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Today, about 40% of global energy and 25% of global water are used by buildings, which are also responsible for approximately one third of all global greenhouse gases. Yet, buildings offer the greatest opportunities for achieving sustainable development. According to the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), in fact, energy consumption in buildings can be reduced by 30 to 80% using proven and commercially available technologies.
The climate of the UAE is among the most challenging in the world when it comes to implementing sustainable building solutions. “The region’s hot climate requires materials that provide better insulation and energy conservation. Water is also a major issue due to its scarcity in the Middle East”, Dr. Alaa. K. Ashmawy, Professor of Civil Engineering, Dean of the School of Engineering at the American University in Dubai Chairman of the Gaia Awards judging panel, stated.
In spite of these challenges, the UAE was named one of the top 10 markets for green building space by the US Green Building Council (USGBC) in 2015 with the eighth-largest stock of LEED certified buildings outside the United States. Dubai was also ranked eighth in a list of top 10 global cities for green buildings by consultancy firm Solidiance.
According to statistics released by Green Technologies, a Dubai based Engineering Consultancy Company and supporting partner of the Gaia Awards, as of August 2016, the United Arab Emirates count in fact 221 USGBC LEED certified buildings, followed by Saudi Arabia (124) and Qatar (97).
Figures of projects currently under LEED certification process are even more revealing of the Unites Arab Emirates’ commitment towards sustainability in construction. The UAE ranks number one in the Middle East with 609 LEED registered projects, preceding by far Saudi Arabia (99), Qatar (82), Lebanon (37), Oman (27) and Jordan (23).
“The government plays a very important role in promoting and enforcing policies to reduce carbon footprint in the UAE. Government entities such as DEWA, ADWEA, and SEWA are implementing new plans and policies in this regard, and sustainability initiatives such as Abu Dhabi’s Estidama and Dubai’s Green Building Code are really promising”, Dr. Ashmawy commented.
In 2010, as part of its Urban Planning Vision 2030, Abu Dhabi launched Pearl, the Emirate’s green building rating system. With the aim of transforming the city into a model of sustainable urbanization, it also issued the Estidama program. Today, this latter is mandatory, with a minimum 1 Pearl Rating of all new buildings, and 2 Pearl Rating for government-funded buildings.
In 2011, the Dubai Municipality enacted the “Green Building Regulations & Specification” in alignment with its Strategic Plan 2015. Mandatory for the private sector since March 1, 2014, the Green Building Regulations apply to all buildings in the city, including those in free trade zones.
New green construction offers immense opportunities in developing countries, where population growth and urbanisation fuel building and construction activities. According to the UNEP, investment in building energy efficiency converts into direct and indirect savings, providing a short return on investment period. Building sustainably will result in healthier and more productive environments.
Since 2008, the Gaia Awards of The Big 5 honour the products and services that help reducing the construction’s impact on the environment in the Middle East. According to Ahmad Bukhash, Director of Urban Planning of the Dubai Creative Clusters Authority (DCCA) and member of the Gaia Awards judging panel, “Last year’s winner is an excellent example of how the Gaia Awards promote sustainable products available in the market and support companies that are truly revolutionizing the industry”.
In 2015, Gaia Awards winner Basalt Rock Composite FZE presented the Basalt Composite Rebar, an innovative product that replaces steel bars with basalt in concrete reinforcing. “The diffusion of the Basalt Composite Rebar will have a tremendous impact on Dubai’s construction industry, where concrete steel was used extensively in almost all projects”, Director Bukhash commented.
Open to organisations whose products are distributed within the MENA region, the eight edition of Gaia Awards will take place during The Big 5 2016, Middle East’s largest construction event, at the Dubai World Trade Center on Nov 23, 2016. Organiser dmg events Middle East, Asia and Africa said companies can submit their applications until September 8, 2016.
A panel of industry experts with acclaimed credentials will select the overall Gaia Awards winner and the winners for product sectors, divided in MEP Services, Construction Tools & Building Materials, Building Interiors & Finishes, Building Envelope & Special Construction, and Smart Building & Design Technologies. This year for the first time ever, shortlisted products will be voted for by the public through a voting page on The Big 5 2016 website. Also, voting stations will be available at the Dubai World Trade Centre during the first and second day of the event, running from Nov 21 to 24, 2016.
The Gaia Awards’ entry criteria focus on three factors: people, planet, and profit. Dr. Ashmawy explained: “The “people” component deals with how the product contributes to the human welfare, comfort, and health. The “planet” aspect addresses the impact of the product on the planet, in terms of reducing greenhouse gases and reducing, reusing, and recycling material. The “profit” component ensures that the product is suitable for implementation in the MENA region and is economically sustainable.”
According to Mario Seneviratne, Managing Director of Green Technologies and member of the Gaia Awards judging panel, “The Gaia Awards are an excellent platform to identify truly sustainable products in the Middle East”.
Companies whose construction equipment and products have integrated the concept of moving towards a more sustainable built environment in the MENA region can submit their application to the Gaia Awards 2016 at www.dmgevents-me.com/gaiaAwards. Cost for the application is 500 AED.
To know more about the Gaia Awards and The Big 5 2016 visit www.thebig5.ae.
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