Maintaining focus on sustainability as the Middle East economy surges forward
Dated: 26-07-2012

The global consensus is clear and undeniable: the Middle East is fast emerging as a key destination for major businesses worldwide. A study by PricewaterhouseCoopers in 2011 provides the telling statistic that reaffirms the aforementioned trend: over 70 per cent of CEOs in the world are looking to capitalise on lucrative business prospects that have emerged in the region. Aggressive government expenditure has been a critical factor in sustaining the region’s accelerated economic growth, further boosting the Middle East’s economic potential and enhancing its image among global investors. The unprecedented volume of infrastructure projects being constructed to meet the expanding demand for real estate, utilities and other key facilities are clear manifestations of the government’s proactive efforts to support the region’s fast-expanding business landscape.

The sustained economic development across the region has accordingly unlocked new possibilities for facilities management (FM) companies, driving the ongoing expansion of the fast-evolving industry into new niche markets and hastening the integration of new disciplines and services. Moreover, the economic boom has guaranteed the long-term growth of the FM industry as property owners increasingly become dependent on FM professionals to manage and maintain their buildings, facilities and other properties. In the UAE alone, projects that are being handed over in the next half decade are expected to drive the estimated value of the FM industry to around USD 1.4 billion each year over the next 25 years.

“It is important to be able to appreciate the economic windfall from a holistic point of view,” notes Jamal Abdulla Lootah, CEO, Imdaad. “We must not only look at how we can profit from the region’s expanding economy, but we also need to consider what we can do to sustain it. I believe that the facilities management industry is in an enviable position to serve as a model in the sustainable economic development of the society primarily because of the nature of our business. Facilities management is all about implementing best practices and adhering strictly to environmental norms in the management and maintenance of properties and other facilities. We provide the blueprint for businesses to succeed and achieve sustainable growth.”

International studies have endorsed FM services as an excellent tool to prolong the life cycle of properties and to generate long-term cost savings for property owners. Management and maintenance costs, inclusive of energy costs, actually represent up to 80 per cent of the total building lifecycle cost, with the cost of construction accounting for the remaining 20 per cent. Based on this, the Middle East Strategy Advisors has revealed in a study that the total value of the FM market in the UAE, KSA and Qatar will reach more than USD 892 billion in the next 25 years, taking into consideration more than USD 220 billion-worth of projects underway and being planned over the next five years in these countries. But more important, this figure represents a huge responsibility placed on the shoulders of FM companies to help property owners trim down the total lifecycle costs of buildings by employing sustainable FM solutions.

“Professional FM companies provide management and maintenance services that give property owners greater control over the management and maintenance costs of facilities or up to 80 per cent of the property’s lifecycle cost. Moreover, there are equally attractive rewards in terms of environmental cost. Sustainable FM services ensure that properties contribute in the conservation and protection of the environment, which is absolutely vital in our collective pursuit of long-term growth and prosperity for the Middle East region,” says Lootah.

The Waste factor

One of the unfortunate byproducts of progress is pollution and growing volumes of waste. The large-scale construction projects, growing commercial activities and the burgeoning population are threatening the region’s natural resources and the environment with the piles of waste that are being produced. Water resources are being depleted and the region’s per capita carbon emission has also been increasing as a consequence of unprecedented socioeconomic progress. Moreover, energy consumption per capita is also spiraling. In the GCC, studies have already shown that cooling requirements alone account for up to 70 per cent of energy demand in light of the region’s hot climate.

In an emphatic response to the growing environmental, waste management and energy problems, Arab governments have introduced new regulations that are more sensitive to the environment and are aligned with stringent green building and international waste management standards. Government regulators are now being deputized to identify and impose appropriate sanctions on enterprises that continue to flout building and environmental regulations. The message is clear and resonates across all industries: minimize carbon footprint and adopt eco-friendly business practices.

In Abu Dhabi, the local government has introduced “Estidama” to guide developers and building owners in the sustainable construction and operation of buildings and communities. Estidama is a key aspect of the “Plan Abu Dhabi 2030” and includes the Pearl Rating System, the emirate’s green building rating system that is tailored for new developments in Abu Dhabi. In Dubai, H.H. Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai, recently announced the “Dubai Green Economy Partnership” program, which seeks to promote Dubai’s position in the global green economy value chain. Dubai Green Economy Partnership is in harmony with Dubai Strategic Plan 2015 and the UAE Green Economy strategy launched by H.H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, under the theme “Green Economy for Sustainable Development”. Moreover, Dubai building authorities have announced that it will be mandatory for the public and private sector to comply with the emirate’s green building code from 2014.

Lack of internal expertise

Unfortunately, not all business enterprises have the resources and know-how to conform to all the special regulations that have been introduced; this is where the specialized expertise of FM companies is best put into use to support business organizations in becoming more participative in addressing the environmental and energy-related challenges that come along with economic progress. Imdaad, to date, has already helped numerous clients achieve green building certification by providing consultancy and technical support in adopting sustainable construction and building management practices.

To deal with the growing waste problem, Imdaad has advocated the establishment of an integrated waste management program that comprehensively deals with the waste issue in different countries in the GCC. Such an integrated program covers all areas related to waste management, including awareness campaigns, collection, disposal and recycling of wastes. Traditionally, wastes have been disposed in landfills, which Imdaad considers unsustainable and a potential cause of long-term problems associated with high maintenance costs and environmental degradation. In this regard, Imdaad has itself revealed plans to set up its own material recovery facility and to initiate a recycling program in collaboration with its clients and various communities.

Public awareness is another vital element in efforts to promote sustainable economic development in the region. Imdaad, for its part, has been actively supporting awareness campaigns and has even initiated its own program called ‘Be’ati’, which raises environmental awareness among school children. The company also works closely with the government and advocacy groups to promote sustainable business practices and to highlight the strategic importance of sustainable facilities management solutions in addressing the environmental and economic challenges of the society. During the previous Dubai launch of “Clean Up the World”, Imdaad collaborated with Dubai Municipality to conduct an exclusive presentation about recycling and environmental issues. Imdaad has also recently collaborated with Dubai Municipality for the pilot initiative ‘My City, My Environment’, which aims to encourage households to recycle and segregate their wastes.

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