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Integrated design can reduce first cost while ensuring sustainability

Industry insider discusses design and commissioning challenges that serve as potential bottlenecks for the development of more efficient buildings in the Middle East

| | Sep 12, 2019 | 10:46 am
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Haytham Abdel Rahman

ABU DHABI, UAE, 12 September 2019: Awareness campaigns and educational initiatives alone are not sufficient to override the cost-centric thinking that drives most projects in the Middle East region, said Haytham Abdel Rahman, WELL AP, LEED Specialist, Senior Architecture Prof – High Performance Design, Architects Crang & Boake Inc., who pointed out that while some clients would understand and be willing to invest in better quality specifications and equipment in view of lifecycle benefits, there will always be clients that primarily take into consideration first cost. “However, there are many opportunities where integrated design can actually reduce the first cost,” he said. Providing an example, Rahman said that a factory that utilises vault solar tube for daylight harvesting could reduce the need to install lighting fixtures by 50% or more. In such cases, he said, the design optimised first and operating cost in a way that leads to minimum expenditure, even when compared to conventional design.

Rahman said it is also important to integrate active and passive design elements, not only to ensure overall efficiency of a building but also for the health and wellbeing of its inhabitants. “We should not forget to include a natural ventilation plan to get some fresh air into the building,” he said, pointing out that doing so can have a significant positive impact, even just a few months down the line. Benefits, he said, includes flushing out VOCs and other emissions that may arise out of changing the furniture or laying new carpets out. “Thus, we will end up with less indoor air pollution and better IAQ,” he said. “However, natural ventilation design is not just about proper sizing for the windows, as per ASHRAE 62.1. Architects and mechanical engineers need to ensure the flow of external air to an indoor space as a result of pressure differences arising from natural forces.” Rahman said that advanced software that calculate the effectiveness of stack ventilation, cross flow ventilation and wind towers size should be part of standard practices.

However, Rahman admitted, there are challenges that serve as bottlenecks to more integrated designs that promote energy efficiency and IAQ. A potential roadblock he discussed is in relation to specification and instances of copy-and-pasting. He pointed out that construction and contracting frameworks significantly affect the manner in which specifications are prepared. “In a publicly funded, conventional design-bid-build scenario, specifications must be accurate, coordinated and hardened against unqualified substitutions as much as possible,” he said. “In contrast, specifications prepared for a design-build entity using private funds might need to include as many options as possible for diversity of manufacturers and quality of materials to provide the design-builder with the ability to exercise options and adjust material quality to suit the budget.”

In both cases, Rahman said, the best quality for the least cost and construction duration is the goal. He explained that considering that specifications are part of the overall construction documents, linking the process through integrated design tools, such as BIM, would go a long way in combating the use of old specifications or specifications that are no longer relevant to the project.


Hannah Jo Uy is Assistant Editor at Climate Control Middle East magazine. She may be contacted at hannah@cpi-industry.com

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One comment on “Integrated design can reduce first cost while ensuring sustainability”

  1. Mohamed Hassan Gumaa says:

    The article is very dedicated to the trending topic and should be highlighted and considered among the real estate developers and properties. Management agencies for the welfare of the building users and to spread the awareness of all the field stakeholders.

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