Trends that Will Drive Sustainable Construction in Coming Years

Rising carbon emission levels and climate change have become key concerns for the world to address. The West is facing a serious brunt of it. Many towns and counties in the UK, Portugal, Canada, and the US were in the headlines recently for facing devastation due to heat waves. The UK and Canada recorded their highest temperature ever, going past 40 degrees Celsius

According to the article published by NASA Earth Observatory titled – Effects of Changing the Carbon Cyclerising carbon dioxide concentrations and increasing greenhouse gasses have caused the planet to heat up. Due to this, the average global temperatures have risen 0.8 degrees Celsius (1.4 degrees Fahrenheit) since 1880. The built environment has been one of the biggest culprits behind rising temperature levels globally. Buildings account for nearly 40% of all greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs), according to Architecture 2030. Furthermore, other activities related to the construction of buildings such as transportation are adding ‘fuel to the fire’. 

99% of the Buildings Causes Harm to the Environment

The report by the World Green Building Council (WorldGBC) reveals that at present, there are only 500 net-zero commercial buildings and 2,000 net-zero homes around the globe (which is under 1% of all buildings worldwide). This means that over 99% of the buildings are causing harm to the environment, creating an immediate urge to construct sustainable buildings in the coming years. By building green, the real estate sector can reduce the impact of buildings on climate change while also building resilience in our homes and communities.

Why Sustainable Construction is Important for the UAE?

Sustainable construction is the foundation of a holistic built environment. It leads residents towards an improved and healthy lifestyle and also minimizes the adverse impact of construction on the environment. By building green, we can reduce our buildings’ impact on contributing to climate change while also building resilience in our homes and communities. Sustainable construction practices are immensely important for the UAE as the region derives 5.5-7% of its GDP from the built environment. Dubai accounts for the highest GDP from real estate among all emirates. According to the 2021 annual report released by the Dubai Land Department titled – Dubai Real Estate Sector Performance,the contribution of the real estate sector has reached up to 14%. However, this monumental growth is coming at a heavy price. 

The real estate sector accounts for most of the carbon emissions. Furthermore, residents of the buildings use air-conditioning, refrigerators, gas, and other electronic appliances which further increase the carbon emissions. Currently, the UAE is one of the top 30 carbon emitters globally on a per capita basis and stands at the 28th Spot with 23.37  CO2 Emissions per capita according to Worldometer. This creates a need to embrace sustainable construction to protect the environment and reduce resource depletion. To minimize carbon emissions, the UAE government is encouraging sustainable and greener construction and has launched the 2050 Net-Zero strategic initiative (a national drive to achieve Net Zero emissions by 2050) and become the first nation in the Middle East to achieve this milestone. Amid rising awareness about sustainability and government push to minimize carbon emissions, these are the top 5 trends in the UAE that will drive sustainable construction in the coming years.

1. Surge in the Usage of Greener Materials

In the last few years, there has been a massive increase in the usage of greener and more innovative materials such as – graphene during the construction process. Graphene has become a preferred choice of developers due to its strengths in supporting green construction materials. The research suggests that graphene is 200 times stronger than steel and 1,000 times lighter than paper. Furthermore, it is also very flexible and conductive thermally and electrically. Incorporating graphene in the construction process results in a high yield of concrete without any defects. Graphene’s usage on building sites ensures sustainable and robust construction of the building while reducing greenhouse gas emissions. UAEs prominent renewable energy company, Masdar has joined hands with the University of Manchester’s flagship facility, The Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre (GEIC) to support graphene commercialization. The company has also made considerable investments in an international innovation centre dedicated to graphene.

2. Implementation of Emerging Technologies

The implementation of emerging technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI), and the Internet of Things (IoT) has played a key role in leading the real estate sector towards sustainable construction. With the help of IoT, construction engineers can collect all important information about the condition of the materials, building parts, and equipment with real-time information pertaining to sustainability which can be harnessed with the implementation of AI and Modeling to evaluate, visualize, compare, and predict scenarios to make wiser decisions. The research suggests that the implementation of IoT makes buildings responsive, and intelligent, improvises their performance, minimizes defects, monitors their performance, and makes timely adjustments based on the dynamic environmental conditions. This in turn makes the building more efficient, minimizes their carbon emissions, and leads them towards sustainability. 

3. Data Analytics

Data analytics is gaining traction as the real estate sector is moving towards becoming more sustainable. It allows developers to monitor systems and forecast the problems well in advance and take timely actions to prevent downtime, plan for future simulations and explore & capitalize on a plethora of opportunities. The Digital Twin concept is an integral aspect of the process. It empowers real estate companies by consolidating the data pertaining to the building or the site. This way Digital Twin technology allows developers to improve the sustainability of the building, improve the efficiency of its assets, maximize its efficiency and reduce its carbon emissions. Another crucial data analytics tool in this journey of moving the real estate sector towards sustainability is Building Information Modeling (BIM). Its role is also crucial in minimizing wasteful construction throughout the project lifecycle and ensuring sustainable maintenance and operations.

4. Modular Construction

Modular construction has gone through a list of technological improvements and upgrades to stand tall on the clients’ expectations regarding sustainability and drive investment. Some of the key factors which make modular construction a preferred choice for construction are its technological improvement & upgrades, usage of sustainable building materials, cost-effectiveness, efficiency, and faster turnaround time. Modular construction is also very environmentally-friendly as it minimizes the wastage of resources which leads to lower carbon emissions. It leads to the development of high-performing and versatile buildings. 

5. Smart Retrofitting

Smart Retrofitting is one of the wisest and most cost-effective solutions to overcome sustainability concerns arising due colossal rise in the number of new developments in Dubai. Conducting deep renovations is far better than conducting superficial renovations due to its cost and environmental benefits. Superficial renovations release CO2 emissions and repel national governments from meeting their climate targets. Smart technology can further minimize the emissions from retrofitting. The research conducted by Lateral reveals that emissions from retrofitting office buildings can be minimized and reduced up to 70% by tapping into smart technology.

Smart Retrofitting is proving to be a boon for the built environment in constructing smart buildings. It will empower the nations in protecting the environment. Smart Retrofitting can play an instrumental role in empowering Dubai and the UAE in accomplishing their UAE Energy Strategy 2050. It will also assist the Dubai Supreme Council of Energy in reducing the city’s energy demand by 30% by 2030 and in meeting its energy conservation goals.