Tara Tariq, Technical Officer
Emirates Green Building Council

As of 2014, all sustainable planning in the UAE is directed by the Government’s National Agenda 2021, which aims to promote a sustainable environment and infrastructure within the UAE. While the nation has secured an environmentally conscious identity for its future planning and growth, another and more pressing challenge for authorities also lies with the country’s current ecological footprint.

Approximately 74% of the UAE’s ecological footprint is a result of carbon emissions brought about by the generation of energy, the burning of fossil fuels, and the operation of its existing inefficient buildings1,2.

Local Environmental Awareness

Since 2007, the UAE has taken significant policymaking efforts to prevent the increase in its carbon emissions. The country now excels in implementing sustainable building rating standards towards the construction of its new buildings and communities. It has also developed its own building rating standard that uniquely addresses the intersection of regional, environ-mental, economic as well as cultural factors. However, its efforts to develop codes, implementation frameworks and retrofit criteria that would improve the operational energy efficiency of its existing building stock are still ongoing.

Reducing Operational Energy Usage

The UNEP’s 2014 Sustainable Buildings and Climate Initiative (SBCI) Study estimates that exist-ing buildings account for nearly 40% of the world’s green house gas output. Operational stage energy use constitutes 80% of the gross energy used during the total life-cycle of a building, while the embodied energy used during construction accounts for 15- 20%3 of the total share. Hence the importance of operational energy efficiency of a building as an important policy agenda cannot be overstated as efforts to reduce energy use can also reduce the country’s car-bon footprint.

The UAE has a relatively smaller industrial sector and hence most of the electricity produced in the country (almost 60%), is used by its existing buildings. This fact highlights the potential of improving energy usage in the building sector. However, the uptake of energy efficiency pro-jects in existing buildings in the UAE has only started to burgeon. Beginning in Dubai, and thanks to new well-coordinated regulations, policy efforts have recently begun which aim to stimulate the market to seek more energy efficient retrofit projects.

Energy Efficiency

Currently, a substantial reduction in the operational energy use of an existing building is effec-tively achieved by:

a)Conducting energy audits, and
b)Undertaking subsequent energy efficiency retrofits.

These procedures offer significant opportunities for existing building owners to not only reduce their structures’ carbon footprint but they also offer substantial savings for owners and tenants.

Figure 1. Al-Bahar Towers, Abu Dhabi. Source:

Research conducted by the Inter Governmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC)4 found that investing and improving end-use energy efficiency (for existing building) has the highest potential for cost effective reductions in carbon emissions as opposed to increasing energy supply. Federal administrative benefits of incorporating successful energy efficiency policies also include lower economy-wide energy demand and consequently lower energy prices.5

Regulations and Incentives

The following section explores the various Emiratespecific mandates and incentives developed and implemented with the aim to improve existing buildings in the UAE:

Abu Dhabi Vision 2030

Vision 2030 was established in 2005 and included a clear emirate-wide sustainable planning agenda. Currently, Abu Dhabi’s criteria for the energy efficientretrofit of its existing buildings are still in development. Meanwhile, its successful urban planning program, Estidama, contin-ues to manage the resources and procedures needed for environmentally conscious and inte-grated development through its Pearl Rating System.

In addition, soft policies introduced by Abu Dhabi’s Regulation and Supervision Bureau (RSB) include providing residents with incentives to reduce electricity and water demand by 30%.6

The Emirate has looked into various measures to improve its existing buildings.7 The resulting policies perceive response initiatives as the most promising aspect of a successful Demand Side Management program. This will include smart buildings equipped with building management systems as well as smart building owners who are well-informed of their energy usage trends and the ways to reduce wastage.8

Dubai Integrated Energy Strategy 2030

Dubai’s Integrated Energy Strategy (DIES) 2030, aims to reduce energy demand in the Emirate by 30% by 2030. Under DIES 2030, the Dubai Supreme Council of Energy (DSCE) has configured a new DSM strategy which includes several policy agendas regulated by supporting local and federal government entities.

Dubai Supreme Council of Energy (DSCE) – Demand Side Management

The Supreme Council’s DSM strategy addresses the various ways energy use can be reduced 9. While all programs will include sustainability measures that pertain to existing buildings, pro-grams 1, 2, 3 and 4 will specifically generate policies and incentives that target operational en-ergy usage of existing buildings in the UAE. See Figure 3 below.

Energy Performance Contracting (EPC)

Working under DIES 2030, the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA) has also initiated and developed Energy Performance Contracting which uses a market based framework to sup-port energy efficiency savings. EPC which is already well established in Europe and North Amer-ica is a mechanism which promotes energy efficiency in a building at no cost to the owner. In Dubai, the DSCE, DEWA, and the the Dubai Regulatory and Service Bureau (RSB) are developing the EPC framework that is expected to improve the efficiency of over 30,000 existing buildings in Dubai by 10-40%.10

Figure 3. DSCE's Demand Side Management program factors. Blocks 1,2,3, and 04 represent regulation and incentives that also target the existing building sector.
Source: Dubai Supreme Council of Energy, Demand Side Management Strategy, 2030.

Green Advocacy

Emirates Green Building Council

The Emirates Green Building Council (EmiratesGBC) is a professional platform and member-ship-driven organization formed in 2006, with the goal of advancing green building principles that help protect the environment and foster sustainability in the United Arab Emirates.

Energy Efficiency Program

In recognition of the outstanding benefits that result from energy efficiency retrofits, the Emir-ates Green Building Council has created a taskforce of industry experts to identify the challeng-es that inhibit the implementation of energy efficiency projects in buildings in the UAE and has also proposed approaches that can be taken to overcome these challenges.

Technical Guidelines for Retrofitting Existing Buildings

In addition to its rigorous Energy Efficiency program, the Council is also completing the publica-tion of its first set of Technical Guidelines. The Guidelines serve to complement existing regula-tions and green building rating systems in the UAE.

Sound Vision and Strong Supportive Policies

The UAE’s National Agenda 2021 has enabled sustainable planning as integral to all future growth and development in the UAE. The opportunities and challenges manifest in tandem, but it is clear that the country’s policy makers are addressing the global issue of demand side man-agement and are actively targeting improvements in the energy efficiency of its existing build-ings.

< Prev Article
Website Design by Traffic