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Green design in the Emirates- it is not about the bling…..

Sustainability By Richard Stratton, Partner & Managing Director, EMENA – 17 June 2015

Front view of a geometric building against a blue sky


Richard Stratton smiling in-front of the camera with his navy blue suit at our Cundall Dubai WELL office

Richard Stratton

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When I tell people I design buildings in the Emirates, everyone thinks of the lavish buildings which match the perceived lavish lifestyle of the residents and visitors that typically gets depicted on the television. And yes, there is a lot of bling to varying degrees across the region, and I have been involved in various projects that incorporated quite opulent features. However, there is a greater proportion of normality that doesn’t make the international press and a project we have completed that I enjoy talking about, and that represents this most, is the American University of Sharjah. The focus was on performance and not the prize - a sustainable building that benefited its occupants and the environment with no frills or unnecessary bling.

Despite the hard work and efforts of many organisations and government bodies, sustainability and the Emirates are not often associated, so when the American University of Sharjah appointed us to design their new service centre in 2010, I was pleasantly surprised that the client wanted sustainability to be at the heart of the design. They wanted it to be a catalyst for sustainability in the whole University campus. This was especially pleasing as there were no sustainability regulations in force at the time in Sharjah.

The University made a morally driven decision under our guidance to not go for a formal LEED rating, as the construction market at that time was charging a premium for building LEED rated buildings. We proposed that the money saved was reinvested to further add to the green credentials of the campus development, whilst still using the LEED guidelines as a framework for green design.

Sustainability elements included

  • A mini-district cooling system which services approximately 50% of the campus
  • Detailed façade/envelope analysis to optimise between energy consumption and daylight penetration
  • Sun-pipes to introduce natural lighting to the Warehouse
  • Mixed mode cooling strategy for the Warehouse
  • Night cooling strategy for the Campus Service Centre and Youth Centre
  • Occupancy sensing/daylight dimming for all artificial lighting systems
  • Solar hot water heating

The result, the energy and water consumption and environmental impact has been reduced while the Indoor Environment Quality (IEQ) has improved providing a better working environment for staff. For example - the Director of Campus Development told me he thought the façade design was excellent because he only ever turned on his air conditioning during the hottest summer days and only for about 2 hours per day.

The University are keen to build upon this experience for their future projects.

Oh and we do have a bit of bling…… last month we won the Emirates Green Building Council Award.