the new headquarters of Dubiotech, scheduled for completion in 2009, is set to be one of the world’s largest green buildings. The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified 22-story headquarters and laboratory buildings will include a center for biotechnology education and research. It will comprise two connected buildings oriented to maximize day- lighting and views, while minimizing solar gain. Additionally, it will also incorporate a 46,500 square meter animal reserve for indigenous conservation and wildlife protection.
By the middle of 2010, Doha is set to get its first ‘green building’ designed to achieve the LEED certification. The Dubai Towers – Doha, developed by Sama Duba, will adopt the latest technologies such as the state- of-art green techniques to help reduce water and energy needs, as well as to minimize waste and pollution.
The new Energy City Qatar (ECQ), in which the construction of buildings should begin towards late 2009 and early 2010, is planning to host only green buildings within its boundaries. ECQ plans to obtain the LEED rating from the US Green Building Council by 2010. All buildings in ECQ are to be powered only by alternative energy sources, such as wind or solar energy. Additionally, the construction materials used will be environment-friendly, ensuring minimal consumption of oil and gas with minimal carbon emission. Moreover, the buildings are to be designed to ensure that sufficient natural light would be available. ECQ also hosted a campaign on November 19, including a seminar on green building design and emphasizing the importance of green properties.
Bahrain is also moving towards sustainable developments and has started to build eco-friendly buildings like the Bahrain World Trade Center in Manama, a 50-story complex containing two identical towers that rise over 240 meters in height. It features three giant wind turbines connecting the two towers, officially making it the first building in the world to feature this kind of technology at this scale. The turbines provide 11-15% of the power for the two towers.
RealCAPITA, the Bahrain-based real estate investment company founded the concept of green buildings by establishing an exclusive sponsorship to the Green Building Council of Bahrain. It is also developing the Amwaj Gateway, which is the first project in Bahrain to obtain a ‘green building certificate’ through adopting the LEED criteria for new constructions.
As the green building trend continues to develop, it is expected that more of these projects will be introduced over the next number of years. Although this enthusiasm is gaining steam in the Gulf countries, others in the region are still far behind, either due to the lack of awareness or shortage of liquidity. Hopefully these countries will also consider adopting eco-friendly standards soon enough to reduce environmental damage in their communities and to ensure long-term sustainability.