In sustainable building development, the US-created LEED has become the de facto standard for ranking the sustainable attributes of a project. Yet several other standards have been developed to offer more relevant responses to local and regional climatic conditions and natural resource availability.
In the Middle East, the UAE has a fairly sophisticated system called Estidama, with its voluntary Pearl Rating System, and upcoming standards include Egypt’s Green Pyramid Rating System and the Qatar Sustainability Assessment System.
Internationally, BREEAM and LEED were developed in 1990 and 1998 respectively. Notably, however, there is a relative newcomer to the sustainable rating systems.
Developed in China, the Three Star rating system was conceived in 2006, and implemented in the last few years. It is largely based on LEED but with three rankings, hence the name.
The primary difference is the fact that certification of a project is not achieved until one year after the project has been operational, and metrics have been tracked to confirm the success of the design and implementation of the green building strategies.
This would appear to be a more sound approach to certifying a project. After all, it is the savings in operating costs, reduction in emissions, and overall sustainable viability of a project that are the ultimate goals.
But while many professionals concur, some have suggested that this may dampen a developer’s claim about a project’s sustainability and would hence impact the sale or lease of properties given that certification would not be available for a year. Perhaps there could be a combined approach of achieving both LEED and the Three Star certification.
In the long run, the market and the development community might benefit from developing a double-pronged approach and a further evolution of the rating systems. For example, the first goal would be to achieve certification for the implementation of green design strategies, while the second milestone is achieving further certification that confirms the viability of those design strategies after a year in operation.
I would further suggest that monitoring a project’s metrics over a five to 10-year period would be a relevant next step in the evolution of green building rating systems.
This should come as no surprise to us architects. As professionals, we achieve our license, but in order to maintain our license to perform our services we have to constantly prove – through achieving continuing education credits – that we remain accredited and viable professionals.
Whatever the approach, it is clear that projects have no choice but to be sustainable.
Hisham Youssef AIA, is project director at Gensler and a founding board member of the American Institute of Architects’ Middle East Chapter.