Sustainable Development in the Green Building Sector

Topics: Green Building


Along with greenhouse gas emissions from the various sectors it has been a grave threat to the environment (Ali, 2008). The building sector alone comprises of 40% of the total emissions from the various sectors put together. Hence it is important to reduce the emissions from this sector in order to tackle the issue of climate change. Introducing sustainable construction practices and policies such as LEED can significantly reduce the energy and water consumption in buildings. Dubai made it mandatory for new constructions to get LEED Certified from the advent of 2008, but the success of this is debatable.

This report looks into the barriers these sustainable policy introductions has brought in and analyse the reasons why these regulatory and voluntary instruments were not very effective in tackling or dealing with these issues. By understanding these barriers and policies and framing them accordingly would be a very efficient idea as far as sustainable development would be concerned.

For the better understanding and acceptance of this policies quantitative and observational research methodologies were adopted.

Many stakeholders related to the construction industry were interviewed using open ended questions to understand how they accepted and responded to the new sustainability norms introduced in Dubai since 2008. This report concludes that several barriers include such as a) financial, b) market related, c) behavioural and organizational, d) political and structural, d) technical and e) information barriers hindered the introduction of sustainable construction practices in Dubai (Ali, 2009).  Further it was understood that these policies failed to mention environmental goals and about the financial incentives given to the developers.

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As a final outcome the paper concludes by giving suggestions to increase the number of LEED certifies projects in Dubai as a first step towards fighting climatic change. Keywords- Climate change, sustainable construction practices, Dubai World, Green Dubai Resolution, LEED.


The Middle East regions are facing many constraints with regard to existing political and social issues nevertheless they have tried to come forward with better sustainable practices in both design as well as in the field of construction. Out of all the other sections building sector is the one that consumes the most energy at 40% of the total produced energy. Due to this very factor it is of utmost importance to address this sector. The world business council for sustainable development has estimated that using commercially available technologies in the building sector can reduce significant amount of energy consumption forgetting the general arguments on maintenance of such buildings being very high. Hence green construction has become one of the major milestones for sustainable development in the present century.

Green building is considered to be more energy efficient consume less water nontoxic and more durable with quality spaces and high recycled material than the conventional ones. Sustainable construction practices are tools developed for green buildings to reduce the impact of building sector on the environment and occupants trying to balance the long term economic, environmental and social health aspects. The Middle East with its rapid growing population and improved tourism sector demands increased infrastructural developments and modern building projects including retail offices and residence. The total money spent for construction projects in 2013 by GCC was estimated to be US dollars 1.67 trillion which the kingdom of Saudi Arabia and UAE accounting to more than 68% of the total. As the whole world is moving towards a more sustainable one, the Middle East as understood that its high time they start implementing policies in support of the idea of sustainable development. This report basically focuses on the challenges and opportunities faced by the Middle East also keeping in mind the difficulties faced with the showcasing of the plans in the built environment industry. The clarity that the literature gives is that many authors talk about the benefiting side of the sustainable development while on the other hand others talk about the barriers involved in implementing these practices. Through various case studies it is understood that the implementation of good set of regulation and policy base mechanism is prospectively effective in the achievement of energy efficiency in the building sector, even though there has been no effective studies that had been carried out on how these policy instruments where implemented in Dubai to bring about a sustainable development in the building sector.

Leadership and Energy and Environmental Design (Leed)

LEED which is basically developed by the US Green Building Council is an Internationally Recognised Green Building System which primarily provides third party verification which are basically aimed in improving the performance across all such matters which are very important, as water efficiency energy saving emission reduction levels of CO2, indoor improvements all in the aspects of environmental quality and their respective impacts. LEED has in its credit around 35000 projects around the world registered at the US Green Building council to design Green Buildings and made its mark as one of the most successful design tools all the while remaining as a voluntary certification in most parts and also retains as a mandatory tool for the private and public developments in certain other government agencies.

