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Comment - Bernadette Redfern

Many international firms, including those from the UK, have made the most of opportunities to create the infrastructure that is supporting the fast growing economies of the Middle East and in some cases act as marketing tools for Gulf cities.

They now have another opportunity – to demonstrate and push the boundaries of global best practice in terms of environmentally sustainable design.

Consultants were invited into the region to share their globally gathered intellectual capabilities and this they must do for the benefit of all. They must work harder to continue to convince clients that buildings should work with the region's natural advantages, not in spite of them. Clients are finally listening.

Governments in the Middle East are now instigating change, led by the United Arab Emirates, where Abu Dhabi and Dubai are enforcing new green building standards. Minimum requirements for energy efficiency and water reduction will be applied over the next few months and a legislative framework is evolving.

In the past, the race to set new records for building height, land reclamation, and speed of construction have in many cases meant that incorporating the natural environment into design has been lost.

Some consultants and contractors speak of a client's unwillingness to pay for features or building layouts that are more efficient such as thermally efficient glazing, greywater systems and solar thermal water heating systems.

But how hard are designers pushing these measures? Is it really a failing of the client or is it a failing of the designer that cannot create a business case and a cogent argument for such design?

Fortunately the appetite of the region's clients is shifting and many are now keen to promote structures for their green credentials. And they are willing to pay to be the best.

Now is the time for consultants to meet and exceed the brief for sustainable engineering while making the most of the investment that developers are putting on the table for such schemes.

 Bernadette Redfern is a civil engineer and former features editor of Middle East Economic Digest

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