Construction Week June 2022 issue

The Art of Designing Energy Efficiency with Net Zero

Rome was not built in a day, or so the saying goes; In November 2021, the UAE pledged to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 and, in doing so, became the first Gulf state to commit to a timeline to decarbonize its economy and fully reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions. 

Not that this happened out of the blue; the UAE has been heavily financing clean energy projects such as Masdar, Sustainable City, and the Barakah nuclear plant for over 15 years, inexorably pushing the sustainability envelope in the region and worldwide. The country has always been known for its sky-high ambitions and impressive success rate, of that there is little doubt. However, the net-zero target marks a real turning point in the way things are done in the UAE and, more importantly, sets up a challenging and exciting target. It requires an exact drive for the future, challenged only by the limitations of sustainable development. 

The previously held reliance on oil is changing, and the region is shifting towards alternative options. Shifting towards an ecological mindset remains at the core of any decisions that need to be made moving forward. The UAE is proudly leading the way in the region alongside the KSA. 

Following the pledge to reduce emissions at the 2015 Paris agreement, many countries fell through on the promise to achieve short-term goals, but structurally altering the policies of a nation takes time, and changes are slowly and surely being made across the globe. In the UAE, winning the bid to host the COP28 global climate talks in 2023 further cements the seriousness and gravity of the 2050 target and, amongst other things, the future of green buildings and the built environment in the region. 

So what does net-zero mean?

Net-zero emissions are essentially focused on maintaining a balance between the greenhouse gases created and the amount that are taken out. In addition to reducing carbon emissions, there is also reliance on carbon offsetting or carbon removal. Internationally recognized guidelines require most companies to decarbonize 90-95% of all CO2 emissions through internal abatement options to reach net-zero. For the remaining 5-10% of emissions, qualifying neutralization activities can be used. Those neutralization activities are not referred to as offsets, but instead include only activities that directly pull carbon out of the atmosphere, which can be done through Direct Air Capture, bioenergy with carbon capture and storage, improved soil and forest management, and land restoration.

This is a contrast to the term ‘zero carbon,’ which concentrates on reducing existing carbon emissions to zero.

It is a well-known fact that the construction industry is a leading cause of C02 emissions, with 39% of global CO2 emissions attributed to building and construction. This means that any small changes within the industry can enormously impact the environment and climate change. Heating, ventilation, cooling, and lighting are elements we take for granted in residential and commercial buildings, but they contribute a staggering 28% of carbon emissions because of poor energy efficiency. 

So, how can buildings reduce their impact on the environment? Is there a way to negate the negative impact completely? 

This month Construction Week unveiled the 13th annual Power 100 list, one of the most anticipated rankings featuring the Middle East’s 100 most influential construction leaders. You can find the full article by Alpin’s Managing Director Nareg Oughourlian in this month’s copy of Construction Week here