Event insider: Dubai sustainability forum

We attended the 4th Annual Cost-Effective Sustainable Design & Construction Summit held at Park Hyatt Dubai from March 7-10 to bring you a brief insight into the event.

4th Annual Cost-Effective Sustainable Design & Construction Summit, Masdar, Mark Siddorn

Developers, consultants, architects, suppliers and several owners turned out to this year’s 4th Annual Cost-Effective Sustainable Design & Construction Summit.


First to take the podium on day one, Masdar manager – sustainable developments Mark Siddorn delivered his ‘Understanding Sustainable Cities’ speech, which raised questions among the audience about building materials.


Al Arsh Properties director Adnan Sharafi, in the audience, asked whether Gypsum, a soft mineral composed of calcium sulphate dihydrate, could be used instead of concrete in structures, considering its traditional function in old Emirati buildings, such as the Bastakiya area in Dubai.


Siddorn responded saying he wasn’t aware that Gypsum was structurally sound for this use, to which Sharafi replied that it could be strengthened. Siddorn revealed that Masdar City was, in fact, largely constructed from‘ green concrete’, with terracotta used externally on some buildings. On the subject of green concrete, consultancy and supplier Grey Matters managing director Rabih Fakih presented a collection of statistics illustrating the environmental impact of conventional cement production.


Fakih said up to 3.8% of global CO2 released comes from cement production. Most of the harmful CO2 emissions are produced during the burning of fossil fuels, calcination and while operating mining equipment in the production process. He said that around 900-1100kg of CO2 is released during the production of every 1000kg of Portland cement. “Furthermore, the vast amount of waste to landfill is construction waste; a lot of this is concrete,” continued Fakih.


Here, the event chairman and Hyder Consulting regional director — value management and sustainability Stephen Oehme interrupted to say that the level of CO2 emissions released often varied manufacturer to manufacturer. Later, BSRIA UK building analyst Roderic Bunn presented an analysis of post-project performance for green buildings using a methodology called ‘Soft Landings’. He pointed out that many industry members were “flying blind” in terms of sustainability, with design inputs often failing to generate the desired outcome.


Bunn said he didn’t believe in “environmental checklists” and that you could not take LEED and believe you are meeting environmental targets. Often energy-saving solutions, such as infra-red detection lights, have the adverse effect of using unnecessary energy because they are triggered to come on even during daylight hours, he pointed out. “The industry is full of contradictions,” added Bunn.


He suggested that the most effective way to meeting environmental targets was perhaps the ‘Soft Landings Approach’, which involves a professional after-care period of three years, and adds less than 0.5% to the cost of the project. For more information on this initiative, visit www.bsria.com/bookshop Audience member, Saudi Green Building Council head Sultan Faden commented; he said one of the reasons he referred to the LEED system was because it was accessible and easy to become acquainted with.


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