In the heart of bustling cities, amidst towering skyscrapers, lies an often-overlooked contributor to climate change _
the built environment. As our world urbanises at an unprecedented pace, buildings and infrastructure become significant contributors to greenhouse gas emissions, casting a shadow over our fight against global warming. The concrete, steel, and glass that form our urban landscapes generate substantial carbon footprint, disrupting our planet's delicate ecological balance. Recognising this, it's imperative to explore the intricate relationship between urban development and climate change, highlighting the urgent need for sustainable practices in construction and innovative solutions in architectural design.
Following COP27, where UN Secretary-General António Guterres emphasised the urgency with "much homework and little time," COP 28 takes centre stage in the UAE this year. This nation, renowned for its iconic skyline and contemporary infrastructure, has become the focal point of global attention. COP 28 arrives with the imperative for decisive global action, acknowledging the built environment's significant contribution to greenhouse gas emissions and climate change. The International Energy Agency (IEA) reveals that the building sector accounts for approximately 30% of global final energy use and 28% of total energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, primarily from fossil fuel-derived energy used for heating, cooling, lighting, and appliances.
The construction industry itself contributes to emissions through activities like cement production and transportation, further adding to carbon emissions. As COP28 dawns, there is an anticipation of profound changes, reshaping Facility Management (FM) practices not only within the UAE but globally. These changes align with the UAE's ambitious Vision 2023 and Vision 2050, underscoring the nation's commitment to addressing the challenges posed by climate change.
Renewed environmental regulations - COP28 is poised to usher in stringent environmental regulations, setting higher standards for sustainability. FM sectors in the UAE will face increased expectations, necessitating adherence to stricter energy efficiency standards and a substantial reduction in carbon footprints. This could mean adopting renewable energy sources, implementing energy-efficient lighting systems, and optimizing HVAC systems. Facilities falling short of these standards may face penalties, driving the industry toward innovative, eco-friendly solutions.
Smart buildings and technology - Smart buildings, equipped with IoT sensors and automation systems, are set to become industry standards. These cutting-edge solutions will revolutionise facility management, enhancing operational efficiency to unprecedented levels. Predictive maintenance systems, powered by Artificial Intelligence, will not only ensure equipment operates at peak efficiency but also reduce downtime, curbing energy wastage and establishing a sustainable tech-driven paradigm in facilities management.
Green certification and ESCO - The UAE's building sector is witnessing a surge in green certification initiatives, particularly ESCO certifications. FM companies managing buildings with these certifications gain a competitive edge. This surge compels FM professionals to acquire specialised expertise, catalysing ongoing innovation within the industry. Emphasizing continuous learning and improvement, especially in ESCO compliance, paves the way for a more energy-efficient and environmentally responsible future.
Circular economy and waste management - Promoting recycling, reusing, and waste reduction is pivotal. FM companies must establish efficient waste segregation systems, collaborating with recycling firms. Investments in technologies converting organic waste into energy or compost are key. Embracing the circular economy principles, FM companies can lead the charge toward greener practices in the UAE and beyond. Dubai Municipality's increased dumping charges signal a shift towards sustainable waste management practices.
Climate resilience - Climate change brings challenges like higher temperatures and water scarcity. Simple solutions like green roofs and rainwater harvesting become essential. FM professionals play a key role in making buildings resilient to these changes while ensuring eco-friendliness.
Realising these initiatives requires a well-defined roadmap collaboratively established by clients and FM service providers. Strategic and financial backing from owners and asset managers is pivotal, enabling FM providers to consistently deliver outcomes. Elevating the approach to procuring FM services, and incorporating precise objectives, becomes imperative. Asset managers must comprehend the balance between initial costs and long-term recovery, acknowledging the substantial impact of their decisions on sustainable facility management practices.
In the wake of COP28, the UAE's FM industry stands at the threshold of a profound transformation. Strengthened by stringent environmental regulations and driven by innovation, it charts a sustainable course. This imperative for eco-friendly practices and technological advancements converges, leading the UAE's FM sector into a future of operational excellence, environmental responsibility, and a greener tomorrow. COP28 doesn't merely mark an event; it symbolizes a paradigm shift, heralding a new era where facilities and technology harmonize for a sustainable, environmentally conscious future. The UAE's FM industry, once a contributor to the problem, may now have to emerge as a beacon of hope and progress in our fight against climate change.
Fahad Mohamed is Director- Operations, Adeeb Group, an IMS-certified organisation delivering a wide range of integrated facility management and MEP contracting services across multiple sectors in the UAE and Seychelles.
Built Environment's ‘Expert Talk’ series carries knowledge pieces every week by industry professionals who give their take on the key trends, observations, issues, and challenges in the built industry. The opinions in these articles are the author's own and do not reflect that of the publication. This is a standard disclaimer.