Are We Serious aboiut GREEN?

This article was published in January 2015 Edition of Qatar Construction Sites Magazine.

Foreword

It seems that everybody became suddenly interested in "GREEN" to the extent that the word "GREEN" started to lose its meaning!
Today, Green is the easiest word to express your interest in achieving "sustainability" goals, if any. It has become a magic word to promote anything and everything, from cosmetics to aircrafts and from hospitality to heavy industries.
Nobody denies that Qatar has succeeded to place itself among the greatest advocates of "sustainability" worldwide since the introduction of Qatar National Vision (QNV2030) in the year 2010. The "green" concept has then emerged into the construction industry like in other sectors as well. Green building and sustainable construction became a trend in the market after the adoption of different green building rating systems (LEED/QSAS/GSAS). The trend has taken form and momentum through the subsequent initiatives that were taken by different stakeholders. From government agencies to businesses and from research houses to NGO's, we have witnessed unprecedented number of efforts & initiatives, all aiming at promoting “green” or “sustainability”. However, I can admit that after 5 years we have achieved a very little portion of what we dreamed of in 2010! Nevertheless, this is better than nothing anyway.
This raises important questions: What went wrong? Moreover, how to get better results?
From my point of view, I think we all have had good intentions in our efforts. However, most of these efforts lacked “seriousness”. I do not believe in the proverb “The road to hell is paved with good intentions”, as I am sure good intentions always lead to a better world as long as they are “serious” intentions.

First things first:

Before being "serious" about Green, let us agree that we still have a large "integration" gap as well as a large "knowledge" gap in the construction market. I believe that those two gaps are preventing us from gaining steady progress towards a sustainable community, or at least slowing down this progress.
We are doing, in fact, many un-coordinated efforts that result in missing many opportunities to realize our goals. For me, it looks like starting the construction of a high-rise building from the second floor! It simply won’t work because foundations must be constructed first. Becoming "Green" requires preparation and coordination at all organizational levels. There must be sort of "green infrastructure" or "green base" from which we can unify and launch all our efforts and ensure hitting the targets. We need to fill the knowledge gap first by more education and awareness of all aspects of sustainability, and then join forces together to fill the integration gap by more coordination & collaboration.

A1

First, there is our ecosystem, which includes us together with other living and nonliving things. This is simply the environment within which we live, work & grow. Then, there is our society as a sub-system, where we interact together and assist each other in all facets of life. Because of our social interactions, the economy system exists as a subsystem to our community. This specific hierarchy requires wise thinking and a high level of human collaboration to control and prevent a subsystem from adversely affecting or destroying the system of which it is part. Sustainability, in its essence, is to be responsible and "seriously" take part in this wise thinking (knowledge) and human collaboration (integration). In the first part of this article, we will focus on establishing a level of “knowledge” about “green” and more specifically “green building”. This will prepare the scene for the second part, which will focus on the “integration” of the missing parts of the puzzle.

Areas of Confusion:

You may be keen to participate in the "green" movement, whether seeking your own business benefits or willing to advocate sustainability. In both cases, you need to clear your understanding of some areas that came as a result of the "green" movement. The following are some areas of confusion related to the Green Building concept, which if not clarified may deviate your goal:

Product Certification/Endorsement:

“To differentiate your product or service as environmentally sound, you may want to obtain certification from an independent, third-party so that you can include their logo or "ecolabel" on your product's label and other marketing materials. Ecolabeling is important way to market your product to green consumers.” (Source: U.S. Small Businesses Administration)
Most importantly, you need to know that green building rating systems are not the right place to seek your product certification. LEED or GSAS, for example, never endorse or approve manufacturers, products, systems or materials. They are intended to guide the project teams to utilize the best practices in order to ensure a better performance of the building as a whole. However, by understanding how those assessment tools work and what they require, you will be able to align your products/services with their requirements.
I have seen many suppliers and manufacturers who were very interested to get their product or service “green certified”. They were ready to do whatever it takes them to be listed as preferred manufacturers or suppliers for LEED or GSAS rating systems. Later, they got to know that the only way to do that is through certain third-party organizations which have no existence in Qatar or GCC. Here, we may raise another important question, is there any plans for the GCC (as a consistent united entity) to have regional organizations that can provide such third-party certification? The following question should be: when?

