Should architects educate clients?


The UAE has been at the forefront of sustainability in building design in the Middle East, with 65% of all green buildings in the MENA region located in the country. But in an area where energy costs continue to be cheap – how important is sustainability for clients?

William Grime, of Atkins, feels both parties can be at odds over the issue. “As far as we as architects of sustainability is extremely important,” he said. “But as far as clients go if the question is asked ‘should sustainability be the number one consideration in any project?’ the answer is no.”

Architectural engineers Arup has a design strategy for sustainable buildings, which rests on six objectives, covering carbon, water, materials, climate change, community and the environment, and operations.


A spokesman said: “At the start of each project, client and design team set a strategy that allows them to design their project using these six objectives.”

Stephan Frantzen, director of P&T added that local factors need to be taken into account when the issue is examined He said: “Many rating systems are based on American, European or British standards.

“As a consequence they fail to recognise local traditional buildings because the rating systems emerged in industrialised countries heavily dependent on mechanical systems.”

Expert 1 Tristan Francis, architect Pumpkin Design

Sustainable design, that is truly my passion – and I always askwhat is the best way of convincing a client that such work is in their interest as well as that of the environment.

When I am working on a building I follow the same principals. How much energy can I save? How can I cut down on the emission of carbon-dioxide gas?

As someone with a background in finance I can produce figures which show a client what savings there are to be made. But I have to say the UAE falls behind many other parts of the world when it comes to awareness of clients on these issues. For instance there is much more consideration given in Europe.

However the adoption of a green building code in January is certainly a step in the right direction. But as things move forward in the Middle East they are also progressing in other parts of the world.

So there is always going to be catching up to do. I still don’t think some people ”get” sustainability in the UAE. It is vitally important in this region to be aware of the sun’s path across the sky. This something which is easy to calculate every day of the year and so shading needs to be part of the initial design.

Expert 2 John Mandyck, chief sustainability officer, UTC

Education and awareness are critical, particularly in areas where green building is still a newer concept. It’s important to establish credibility, which is fostered through transparency.

If you’re not walking the talk, you’re losing credibility. You’re also wasting a great business opportunity. This is why robust rating systems play an important, third-party role. Green buildings are excellent business decisions and excellent environmental decisions.

This is one area where the environment and the economy win together – and building owners are increasingly taking note.

Studies have shown that green buildings do not have to cost more than traditional buildings. The more the market becomes familiar with green building design, the more people can realize there doesn’t have to be a first-cost premium.

In addition, green buildings offer built-in cost savings through lower water and energy use. This goes back to the importance of education and events like our recent Distinguished Sustainability Lecture Series, which we held in December in Dubai, Kuwait and Riyadh – green building will accelerate with education.

Expert 3 Usama Jacir, technology product suppliers Cortec

We want to create durable and green structures that last in the UAE and through new technology and construction practices we can build structures that last over 100 years.

The UAE is the leader in the Middle East when it comes to delivering sustainability, and now with the focus on Expo 2020, durability will play a big role in building structures that will last well after 2020.”

Plans are underway in Dubai to build the Mohammed bin Rashid City in time for Expo 2020 and the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, was designed to last 100 years.

The durable, urban complex will span more than 54 million square feet and will include leisure areas, sports developments as well as parklands, retail zones and villas.

Dubai is home to some of the most sustainable commercial buildings in the world.

More authorities and developers are adopting these philosophies. They are building with longevity in mind. There will always be an environmental impact when any structure is built, this is unavoidable. However, sustainable construction enables us to be more efficient in our use of resources in order to create green buildings and homes.

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