With the ongoing evolution of the Emirates GBC green building code and with the Dubai Municipality making BIM an integral part of certain projects, information technology and sustainability have come sharply into focus across the construction landscape here some leading players express their views on issues germane to their industry today.

The first Future Cities Roundtable meeting on Sustainable Development and Construction in the Middle East was held on May 28 2015 at the Bonnington Hotel in Jumeirah Lake Towers, Dubai and panelists included:

Scott Henshaw, Head of Project Management Office, DMCC

Brain Johnson, Managing Partner at Godwin Austen Johnson

Stephan Frantzen, Architect & Partner, P&T Group

Pablo Izquiredo, Associate Sustainability & Energy, WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff

Stephen Smith, Sustainability Manager, Brookefield Multiplex

Nicolas Neusuess, Senior Specification Manager, Knauf

Viren Sharma, Sales Director, Knauf ME

Below are the highlights of the topics discussed and salient points made by the panelists.

With the DMCC being a leader of the Green Building movement in Dubai, what more can we do to create a legacy and provide an example for other developers to follow?

Scott Henshaw: “We have launched a BIM (Building Information Modeling) collaboration platform for all of our new development projects. This platform encourages early integration of the entire supply chain and that early involvement has helped us to better design high-performance buildings. What we are trying to do is frontload sustainability requirements in the beginning of our projects. Today, what we are seeing is a convergence of BIM and Geo Spatial that are becoming technology enablers for more advanced building management systems that incorporate sensors to help analyze and optimize building performance over a period of time. This way we are creating a future where reliability-based maintenance enabled by technology becomes the norm.” He then went on to talk about One JLT and how by deploying early engagement practices they have achieved remarkable water and energy savings of 40 and 24 per cent respectively on the project.

Stephen Smith: “Thanks to the new Design and Build model of contracting for One JLT we had the developer, the contractor and sub-contractors, all sitting in a room and working – and work shopping – together to optimize the building. Thus making sure that ultimately the developer gets an asset that is a high quality office space. So shifting to a design and build approach I believe will become more prominent in the future as contractors attain a greater trust of developers.”

Stephan Frantzen: “Leaving a legacy requires the creation of a better understanding among customers about certifications like LEED and then going beyond just the requirements to achieve extra credits from the system. Very few developers try to use the extra credits of the green building code. For example we could create shaded areas and covered walkways so people are encouraged to walk and spend more time outdoors during the day. I think that is the kind of legacy that we can create for the master developers.”

Brian Johnson: “What is happening today is that developers are focusing on only one or two projects that they want to turn out to be perfect. Whereas the need of the hour is to raise the average, and one important way of doing this is to create greater interaction and more trust between contractors and clients.”


Once a green building is up and running the next big question that arises is of facilities management. How do we sustain the sustainability of these green buildings in terms of consumption of energy and other resources?

Scott Henshaw: “In the longer term we would like to take the next step from preventive maintenance to conditioned-based maintenance where instead of just going in and doing routine maintenance every quarter or every six months we see maintenance as ongoing process where you are getting data from sensor systems within the building that are telling you the state of the building from moment to moment and any red flags can be analyzed and taken care of in real time on the ground without allowing them to become larger problems over time. In this way we see technology as the backbone of the maintenance systems of future green buildings. We can also start benchmarking these systems and compare the merits of condition-based maintenance vis-à-vis traditional, preventive maintenance.”

Pablo Izquiredo: “Condition-based maintenance requires a significant overlap between the technical personnel of design teams and the facilities management teams. Typically the moment the design teams do the hand over they go on to another project and the current project becomes someone else’s baby. Then the facilities management team often struggles due to lack of expertise or simply due to lack of information to run the buildings. The facility managers need come on board earlier so they can provide some inputs on how they expect to run a particular system or what their past experience with the system is. Also the building designers then have to continue to be involved after the building is up and running.”


How do designers use BIM and plan for contractors and facilities managers when they design technologically advanced and sustainable buildings?

Stephan Frantzen: “We usually have three stages. We have the BIM modeling phase. We have life cycle analysis phase and finally we have the stage when we produce manuals for the end users and people who will actually manage the facilities so they know what they are doing. BIM is actually 10% technology and 90% sociology. How you use the system and other tools to convey the technology to the end user and how they actually end up using it is what actually determines the success of failure of a project. For example on issues of sustainability there are ‘easy’ things you can do where you can gain 80% of what you have set out to do. But then you can spend a lot of time, money and effort to achieve that last 20% and still not achieve 100%.”

With manufacturers driving R&D in sustainable products what more can be done to ensure that all available products are sustainable?