Building Certification:

Not like product certification, a building certification process is a holistic approach to measure and assess a whole building performance against different impact categories and performance criteria. “Knowledge” is essential in understanding the implications of this process to the design and construction of the building. “Integration” becomes the next magic word in achieving the certification goal.
According to the Green Building Alliance (GBA), third-party certification is a great way to add credibility to any green building. The process of achieving certification also adds a layer of accountability and integrity for the building project teams. While a building can certainly be green and high-performing if it is not certified, there are several tangible and intangible benefits that accompany certification that cannot be as easily attained without it. Benefits include:
  • Higher rental or resale value
  • Higher occupant satisfaction
  • Higher demand
  • Lower operating costs
Third-party certification is not the only way to achieve a healthy and high-performance space, but it is certainly one of the most efficient ways to guarantee you get it done.
Every project, team, and budget will consider a variety of different delivery and verification methods for their high-performance place; however, anyone working on a green building project should review the following certification options, benefits, costs, considerations, and requirements:

QSAS/GSAS:

gsas1GSAS, Global Sustainability Assessment System (formerly known as QSAS) is developed by GORD (Gulf Organization for Research & Development) through several years of intense collaboration with the TC Chan Centre at the University of Pennsylvania, and School of Architecture at the Georgia Institute of Technology, USA and other reputed houses of expertise. GSAS was developed by drawing best practices adopted from 40 different rating systems known regionally and internationally.
GSAS is the Middle East’s first integrated and performance-based sustainability assessment system for the built environment. The systematic assessment method is applied seamlessly from the macro to a micro scales encompassing urban design, infrastructure and buildings levels.

LEED

leed1
LEED, or Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design, is transforming the way we think about how our buildings and communities are designed, constructed, maintained and operated across the globe. LEED is a green building certification program that recognizes best-in-class building strategies and practices. To receive LEED certification, building projects satisfy prerequisites and earn points to achieve different levels of certification. Prerequisites and credits differ for each rating system, and teams choose the best fit for their project.
Although GSAS and LEED are being recognized very well in Qatar and the region, many other forms of green building rating systems are available mainly in the U.S. and Europe. “Knowing” a bit about some of those systems will help you understand the different aspects of building certification and start thinking how to “integrate” your efforts to achieve better goals (Source: Green Building Alliance):

ENERGY STAR for Buildings Program

ENERY STAR was originally developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a voluntary labeling program to promote energy-efficient products and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Home Energy Rating System

The Home Energy Rating System (HERS) is an evaluation of energy efficiency and forecasted energy costs within a home.

Green Globes

The Green Globes system was based on the Building Research Establishment’s Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM) by the Canadian Standards Association.

Living Building Challenge

The Living Building Challenge (LBC), administered by the International Living Future Institute (ILFI), is a philosophy, advocacy platform, and certification program that promotes a high standard for buildings.

National Green Building Standard

The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and the International Code Council (ICC) partnered to establish a nationally recognized standard definition of green building for homes.

Net-Zero Energy Building

The International Living Future Institute (ILFI) provides a certification option for a Net Zero Energy Building (NZEB) under its umbrella of the holistic Living Building Challenge (LBC) certification.

Passive House

The Passivhaus standard was developed in Germany in the early 1990s and the first dwellings to be completed to the Passivhaus Standard were constructed in Darmstadt in 1991.

ENERGY STAR for Homes

ENERGY STAR certification was first offered for homes in 1995. Initially focused on windows, air sealing, and HVAC, the label has since been updated to apply to more components of the home including lighting, insulation, and appliances.

Class-G

Class-G is an online platform designed to track the ongoing sustainability measures enacted in existing buildings. Structured around a yes/no checklist, the system allows companies to self-certify and compare their various locations.

WELL Building Standard

Currently in its pilot phase, the WELL Building Standard focuses on the health and wellness impacts that buildings have on occupants. Areas of concentration are air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort, and mind.

BOMA 360 Performance Program

The BOMA 360 Performance Program, sponsored by Building Owners and Managers Association International, awards buildings that meet industry best practices in building management and operations.

