AN INTERVIEW WITH ANDREW MICHLER LEED AP | A SMARTER BUILDING BAOSOL & eVolo MAGAZINE For Interview conducted by: All opinions and statements in this interview are of the interviewee themselves and do not reflect the opinion(s) of IQPC and/ or its personnel.
1) IQPC: What is the current perception of sustainable construction in the Middle East – particularly Saudi Arabia – among experts and solution providers in the West? AM: Construction in the Middle East has been growing at a breakneck pace for the last decade but happily, state‐of‐the‐art sustainable design has been a part of this growth. Many western companies have seen a slowdown in building in their native countries and have been grateful to be involved in developing groundbreaking design for Saudi Arabian projects. What is taking place is site‐specific design using a global knowledge base. Two projects that exemplify this are the LEED platinum King Abdullah University of Science and Technology and the Wadi Hanifa Wetlands, which runs through Riyadh, and will help maintain the local water resource for many years. Both projects are partnerships between local groups and Western companies, and both have garnered world acclaim in 2010 for their sustainable design and impact. 2) IQPC: In your experience, is the private sector more receptive to sustainable construction than the public sector? By this we mean both in terms of projects by both sectors as well as enforcing of regulations, if any. AM: The private sector has long been the primary agent of change in the building industry with leaders and designers who had the vision to provide a new frame‐work for building design. Cutting‐edge design and risk‐taking is primarily driven by private groups. The success of sustainable building standards such as the LEED system though has been very dependent on the public sector to both implement and mature. Given the scale and central decision making nature of governments, the green building market has been more insulated from the larger building market’s ebb and flow, which is critical for private enterprise to make long term investments. Ultimately sustainable construction is guided by a robust public/private partnership in which both parties are willing to take risks to benefit from a healthy and well invested population. 3) IQPC: Is there a concerted effort in Middle Eastern and other major governments to inculcate knowledge about renewable energy and sustainable construction from the grass‐roots level by starting to educate the younger generation about this necessary sector? Do you see any hindrances on this front? AM: Most governments at this point are spotty in their assertion for renewable energy and sustainable building as complex sociological and financial issues cloud a concise message to their younger populations. None‐the‐less sustainable technologies and construction are the fastest growing sectors in many colleges and demand is forcing institutional and leadership responses. As young Middle Eastern designers and builders see the immense renewable energy resources of solar for instance they will demand access to the technologies and jobs which entail its implementation. All opinions and statements in this interview are of the interviewee themselves and do not reflect the opinion(s) of IQPC and/ or its personnel.
When we speak about sustainability we are really talking about a massive generational shift. The implementation of education on sustainable infrastructure will need to engage the entire cross section of a young population regardless of race, class or gender to be effective. 4) IQPC: How do you see sustainable construction having a positive effect on the Middle East’s emerging economies? AM: Sustainable development and construction is being embraced for a multitude of reasons: health, energy & water security and quality. For a company whose greatest costs are payroll, for instance, a building that has great IEQ (indoor environmental quality) will immediately see an increase in employee productivity, with a resulting edge in the marketplace. For a desert region, water and peak energy load are major long term issues that sustainable building addresses in a substantial way. The standard of living for a growing population will be based in large part on how they allocate their resources. They can create buildings that actually provide resources for a community rather than take from it. A concerted effort in sustainable development can result in an entire region creating an economic super‐cluster based on its investment. 5) IQPC: Sustainable construction cannot have the desired effect on an economy’s stability unless it is accompanied by concerted efforts to also implement renewable energy alternatives. Would you agree with this statement? Is this becoming a reality on the ground? AM: Renewable energy production technologies can often be centralized or distributed, but by their nature buildings and developments are only distributed, meaning that efficiency gains can be only provided at the source. A flattened peak energy demand presented by sustainable building is utterly necessary to implement broad use of renewables. Energy efficiency is the lowest cost of all infrastructures in simple payback when first built but become increasingly difficult to achieve with existing buildings. As more renewable energy sources come online they will need an adequate infrastructure capable of properly using the energy when produced. While much attention has been paid to renewable energy it is only viable when the overall consumption of fossil‐fuel based energy is reduced and infrastructure can properly use it. Wind energy for instance has already saturated certain markets which then have to sell the energy at a loss or shut the turbines down, so a balance of supply and demand is critical for economic stability. This interview was conducted for the Cost‐Effective Sustainable Design & Construction Saudi Arabia 2011 conference which takes place from 13 ‐ 16 March, 2011 at the Riyadh Marriott Hotel, Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. For more information on the event or to register, and to download more exclusive content, visit www.sustainableconstructionsaudi.com or email us on firstname.lastname@example.org. Alternatively, you may call us on +971 4 364 2975. All opinions and statements in this interview are of the interviewee themselves and do not reflect the opinion(s) of IQPC and/ or its personnel.