Dubai Presentation of the study Object

Urban Development of Dubai

Dubai a country which is located south of the Persian Gulf on the Arabian Peninsula one of the seven emirates of the United Arab Emirates(UAE) which has the largest population with the second largest land territory by area of all the other emirates after the country of Abu Dhabi. A remarkable urban development has been experienced by Dubai around the beginning of the 20th century. The transition from preindustrial to post-industrial status occurred over a span of two centuries in major western cities which was argued by Dumper and Stanley (2007) whereas the transformation of Dubai took only 50 years. The tribal culture of the region is the route of the origins of modern Dubai .800 members of the Bali Yas Tribe migrated from Abu Dhabi and founded Dubai in the year 1833 ( (Pacione, 2005) Dubai as a commercial hub was reinforced after the Persian Government imposed a very high level of custom duties on the merchants and traders operating from their respective ports by the year 1902. As a consequence of this Indian trading also expanded its scope which included merchants, craftsmen and their families to the superior economic climate of Dubai. Dubai experienced a very slow urban expansion until 1955 which was a period characterised by major economic constraints. 10,000 inhabitants was majorly concentrated in three basic residential quarters of Deira covering almost 3.2 of urban area.

The first master plan of Dubai saw its development between the years 1956 and 1970 which was considered a period of its growth in lines of the emirates pre oil resources. The John Harris master plan which called for the provisions of the road systems, zoning of the town into areas of different uses of land and a new creation of a town centre. The construction of the first house using concrete blocks in 1956 and the land ownership definitions under the Arab Islamic traditions which basically emphasised that any plot of land that had been procured and occupied by a homestead for a certain period belongs to the inhabitant of the set place and the remaining land fell under the disposal of the ruler where mainly seen in this period. The availability of oil and gas resources paved the way for the more ambitious master plan which was brought into action by John Harris. Ring roads around the city as well as several infrastructural projects included a tunnel to connect Bur Dubai and Deira and the construction of Al Maktoum and Al Garhoud bridges linking both sides of the creek were included in this plan. The planning of Port Rashid and a large residential area extending towards Jabel Ali now called Jumeira were also seen in this period. The new commercial and financial centre of the city known as New Dubai the corridor along Sheikh Zayed road also emerged as a result.

The city experienced a period of rapid urban expansion between the years 1980-2002 in terms of the scale as well as the diversity of project and the spread of the city. A major decree that allowed foreigners to buy and own properties in selected areas of the city from the year 2002 until 2009 resulted in an unparalleled construction boom. Through this period city state of Dubai went through the world’s largest annual population and net immigration growth and its urban areas were designated to grow from approximately 604 km.sq in 2004 to an astounding 1106 km.sq in 2015. During the same period the water and energy consumption in Dubai increased by 113% and 75% respectively. The oil and natural gas revenues allowed the Dubai government to diversify to oil relied economy from a trade relied economy and that which is serviced and tourism oriented. The government subsequently represented and fronted by almost exclusively Sheik Muhammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum as the ruler of Dubai holding interest in a humongous variety of commercial enterprises.

4.2 Barriers to Implement Sustainable Construction practices

The Barriers for implanting Sustainable Practices in Dubai include-

1) Financial Barriers a) First Cost/ Green premium b) Hidden Cost/ soft benefits

2) Market Related Barriers a) No benefit from investments

3) Behavioural and Organisational Barriers a) Lack of trust in new technology b) Lack of time to adapt to new requirements

4) Political and structural barriers a) Corruption b) Lack of enforcement

5) Technical Barriers a) Lack of well-defined sustainable construction practices

6) Information barrier a) Lack of qualified personnel

Policy Instruments to Promote sustainable construction

His highness Muhammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Dubai’s leader on the 24’th October 2017 issued a resolution that made it mandatory for all new commercial and residential building projects to comply with recognised sustainable practices on an International Level in the perspective of turning Dubai into Green Dubai. By laying strong emphasis on sustainability the decree did not emphasise how the Dubai entities were to respond. The individual companies were to take the sustainability imitative further. Some companies like Dubai holding made it a point to mandate a LEED certificate for certain selected projects for example the union properties or Thani Investments which had not announced what standards they follow. The government owned investment company that controls the largest areas of Dubai, Dubai World Properties and also on which lands the better part where the major new projects have been developed, mandated by the US JVC LEED Certifications for all those buildings that had been built on its land. LEED was modified with a view to customise its rating systems to local needs by modifying all new constructions to achieve a minimum of at least 32 LEED credits and a very minimal goal certification for all its available water front properties. (Ali, 2008)5 Discussions Transformation of the construction market and the subsequent regulations prescribed a LEED certification for all of the new projects was the main intention of the “Green Dubai” resolution (Pacione, 2005).

