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Green buildings and sustainable urban planning in Kuwait: a wealth of business opportunities to be explored

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5 Aug 2016

The Big 5 Kuwait speaker, Dr. Ioannis Spanos, unveils the benefits of sustainable practices as the largest construction event in Kuwait launches Sustainability Day on Sept. 27, 2016.

A Chartered Energy Engineer with a PhD in the physics of energy in urban environments, shortlisted into the final three for the ‘Engineering of the Year - ME Architect Awards 2014’ and for the ‘Engineering of the Year - CW Qatar Awards 2014’: Dr. Ioannis Spanos is a point of reference in Kuwait when it comes to low energy, environmental friendly and sustainable urban solutions. With over 14 years’ experience in UK, West Africa and GCC, Dr. Spanos is Senior Sustainability Manager at KEO International Consultants, and a speaker at the upcoming The Big 5 Kuwait Show (Sept. 25 – 27, 2016, Kuwait International Fair).

Today, incorporating green building practices within Kuwait’s construction industry is decisive for meeting the country’s sustainability targets. In fact, the State of Kuwait submitted an Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INCD) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Paris last year, while its 2035 Vision Plan focuses heavily on economic diversification through infrastructure investment.

According to Dr. Spanos, “Sustainability is not just about providing something that is ‘green’: it is about providing a product of a better quality and a higher value. Good sustainability design improves residents’ quality of life and makes sustainable buildings more desirable”. Green building’s advantages are manifold. Looking at the global commercial real estate market, sustainable buildings hold the highest occupancy rate while scoring higher rents to the benefit of their developers; “And on top of that, green buildings are good for the environment”, Dr. Spanos adds.

Green buildings and sustainable urban planning in Kuwait: a wealth of business opportunities to be explored

For the development of truly sustainable cities, however, proper urban planning is paramount: “A building cannot operate in a sustainable way if surrounding facilities do not support its functions”, Dr. Spanos warns. The design of street blocks can reduce energy consumption and cooling; the design of good roads can shrink distance travelled and commuting delays; correctly designed pedestrian and bicycle paths can limit the number of cars, making individuals more active; parks correctly placed in the urban-scape can provide elements of relaxation during stressful days. “All of these urban planning elements improve and contribute to a building’s sustainability rate. Most importantly, they provide the foundation for sustainable buildings and a sustainable living”.

Dr. Spanos has no doubt about it: in future, individuals residing in sustainable cities will be happier, with a higher life satisfaction rating. “Not only will sustainability provide financial, social and environmental benefits: sustainable, smart cities will be able to do more with less”.

While more and more new buildings are designed incorporating energy efficient solutions, industry experts are researching and developing innovative ways to increase sustainability in older, existing buildings. In Kuwait, according to Dr. Spanos, “If the buildings are low rise, then external insulation may be an option. This will have a triple benefit: reduce heat losses, reduce air leakage and stop any water penetration”. High-rise buildings present bigger challenges, being extremely difficult to insulate existing walls. However, “Insulation is just a portion of potential energy efficient measures”.

According to the speaker at the Big 5 Kuwait 2016, “Nowadays, LED lighting at the cost of the fluorescence tubes, and fans of air handling units can consume 30% less of what they used to consume fifteen years ago; chillers’ efficiency also increased dramatically. If any equipment is planned to be changed, then it makes a lot of sense to go for the most efficient option. Finally, the most cost effective solution with an immediate benefit is improving the facilities’ management: studies demonstrate that buildings are currently wasting 5%-10% of their energy due to a lack of appropriate management”.

Integration of photovoltaic panels is another option when it comes to increasing a building’s sustainability rate. In Kuwait, Dr. Spanos recommends developing small scale projects on the roofs of public sector buildings first. Here, in fact, installation costs can be kept low, energy can be used within the same facility and the overall financial benefit can return directly to the public. However, in order to support the diffusion of photovoltaic integration among private individuals as well, Dr. Spanos calls for the development of large scale financially attractive plans.

Indeed, investments in green building technologies and sustainable innovations are fundamental. “Today, one of the biggest business opportunities in Kuwait’s construction industry is the development of sustainable projects, which will last for a long time providing a space where people will want to work and live.” According to Dr. Spanos, stakeholders and developers are increasingly aware of the benefits of sustainability; however, there’s still a long way to go to fully implement sustainable best practices in the local design and construction industry.

“Sustainable building techniques and materials have been tested globally, and their benefits proved”. In order for sustainability to be fully integrated in the GCC construction landscape, “Contracts and design delivery should move forward to the construction process silos and produce a more coherent approach to the design and development of the projects”. As the experience in the Western world and China demonstrate, “if zero energy buildings are designed correctly, additional costs may be very small against the overall value and payback of the final product”, Dr. Spanos commented.

Dr. Spanos will deliver a presentation on “Developing a project management approach to the design of net zero energy buildings”, at The Big 5 Kuwait 2016 on September 27, as part of the show’s first dedicated Sustainability Day. Taking place from 25 – 27 September at the Kuwait International Fair, the largest building and construction event in Kuwait will introduce innovative products, including building materials and green technologies boosting the development of sustainable projects. Hosting over 200 local and international exhibitors across 4,700 sqm of space, the last edition of The Big 5 Kuwait welcomed 7,187 participants (21% increase), including 4,570 unique visitors and approximately 200 exhibitors (43% more international exhibitors).

Alongside the exhibition, visitors will have the opportunity to attend over 20 free CPD certified workshops, including the Sustainability Day focusing on smart, sustainable, green buildings and cities on Sept. 27, 2016.

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