Professional Accreditation

Let us put it in this way: buildings are “certified”, while professionals are “accredited”. Accreditation is an essential part in filling the gap of “knowledge”. You cannot expect success as a “Green” professional without testing your level of understanding and proving your capabilities through a formal accreditation exam. With new jobs specifying the need for expertise in LEED and/or GSAS, you can earn LEED/GSAS professional credentials to demonstrate your leadership in the field and in-depth knowledge of the rating systems and green building strategies. You may heard about the following degrees of “green” accreditation:

LEED GA Credential

credential cert green associate
LEED Green Associates have a documented, up-to-date understanding of the most current green building principles and practices, and are committed to their professional future. This level of accreditation is considered as the first tier of a 2-tier exam towards becoming fully accredited as LEED AP (Accredited Professional).

 

LEED AP Credential

leedprofessionals 7 0The LEED AP credential arms you with advanced knowledge in green building as well as expertise in a particular LEED rating system. There are five specialties of the exam including:
  • LEED AP (BD+C): Building Design & Construction
  • LEED AP (ID+C): Interior Design & Construction
  • LEED AP (EBOM): Existing Building Operation & Maintenance
  • LEED AP (ND): Neighborhood Development
  • LEED AP (Home): LEED for Homes
Read more about LEED Accreditation here: www.usgbc.org

GSAS CGP Credential

GORD Academy, a leading high-quality training provider center of excellence, offers a wide range of memberships and accreditations. These programs are designed to meet the skill enhancement needs of the professionals working in the construction industry.
GORD (2)To manage a project for certification, the GSAS Project Manager must be a GSAS-CGP, which means GSAS-Certified Green Professional. This credential is the starting level for candidates who wish to apply for all other credentialing schemes in the future. This title is conferred to those candidates who have earned the GSAS-CGP certification’s full requirements and by demonstrating a well-rounded understanding and knowledge of the GSAS project management through participation in the GSAS 3-day training workshop and passing the GSAS exam.
Read more about GSAS Accreditation here.

Corporate Sustainability

According to Dow Jones Sustainability Indices, Corporate Sustainability is a business approach that creates long-term shareholder value by embracing opportunities and managing risks deriving from economic, environmental and social developments. Sustainability-related megatrends are changing our world and are having a measurable impact on companies’ top and bottom lines. Long-term challenges such as resource scarcity, demographic shifts and climate change are redefining societal expectations, public policies, regulatory frameworks, and hence business environments and investment outcomes.
The quality of a company's strategy and management and its performance in dealing with opportunities and risks deriving from economic, environmental and social developments can be quantified and used to identify and select leading companies for investment purposes. For this reason, Corporate Sustainability Assessment systems have been developed in order to help identify those companies that are best equipped to recognize and respond to emerging opportunities and risks resulting from global sustainability trends.
Seemingly, the corporate sustainability is related to the attitude of a company and is used as a measure of the behavior of its business activities in terms of Environmental, Social and Economic aspects. This has nothing to do with Green Building certification, although both are addressing sustainability.

Greenwashing

According to the Greenwashing Index, greenwashing happens when a company or organization spends more time and money claiming to be “green” through advertising and marketing than actually implementing business practices that minimize environmental impact. Evidence that an organization is greenwashing often comes from pointing out the spending differences: when significantly more money or time has been spent advertising being "green" (that is, operating with consideration for the environment), than is actually spent on environmentally sound practices. Greenwashing efforts can range from changing the name or label of a product to evoke the natural environment on a product that contains harmful chemicals to multimillion dollar advertising campaigns portraying highly polluting energy companies as eco-friendly.

Conclusion

We are in a continually changing world! Things are becoming more sophisticated and complicated than ever before. The impacts of human activities are proven to be of tremendous effects on our ecosystem. This leaves us with only one option, to take sustainability to a “serious” level to achieve our national vision QNV2030. In a knowledge-based economy like the case of Qatar, knowledge become essential for everybody which mandates self-learning and sharing of knowledge and experience. On the other hand, our diversified initiatives and efforts should be unified and “integrated” to achieve real progress. In the next article, we will examine the missing components of the green building sector in Qatar, and how to integrate them together.

discoverleed

Note: the article reflects the personal perspective of the author who is aiming at improving the sustainability practices for a better Qatar. Please, keep the discussion going by contacting the author at his email: diaa (at) qatargreenleaders (dot) com
  • Photo Courtesy: Lusail Real Estate Development
  • Photo Courtesy: US Green Building Council
  • Photo Courtesy: GORD - Gulf Organization for Research & Development

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We are a privately-owned Qatari company established in June 2011 and operating from Doha, Qatar.

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