Sustainable Future: Built Environment and Its Role in Preserving Our Planet
Tuesday, 20 June, 2023
The concept of sustainability, the harmony between economic growth, environmental preservation, and social well-being, is more crucial today than ever before. Sustainability ensures our current needs are met without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own. This was the key message of the enlightening presentation by Adil M. Ahmed at the recent University of Wollongong in Dubai (UOWD) event titled "Sustainability & Built Environment".
Urgent Need for Sustainability
In the backdrop of data from the 2022 WWF Living Planet Report, Adil highlighted that our global ecological footprint exceeds the Earth's bio-capacity by a staggering 74%. This essentially means we're consuming our planet's resources at a pace 1.75 times faster than its recovery rate. Alongside, wildlife decline since 1970 points to a severe loss of biodiversity, highlighting the dire need for sustainable practices.
The construction and operation of buildings, contributing nearly 39% of global energy-related CO2 emissions, underlines the built environment's role in climate change. Thus, implementing sustainable practices in the construction industry is of paramount importance.
The Role of Sustainability Standards
International standards such as the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), International Finance Corporation (IFC) Performance Standards, and green building certifications like LEED provide a comprehensive framework to address these challenges. They set the benchmark for sustainable building design, construction, and operation.
Similarly, regional sustainability standards such as Dubai's ‘Al Sa’fat’, Abu Dhabi's ‘Estidama’, Ras Al Khaimah's ‘Barjeel’, Saudi Arabia's ‘Mostadam’, and Qatar's Global Sustainability Assessment System (GSAS) address specific regional issues and align with their respective strategic goals.
Such standards guide decision-making, drive innovation, and ensure accountability, creating a common language for stakeholders to foster a more resilient and environmentally friendly built environment.
Challenges and Solutions in the Middle East
The Middle East faces unique challenges, notably water scarcity and high energy consumption. Less than 1% of the Earth's total water is readily accessible for human consumption, and by 2030, water scarcity could displace an estimated 700 million people globally. This compels us to prioritize sustainable water management in construction and building operations.
Sustainable construction practices emphasize water-efficient technologies, low-flow fixtures, water recycling systems, and efficient irrigation methods. Green infrastructure solutions like rainwater harvesting and water-sensitive urban design contribute significantly to the region's sustainable water management.
Furthermore, energy is a critical concern in the Middle East due to high temperatures and energy-intensive buildings. Sustainable building designs, smart technologies, and efficient insulation help reduce the energy demand for cooling and heating. Use of renewable energy systems such as solar panels or wind turbines helps offset carbon-intensive energy sources.
The Green Building Advantage
Green buildings, enhancing indoor environmental quality, material resourcefulness, and waste management practices, offer a solution to climate change. These structures yield several benefits, including improved satisfaction, better productivity, reduced operational costs, and enhanced well-being. They contribute to the economy by creating jobs, driving innovation, and fostering sustainable development.
The sustainability standards serve as a roadmap for stakeholders to align their efforts and collaborate towards a more sustainable built environment. By embracing green buildings, we can reduce CO2 emissions, conserve resources, and create healthier, more resilient communities. Governments, organizations, and individuals must work together to prioritize sustainability and promote sustainable construction practices, helping realize a sustainable and low-carbon future.
UOWD believes that academic institutions have a crucial role in nurturing future leaders who understand and prioritize sustainability in decision-making. Together, let's shape a sustainable future for our planet.