Experts discuss responsibility within sustainable design

With Dubai winning the bid to host Expo 2020 and Qatar expecting the World Cup in 2022, the Middle East, and specifically the GCC, has become a centre for business, construction and sustainability.

According to Ross Jackson, general manager, Delta Faucet Company MENA, water scarcity in the region is predicted to reach alarming levels in the next ten years, which increases the responsibility of architects, engineers and designers working today to find new solutions for conservation.

“Sustainable architecture and interior design has gained significant regional traction in recent years,” says Jackson. “Especially in the UAE, leading to the formation of organisations such as Estidama, the Abu Dhabi Sustainability Group and the Emirates Green Building Council (EGBC) – an independent forum aimed at conserving the environment by strengthening and promoting green building practices.”

According to Jackson, and many of the experts we spoke to from Geberit, Roca and RMD Boards, designers and architects are carrying the weight today for a greener tomorrow. Architects and designers are now pressured to think beyond aesthetics and geometry, and look for solutions to bigger-than-life problems that have yet to occur. They are, in other words, solving tomorrow’s problems today.

“They are one of the key people with the biggest responsibility,” says Samer Deeb, area manager, Middle East and South Asia, Roca. “Designers are defining what the interiors should be like, and which involves sustainable solutions as well.”

Environmental design sets new standards for modern, human experiences, and it provides the basis for sustainable construction. According to Louise Pitt, marketing and CRM manager, Geberit, the reduction of water consumption is always a main focus during the product design phase.

Pitt adds: “In addition, the aspect of sustainability plays a decisive role even in the selection of product materials and production processes. The recyclability of the products is taken into account from the very beginning of development.

“Every year, our research and development teams develop new products and this year is no exception. Only products that fulfil the strict sustainability criteria in addition to the proven Geberit quality and reliability are put on the market.”

All the companies that CID spoke with this month are releasing a number of new products that coincide with sustainable measures taken across the GCC. RMD Boards, for example, is at the forefront of developing products that can be sustainable replacements for common materials that damage the environment. One such example is the wall coverings that are meant to replace marble and granite.

According to Sagar Verma, president, RMD Boards, the products are easy to install, have aesthetic appeal and are priced at one-third the cost of conventional materials.

Delta Faucet Company has also launched a number of sustainable ranges, like its H20kinetic technology, which creates a new shower experience, as each showerhead and handshower, and contains an internal system that sculpts the water into a unique wave pattern, creating the feeling of more water without actually using more water. In fact, according to Jackson, the new products use between 20% and 40% less water than the industry standard.

Jackson says: “Delta Faucet Company places a high priority on products that address today’s environmental concerns, such as accessibility to water, water conservation and water quality. We invest in internal processes and systems that provide innovative solutions and ensure exceptional customer satisfaction through designing products that improve the way people interact with water.”

Many companies in the region are also getting involved in regional initiatives. Roca for example, has participated in the World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi as well as organised We Are Water, a foundation set up by Roca in 2010.

According to Deeb, the sustainable trend is unstoppable, and legislation is being modified to make it a firm fact. “Saudi Arabia is already imposing a 3-litre single flush WC to be marketed by all manufacturers from May 2015 onwards. This will initially cause some hick-ups and resistance, but will finally become the rule.”

While a number of organisations, companies and individuals are determined to build more sustainable projects and live in a truly greener way, are we, as a community, approaching sustainability in the right way?

Deeb argues that in this region, we don’t have any proper studies done on human behaviour and how consumers are using different sustainable products. He says: “We are implementing other regions’ regulations and rules…We’re still not making it clear that the environment is screaming at us to act, and we are moving so slowly.

“We are fully aware of what’s going on around the world—i.e. the melting of the glaciers, the swift weather changes, natural disasters—and we keep looking at it from a distance. We need to feel responsible and aware that we can make a change and that we need to make it [as soon as possible].”

While Deeb believes there is not enough information relevant to our region, others like Pitt argue that social initiatives that are being launched illustrate the region’s desire to be more eco-friendly.

According to Pitt, sustainability is becoming more and more a key topic in our region, and she hopes that instead of trying to play ‘catch-up’, we continue to take the lead in design by building future sustainable cities.

She says: “The formation of Estidama has provided the framework in the UAE and promoted a new mindset towards sustainability. The progress of society towards building sustainable future cities is in the hands of the Middle Eastern governments setting the building codes and regulations, and also in the hands of designers with specification of sustainability sourced and produced products.”

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