Dubai – MENA Herald: The fourth annual Congress of Emirates Green Building Council (EGBC Congress) commenced in Dubai today with industry-defining discussions that offered critical insights on diverse aspects of sustainable built environments with the goal of strengthening the UAE’s ‘green economy.’

The two-day event, organised under the patronage of His Excellency Dr. Abdullah Belhaif Al Nuaimi, UAE Minister of Public Works, at Dusit Thani is the largest-of-its-kind brainstorming in the region on sustainable practices across the entire construction industry supply chain. It explores the research, development, technology and regulations required to build sustainable urban living environments.

Organised under the theme, ‘How do Green Buildings Scale Up? Bridging the Gap between Green Buildings and Sustainable Cities,’ the EGBC Congress is highlighted by several insightful discussions by international and regional experts covering regulations and policy frameworks, the role of  green buildings as ‘silent heroes’ in contributing to the UAE’s ‘green economy’ and the emerging trends and innovations in ‘green buildings.’

The Congress is a carbon-neutral event, with one of the world’s leading providers of voluntary carbon offsetting measures, MyClimate Foundation, to offset the carbon generated through its international project portfolio of gold standard certified projects.

At the Congress, the Arabic version of the Technical Guidelines for Retrofitting Existing Buildings by EmiratesGBC was unveiled by Saeed Al Abbar, Chairman of EmiratesGBC. The book highlights 31 retrofit methods that a building owner, operator, end-user can use to increase energy and water savings, improve occupant comfort and well-being and also facilitate operational efficiency and the longevity of the existing building stock in the UAE.

Opening the Congress, Saeed Al Abbar said: “This year, we have scaled up the scope of discussion to identify comprehensive solutions that drive the development of sustainable cities. Green buildings, no doubt, are the silent climate change mitigation heroes in this, and lending momentum to building sustainable environments is important to achieve the ‘green vision’ of the nation.”

He added: “EGBC Congress serves as the definitive platform that brings together different stakeholders, who discuss their accomplishments in promoting sustainable built environments. By sharing knowledge and exchanging best practices, the Congress accelerates the concerted efforts by public and private sector entities and NGOs in promoting sustainable development. The discussions are aimed at arriving at valuable guidelines to reduce carbon footprint, enhance energy and water use efficiency, and secure a greener world for our future generations.”

Dhaen Al Meheiri, Director of Technical Studies Department, Executive Director for Innovation, Ministry of Public Works, welcomed the gathering. HE Dr. Thani Ahmed Al-Zayoudi UAE Permanent Representative to IRENA and Director of Energy and Climate Change, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, delivered the keynote address at the EGBC Congress highlighting the importance placed by UAE in promoting green buildings and the innovative approaches by various stakeholders in supporting the nation’s green vision.

Saeed Al Abbar moderated the first keynote session on Policy – Aligning Regulations, Expectations and Industry Performance. The panelists included: Taher Diab, Senior Director, Strategy & Planning/ Secretary General – EEA, Dubai Supreme Council of Energy; Paravasthu Jagannathan, Sustainability Manager, Trakhees; and Nabil Siyam, Principal Building Studies Specialist, Dubai Municipality.

The session identified regulatory success stories, the areas that the industry can support regulatory bodies and the initiatives needed to establish the UAE as a centre of green innovation. The panelists observed that the UAE has made impressive strides in the overall performance of the industry in the availability of green products and services.

They also underlined the value that Expo 2020 Dubai, with ‘Sustainability’ as a sub-theme will bring to promoting the sustainable built environments in the UAE. Al Abbar pointed out that the industry has responded with positive innovations in green buildings, renewable energy, waste management and sustainable development, which will further strengthen the green infrastructure.

Chris Chi Lon Wan, Senior Design Manager of Masdar City, briefed the EGBC Congress with an industry update. He explained the landscape of Global Renewables and Sustainable Cities.

A panel discussion on ‘Is the UAE Green Economy driven by Green Buildings?’ was moderated by Khaled Bushnaq, Vice Chairman of EmiratesGBC. The panelists included: Hassan Younes, Technical Director and Partner, Griffin Consultants; Simon Bangs, Middle East – Managing Director, Allen & York; and Stephane LeGentil, CEO, Etihad ESCO.

Bushnaq pointed out that the UAE is fostering a green economic model that follows the guidance of the United Nations Environment Programme’s Green Economy Coalition, adding that the nation has clear policy backing to reduce the carbon footprint and drive a green service market. The session defined the concept of the green economy and how the governmental policy framework, building and retrofit industry and green service market are functioning as its essential parameters. The panelists also pointed out that the green job market has gained traction in the country, supported by training programmes.

Another highlight of the Congress was a discussion on ‘Green Buildings: The Silent Climate Change Mitigation Heroes of a City’ by Curt Garrigan, Cities and Buildings Programme Manager for the United Nations Environment Programme – Division of Technology, Industry and Economics. He is also the coordinator of the Sustainable Buildings and Climate Initiative Coordinator, UNEP, a global public-private initiative to promote sustainable buildings.  

The discussion was further reiterated through a panel discussion on ‘Green Buildings: The Super Heroes of a City,’ moderated by Saeed Al Abbar. The panelists included: David Pine-Coffin, Associate Director, JLL; Gauthier Dupont, Director, Clean Energy & Sustainability Services, E&Y; and Abeer Manneh, Urban Designer, Woods Bagot. The panel discussed the UAE’s achievements in managing air pollution, improving energy efficiency and green urbanism, and how green buildings are considered as the key enablers of international priorities in climate change. The panelists presented a sector-based approach on how green buildings directly and positively affect every-day life in terms of resources management, well-being and comfort.

As part of the afternoon session, ‘Green is the new Black: New Market Innovations and Trends’, case studies were presented by Dr. Mousa Mohsen, Director, RAK Research and Innovation Centre; and Marwa Nahlawi, Architectural Design Manager, The Sustainable City.

The second day of the EGBC Congress includes a visit to The Sustainable City, a 5 million square feet project that was conceived to be a world-class example of what can be achieved through a commitment to sustainability. The delegates will also attend a workshop on net zero energy buildings and sustainable cities co-facilitated by EmiratesGBC and The Sustainable City.

The 4th annual EGBC Congress is supported by BASF as the Sustainability Sponsor, Brookfield Multiplex as the Innovation Sponsor and Al Abbar Group as the Workshop Sponsor.