It’s the start of a new year, a new decade, and as is customary people are looking to the future, making plans and discussing hopes and expectations. It feels more prescient now than ever that every plan (business or personal) should look at a scope wider than one’s immediate benefit. 2019 feels like the year climate change, some might argue climate crisis, really made it’s presence known.
As I write, Jakarta is experiencing unprecedented floods with some estimates suggesting nearly half a million people have been displaced, so far. Just over 5,000 km’s away, there are entire towns and communities ablaze across Australia, towns that I have visited and have friends who are residents of. The mass evacuation within just two of its states is amongst the largest ever emergency movements of people in Australia.
Current events have especially resonated with me, married to an Australian: this is to be our place of retirement. Whilst it is horrifying to witness, it becomes more harrowing when realising this is now the new norm. The parent to a young child, I have an inherent interest and have read enough to understand we’re not able to reverse the effects of climate change, only limit how much worse they become. These types of events, on this scale, will now happen. All the time.
Not the kind of opening you’d expect from a property centric article, but one I believe is important when you realise the building and construction sectors contribute a combined 39% of all carbon emissions in the world. This fact underscores the responsibility both sectors have when considering how they will continue to deliver growth and profitability. Necessity is the mother of invention, so the proverb states, and it’s certainly encouraging the wider community of architects, engineers and developers to reassess previously proven practices.
You may be surprised to know that late last year the World Green Building Council issued a vision to reduce construction related carbon by 40% during the next decade. This milestone is to be followed with a target peak of 100% net zero emissions buildings by 2050. What may further surprise, if not impress you, is that (according to circular 198) Dubai has developed its own Green Buildings Regulations and Specifications project; this was rolled out to all governmental buildings nearly a decade ago, from January 2011, and all new buildings from 2014. Still, there is more to be done.
International developments are abound; having identifed that 30%-40% of a commercial building is typically unoccupied at any given time, green building technology can now make use of motions detectors and access card readers to monitor occupancy status. Consequently, the building shuts off lighting, HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) accordingly. Building owners note, this will save 30% of the average energy expense by eliminating unnecessary usage.
Perhaps even more relevant to you and I, residents of the UAE, are the numerous studies which have documented ‘sick building syndrome’ which creates an unhealthy work environment. When HVAC systems are constantly left on they can accumulate condensation that allows unhealthy mold spores to develop; our A/C related colds would become a thing of the past.
Other construction technologies include; solar power, biodegradable materials, green insulation, cool roofs, sustainable resource sourcing, low-energy house and zero-energy building design, electrochromatic smart glass, water efficiency technologies and self-powered buildings.
Some of these terms you may not have heard of; allow me to elaborate those most pertinent to our part of the world and the increasingly challenging climate we live in.
Solar power, one of the most widely recognized and understood renewable energy sources is utilized in two ways, active and passive. Active sees panels positioned to attract and secure energy from the suns radiation used to power the building, passive is during the design phase and relates to the placement of windows and heat-absorbing surfaces.
Cool roofs aim to reflect heat and sunlight whilst allowing heat to escape the building – think the opposite of thermal insulation. The use of reflective paints and special tiles significantly lower the temperature within a home, therefore minimizing the dependence on air conditioning.
Electrochromatic smart glass must be my favourite, being a new technology which uses tiny electric signals to change the amount of solar radiation (heat) it reflects. Lastly (and noting we live in the desert arguably the most urgent) is water efficiency.
Greywater re-usage, desalination and zero water practices (cleaned your car in a mall car park recently?) are all widely used solutions.
How do you fit in the picture? By asking questions about the sustainability features next time you’re considering buying a developer direct home; I foresee payment plans not being the only selling feature when promoting a home for sale in the future. When carrying out renovations on your own home you’ll be genuinely shocked at some of the cost savings you’ll enjoy when considering solar panels or enhancing your A/C units – some solutions can save you up to 70% on your monthly bills.
If you’re a tenant, you have just as much influence, probably at zero cost to you – when negotiating ask for certain measures or solutions to be added to your future home. We all recognize the market is continuing to be more competitive, why not use your leverage in a more conscionable fashion.
Ultimately, if you do look at some of the easily available solutions, you’ll invariably find that not only are you adding to the much needed paradigm shift regarding the planets climate crisis, you’ll actually find you’re making life more affordable for yourself. That’s not a bad plan to make as we start the new year.