Dubai, UAE, 1 November 2018: When discussing sustainability, often a call is made for the growing need for awareness and education, both among end-users and industry professionals. In November 2017, the Emirates Green Building Council (EmiratesGBC) launched a national initiative aligned with the Global Coalition for Green Schools. Lora Shrake, Director, EmiratesGBC, said, “The coalition aims to ensure that every child in the United Arab Emirates learns in a Green school and, to achieve this, we have been in discussion with schools and education providers to proliferate the concept of Green schools within the UAE’s private school sector.” Elaborating on the movement, she said, the EmiratesGBC published a whitepaper titled ‘State of Our Schools’ aimed at creating additional awareness and discussions on the current state of sustainability in UAE’s school buildings. “We target key stakeholders such as government representatives, tertiary level academics, elementary school teachers and civil society,” added Shrake.
Elaborating on how existing private schools are being made more sensitive to energy efficiency, she said, “With over 1,300 schools in the United Arab Emirates and over a million students enrolled, schools have a significant role in contributing to UAE’s vision, steered towards energy efficiency.” Explaining the challenges of keeping existing school buildings in an energy-efficient state, she said, “Although we are one among the top 10 countries to hold LEED certification outside the United States, presently only four schools, two nurseries and one university are LEED certified in the country.” Elaborating, she said that many school buildings that exist today were built before Green Building regulations, such as the Al Sa’fat or Estidama. Therefore, she said, many buildings are not equipped with energy-efficient technologies and they would greatly benefit from a building retrofit. “New schools being built are better positioned for energy efficiency as compared to those built earlier,” she added.
Elaborating on the work done by EmiratesGBC on privately owned school buildings in Dubai, Shrake said, “The Building Efficiency Accelerator (BEA) benchmarking project, assesses the energy and water performance of existing buildings and, as a part of the project, we have also introduced the first industry energy and water benchmark for schools, due to launch in December 2018.” A key step demonstrated with the BEA project, she said, was for schools to understand their energy consumption, whereby similar benchmarking exercises can be adopted in other Emirates. The initiative, she said is important for supporting schools in improving building efficiency on a year-on-year basis, to save on operational costs.
Today, Shrake added, there is good news for newly built schools, as regulations ensure that there are minimum ventilation requirements and a limit to the acceptable concentration of total VOCs within the building. “HVAC systems should be maintained on time and their parts must be inspected and cleaned periodically, in both new and existing buildings,” Shrake said. Elaborating on other measures, which must be in place to ensure the buildings remain in an energy-efficient state, she said, the location of filters in the building are crucial to ensure effective circulation.
With reference to Indoor Air Quality (IAQ), indoor air contaminants can originate within a building or can even be drawn from outside, Shrake said. “Good IAQ calls for a good HVAC design, where equipment must operate with sufficient ventilation rates as specified by building regulations and international standards,” she said. Ventilation systems, she said, must be capable of effectively distributing an adequate amount of outdoor air, in order to meet the ventilation needs of a building’s occupants. She added, “The Emirates Coalition for Green Schools is an important step not only for advocating sustainability in schools in the United Arab Emirates but also for its potential legacy; as a result, it improves the learning environment for future generations to come.”