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Expert Insight

Green construction in Kuwait: Dr Moetaz El Hawary, Kuwait University

‘Going Green’ is the hottest trend in the global construction sector. In fact, a recent Green Building Trends survey states that 51% of respondent firms have committed to incorporating sustainability into more than 60% of their projects by the end of 2015.

Dr Moetaz El Hawary, Kuwait UniversityA ‘green’ building not only results in better health and increased productivity but also minimises its impact on the environment by limiting emission of greenhouse gases (GHG) over its entire lifecycle. It incorporates designs, technologies and raw material that make efficient use of non-renewable resources such as oil, gas and water.

US Green Building Council statistics indicate that conventional buildings consume almost 36% of total energy, 65% of electricity, 30% of raw material, and 12% of potable water. Moreover, they are responsible for 30% of GHG emissions and 30% of waste outputs amounting to 136 million tonnes a year.

Current global trends in green building include green architecture, zero-energy buildings, use of sustainable construction materials, water and wastewater management, low-emittance windows, and cool roofs. Green architecture efficiently uses materials, energy, and space to minimise the negative environmental impact. Zero-energy buildings, on the other hand, use a mix of biodegradable, recycled and sustainable construction materials as well as avail of renewable energy such as biofuel through specialised equipment such as solar cells and panels and wind turbines to save power and reduce GHG emissions. Since buildings utilise 13.6% of the world’s potable water (15 trillion gallons per year), it is essential to incorporate water-efficient technology such as rainwater harvesting, reuse of greywater, and on-site sewage treatment. Likewise, low-emittance windows and cool roofs bring down heating, ventilation and air condition (HVAC) costs and reduce the heat island effect in urban areas, thus decreasing the amount of GHG emissions by deflecting sunlight and heat.

Aside from enhancing the safety, comfort and health of its occupants, a sustainable building also results in affordability, quality and competence over the long-term. Unlike in the past, technological innovations have made it possible to make cost-effective eco-friendly homes. Green buildings are being adopted to control operating costs and reduce GHG emissions in the Middle East and especially in the GCC. GCC governments have come up with their own green building codes, standards and practices, with the UAE taking the lead.

There is growing concern and awareness about environmental issues and sustainability within Kuwait’s government, professional bodies, researchers and construction companies. The Kuwait Council of Ministers’ Decree No. 1145, dated August 16, 2010, established the National Committee of Building Codes of Kuwait (NCOBC). The committee plans to draft its own codes following a rigorous review of leading international and regional ‘green building’ codes such as Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED), Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Methodology (BREEAM), Estidama, and Global Sustainability Assessment Team (GSAS).

Currently, a local government project – EPWD Building – is under construction using the GSAS Rating System. Being built on a 4,670 square metre plot of land with a built-up area of 33,000 square metre at a value of $43m, the office building will feature three basements, a ground floor, nine storeys, and a parking bay for 220 cars. The building will accommodate 275 employees and visitors. In addition, Kuwait’s new international airport will set a new environmental benchmark for airport buildings since its design is inspired by local architectural designs and materials and responsive to the country’s hot climate. The terminal building aims for LEED Gold certification and become the world’s first passenger terminal to attain a high environmental accreditation, establishing Kuwait as the region’s leading air hub. Moreover, electricity stations that utilise solar energy are being installed, with research projects being conducted to improve the efficiency of such facilities.

The concept of green buildings is still in the early stages within Kuwait’s construction sector compared to neighbouring UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Oman. Intensive support from both government and private sectors is required to implement the concept, strengthened by effective governmental policies and legislations to ensure 100% implementation in future projects.  The main responsibility lies with the government to encourage the implementation and adoption of sustainable construction to ensure the least impact on the environment. Improving the knowledge and level of awareness of sustainable applications should be undertaken, with a focus on issuing proper guidelines, organising trainings and workshops, and providing incentives to promote green construction.