The implemented instruments failed in its efficiency both in the recognition and in the dealing with the barriers arising out of such transformation suggested by the analysis. Clarity on the scope of policies and environmental goals were not provided or mentioned. Furthermore no financial considerations in terms of incentives to both investors as well as developers were taken into account and the enforcement mechanisms implemented were weak. The possibility that a number of factors influence the analysis and conclusions of this paper is very high (Ali, 2008). Firstly the slow down by the construction market experienced by Dubai since 2009 was the reason behind the low number of LEED certified projects. Secondly given the fact that this paper does not have in its inclusion any assessments nor inputs from any government officials whatsoever and therefor its analysis and conclusion could be regarded one sided. The possibility therefor that the various government agencies viewed the results achieved as a very high positive rate of development.

The process demand a considerable amount of time was made evident for once by a number of studies relating to the construction market transformation. Thereby confirming that there can be no dramatic changes which are to be expected in just a span of few years. The resolution in the changing of some of the dynamics within Dubai’s construction market has been an effective additionally. In the initial stages the developers had very little to zero understanding of any requirements nor certification process. The newly added requirements on the contrary gave an unprecedented view of interest in the field of sustainable construction practices (Ali, 2008). The obtaining of LEED AP 14 professional accreditation in Dubai by professionals increased from 12810 between the span of 2007-2011. In spite of these transparent weaknesses this paper shows any made attempt to change construction markets which will also face n number of barriers. The above mentioned has to be identified and perceived so that it might be developed as appropriate regulatory or voluntary instruments (Ali, 2008). All these end results gets its deserved significance as a result of the number of Middle Eastern governments that are already in the process of implementing sustainable construction regulations.

In the year 2010 for example the Abu Dhabi Government came forth and launched the pearl rating system which was part of the Estidama 15 programme which was basically a customised Green Building Rating System which sets the sustainable construction practices for all projects developed within the country.


The major hindrances Dubai’s construction market was facing when complying with mandatory sustainable construction practices were some of the following:

1) Very less information was given with respect to the goals the implemented instruments was to achieve thereby allowing a very broad range of interpretations giving a possibility for misinterpretations.

2) No clear picture was provided on the policies scope. Whereas in the theoretical perspective all new developments were mandated to follow internationally accepted and recognised Green construction Practices, only Dubai World developed specialised regulations that were to be followed. No further information as to which standards were to be followed outside Dubai World was provided.

3) The cost increase for the sustainable construction meant very lengthy pay back durations for these investments thereby in the end making such projects look unattractive. This phenomenon is especially evident in the time when the regulation policies did not give a tiered approach. It’s yet to be seen which results will be produced by the amended regulation.

4) The Green Dubai resolution came into effect two months after it being announced that the construction markets stake holder had very less time to accept understand and acclimatised to the new requirements.

5) There were no enforcement mechanisms that were considered for the first two years. The one and only real barrier the developers had to face and get over so as to obtain the construction permit from the Dubai World was to show and demonstrate that their respective projects were “Certifiable on paper”. The enforcement remains weak as only one mechanism has been included for some projects today.

6) The incompleteness due to that lack of a local Building code generated a humongous confusion for the better part of the designing community. There was very little agreement on how these requirements of imported construction practices should be included in the construction processes that were already established. While the master developers and the authorities put up with the designs based on the several international building cods the designers were still unfamiliar with the assumptions, requirements, the stimulation tools and the limitations the US GBC mandates. In addition to this the efforts to customise and modify the system were in vain as a number of requirements still remain non applicable.

7) A lack of awareness generically above the possibilities the potentials of design solutions and the techniques that the so called designers were reluctant specifying new technologies or construction methodologies. In addition to the demanding market pays investors given were basically unable to identify or recognise any benefits that they could prospectively capitalise from.

The current instruments could increase the number of LEED projects in Dubai after being subjected to the following changes.

1) The government agencies would do very well evidently in using institutions that are already established such the emirates green building council in order to develop a participatory process that would undeniably give all stakeholders an opportunity to discuss perceive and understand as well as be prepared to face the requirements of the future. Furthermore ahead this forum could become pivotal and instrumental in the development of new regulations that possibly enable the persuading of a LEED certification in all the areas under the Emirate, as opposed to only those coming under the control of Dubai World.

2) The Dubai world should seriously consider the gradual easement of the regulations and rules that mandates the use of a small number of selected LEED AP in developing the projects. This methodology would thereby not only make a reduction in the project cost but also eradicate any holdups by allowing a large number of currently available LEED AP to be working on the project design.

Cite this page

Sustainable Development in the Green Building Sector. (2022, May 16). Retrieved from

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