Nicolas Neussuess: “As Pablo mentioned earlier it is about transparency and the people involved in the project from A to Z. We need to talk and understand what the requirements are. As a manufacturer I have so far never been asked for BIM solutions. It’s not only products that Knauf is producing now but they are complete system solutions like temperature control, acoustics and fire proofing. We are manufacturing a huge variety of these solutions as per the latest ASTM, EN and DIN standards with sustainability features incorporated. But once again we require complete transparency from planning to final implementation. Instead of architects and engineers first finalizing the design of a building then looking for products to suit them. They must first conduct due diligence in the market on the best products available and finalize designs accordingly. As a state-of-the-art manufacturer, if we know from the start that the project has this price range and that performance requirement, to be implemented within a certain time frame, we can then provide a customized solution from our product range without compromising on quality or sustainability – that too, not only in product performance but also in product manufacturing processes. Knauf being a global company with worldwide operations, we are also working closely with architects here to make more aware of the local products being offered by Knauf to suit the Middle East environment and construction industry conditions.”

Viren Sharma: “The green building should have green products and this where we add unique value to a project. At our headquarters in Germany we spend millions of euros on research and innovation. For example we have products that can actually contribute to clean the air in its surrounding using a material called zeolite, our insulation products are formaldehyde free or lead free to suit different critical applications yet match the requirements for greener indoor environments. At Knauf the focus has always been on producing healthier and more sustainable products.”

Should we be happy just meeting the green building regulations? Should the mandatory requirements be taken by designers as the ultimate goal of their sustainable design efforts or just as a baseline from which to aim higher and build better?

Pablo Izquiredo: “The Green Building Code is just the core requirement and architects, developers and contractors have to strive to achieve more. The code has certain mandatory requirements and optional credit points that are awarded to systems and project features that take sustainability a step further. More credits that maximize sustainability can only add to the value and salability of a project.”

The other panelists all echoed Pablo’s view in that the Green Building Code is only the beginning for the creation of sustainable construction projects that add real value to people’s quality of life.

What are the latest building trends within the region and how much of a role does innovation play in this?

The latest trends and changes in construction were discussed such as the mandatory requirement now for green concrete, the shift of public space development from malls and multiplexes to more covered outdoor spaces, open air-cooled souks and outdoor entertainment venues. These projects will require a closer look during the design stages and will deploy not only the latest technologies but also the more traditional and natural methods of “green awareness” and living comfortably in the environment of the Middle East.

How can the developer, project manager, architect, contractor, consultant and manufacturer work closer together to ensure a greener building?

Scott Henshaw: “Firstly I think it’s about setting the right contractual framework and a move towards design-and-build contracts will promote greater integration between the various players. One JLT is a prime example where we have worked together to deliver a great office space. I think the way forward is to move away from relying on the traditional routes and explore alternate options maybe PPP options that have not been fully explored here in the Middle East. It’s about transforming the way we work and involving the entire supply chain from the design stages of a project.”

Stephan Frantzen: “It’s all about communication, education and awareness. How do we build that? There are various ways, for example in Denmark, where I come from, there used to be open competitions about creating sustainable environments in which everybody, including students and architects, could participate. These kind of fresh ideas keep the more established players on their toes and also bring awareness to the whole industry. Another thing that we need to focus on more in this part of the world is the long-term sustainability of a building and not just give out awards on the basis of completed construction, certifications and multimedia presentations. The performance of a building should be evaluated over a period of 5 to 10 years and then awards should be given to the teams of the suppliers, the contractor, the facilities management company and the consultants that have all contributed to the long term success of the project.”

Brian Johnson: “I think what Stephan said about the long term sustainability of a building is a very good point and we should evaluate a building on the basis of it doing what it is supposed to do and not just on what it is designed to do. Also, having these kinds of forums (roundtables) where we can have detailed and constructive discussions to understand each other’s points of view and then set ourselves some common targets about what we hope to achieve in the industry within given time frames.”

Pablo Lopez: “Early collaboration is the key. I think we need to move away from the traditional “silo” system of working and encourage more interaction and feedback from the various agencies that contribute to the construction process.”

Nicolas Neusuess: “The three key things that can lead to greater cooperation: Awareness, Transparency and Competition”.

The lively discussion continued later over lunch after which all participants parted feeling they had gained valuable insights from these roundtable discussions.

“I was really impressed by the discussion, i have been involved with many different roundtables and panel discussions in the UAE, but to have actual influencers in projects representing the vital components of the supply chain was really unique and exciting for the future. What we must now take from this discussion is that earlier collaboration within the initial design stage is massively important in producing clean, green buildings. Future Cities ME will drive this conversation forward and would like to thank both Knauf and the DMCC in making this possible.”