EmiratesGBC Networking Seminar highlights steps to improve air quality inside buildings
Emirates Green Building Council (EmiratesGBC), an independent forum aimed at conserving the environment by strengthening and promoting green building practices, underlined the measures that can be adopted to improve air quality and the role of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) in adversely impacting green building design at its recent Networking Seminar.
The discussion on ‘What’s in our buildings’ was addressed by representatives of EmiratesGBC, Dubai Central Laboratory, Griffin Consultants, Flowcrete, Mapei and Caparol. Each highlighted the importance of using materials that minimise the emission of VOCs, and the practical steps to improve the air quality of interiors.
Saeed Al Abbar, Chairman of EmiratesGBC, said: “Indoor air quality is a critical consideration for sustainability in the region as people spend more than 90 percent of their time indoors. It is therefore critical to ensure sufficient fresh air is provided to our buildings and harmful chemicals are not introduced into the indoor environment. While there are clear guidelines on industry best practices to be followed to ensure healthy indoor air quality, this is an aspect often overlooked by building managers. The seminar on ‘What’s in our buildings’ put the spotlight on Volatile Organic Compounds and how they interfere with green building designs, especially in relation to indoor air quality.
“As our experts reminded during the event, even if design and construction can make a building ‘green,’ the wrong usage of products and poor maintenance of ventilation systems can reverse the effect and make buildings unhealthy. It is therefore important for the industry stakeholders to give it serious consideration. Such Networking Seminars by EmiratesGBC serve as a credible platform for all industry stakeholders to meet and discuss the most critical challenges and the promising opportunities in promoting green buildings in the UAE and the region.”
Eng. Ali Ahmed Elian of Dubai Central Laboratory opened the Seminar by presenting Dubai Municipality’s regulations, on existing testing facilities and on the schemes to register products and to label paints and solvents based on their low VOC content. He pointed out that while industry stakeholders do test their products for VOCs in-house, about 22 percent of the samples provided for third-party certification at the Central Lab are found to be not compliant with the Dubai Municipality standards.
Sumeet Parkar of Caparol, Hassan Younes of Griffin, Vik Vithlani of Flowcrete and Vince Robinson of Mapei highlighted the negative impacts of VOCs on human health, and the need to use paints with low VOCs. The discussion stressed that with 90 percent of the time spent indoors, it is important for everyone to prioritise indoor air quality and ensure that the environment one breathes in is healthy. This will help prevent health risks and also mitigate hidden costs on the building’s operations, such as sick leave by employees, and low cognitive results of students, among others.
Panelists also explained that profit making unfortunately remains a key factor for some contractors and owners, and that some manufacturers are reluctant to enter the ‘green’ market because of the costs and processes to have their products tested and certified, which can be high and stringent, and with a risk of failing.
The panelists and audience agreed on the need to implement stricter onsite controls dedicated to how the products and equipment are being used, mixed or installed. End-users also need to be educated on their indoor environment to make better decisions and become responsible consumers, owners and tenants. This includes the choice of paint they use indoors, the knowledge on indoor air quality-related equipment such as HVAC and exhausts, and their maintenance and cleaning.
Through its rich calendar of events throughout the year, EmiratesGBC allows the industry and the local authorities to address critical topics with the aim to be the catalyst of change and a platform for education.
In this, EmiratesGBC Technical Guidelines for Retrofitting Existing Buildings can provide information to owners and tenants to support their projects and guide them to finding the right solutions for a variety of building topics, including Indoor Air Quality.