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Driving Sustainable Workspaces in the UAE

Morad Wahba, Design Manager at ISG in the Middle East, discusses the value of designing for sustainable workspaces.

In the dynamic landscape of the United Arab Emirates where modern architecture and cutting-edge design dominate the skyline, the importance of sustainable designs in the workplace cannot be understated. As businesses strive to align their operations with environmental goals and social responsibility, the demand for sustainable office spaces has surged. This paradigm shift emphasizes the integration of eco-friendly practices and green building principles in projects, reflecting a commitment to sustainability and innovation.

Sustainable designs in workspaces offer a myriad of benefits that extend beyond environmental conservation. They contribute to creating healthier and more productive work environments for employees, enhance the overall aesthetics of the workspace, and demonstrate a company's commitment to corporate social responsibility. From energy-efficient lighting and HVAC systems to the use of recycled materials and low-emission paints, sustainable design practices reduce the environmental impact and lead to significant cost savings in the long run.

In the UAE, a regional hub for business and innovation, the demand for sustainable workspace fit-out solutions has gained traction as organizations seek to enhance sustainability credentials and meet regulatory requirements. To address this growing trend, various accreditations and certifications have been established to ensure that workspace fit-out projects adhere to stringent sustainability standards and client requirements.

At ISG, sustainability is at the forefront of everything we do, and as part of the Right thing first business strategy, our vision is to be the world’s most dynamic construction services company, delivering places that help people and businesses thrive. Specifically in the Middle East we’ve supported many of our clients to achieve their business and sustainability priorities.

One of the prominent accreditations in the UAE that exemplifies sustainable practices is the Estidama Pearl Rating System. Developed by the Abu Dhabi Urban Planning Council, the Estidama Pearl Rating System evaluates the sustainability performance of buildings based on various criteria such as energy efficiency, water consumption, materials selection, indoor environmental quality, and innovation. Achieving a high Pearl Rating demonstrates a commitment to sustainable design and construction practices, thereby enhancing the marketability and value of workspace fit-out projects in the UAE.

Another key accreditation in the UAE is the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification, a globally recognized green building rating system developed by the U.S. Green Building Council. The LEED certification provides a comprehensive framework for evaluating the environmental performance of buildings and encourages the implementation of sustainable design strategies in fit-out projects. By obtaining LEED certification, businesses in the UAE can showcase their commitment to sustainability, gain a competitive edge in the market, and attract environmentally conscious clients.

Moreover, the Al Sa’fat – Dubai Green Building System, initiative aims to promote sustainable development practices in the region, emphasizing the integration of eco-friendly design principles in projects. By aligning with the Dubai Municipality’s guidelines, businesses can contribute to the creation of a more sustainable and resilient built environment while meeting the evolving needs of clients who prioritize environmental sustainability.

“Property owners are increasingly searching for contractors that offer a complete range of services from consultation and project delivery to end-user monitoring and optimization in order to achieve cost and timeline parity between a significant office retrofit and a conventional refurbishment. This can be achieved by engaging early on in the process and forming well-integrated project teams.”

Andrew Collier, Deputy Managing Director & Commercial Director, ISG Middle East.

As a business we recognize that beyond the common sustainability certifications, clients often have their own sustainability frameworks and standards. These are customized and bespoke frameworks that reflect their unique business priorities for their workspaces and employees’ wellbeing. Our team has supported multiple clients to implement their strategies and offered tailored design solutions and delivery approaches to prioritize their objectives. We collaborate with internal and external stakeholders to plan a thorough programme from procurement stage, all the way through project handover and post-construction to ensure the technical requirements are in place to deliver on the set sustainability priorities.

Some of the key workspaces that our team supported in receiving WELL and LEED GOLD Certification, are based in ICD Brookfield Place building which is the tallest and largest office building in the EMEA region to achieve this highly sought after accreditation, taking its place among the top 20 of the world’s largest LEED® Platinum projects. 

A key project we’ve recently delivered was for FTI Consulting in Burj Daman in Dubai International Financial Center. ISG successfully completed a full design and build, turn-key project which is exemplary of a new era of workplaces, designed around purpose, people and environmental performance. The project earned the LEED Gold Certification, which was the result of stakeholders’ collaboration in the pursuit of this accolade.

Other unique spaces included Miral’s headquarters in Yas Island, Abu Dhabi spanning over an area of 33,000 sqft which received the Estidama Pearl 2 rating, and Ericsson Innovation Hub which earned a WELL certification.

“Real success in achieving healthy and productive environments has been seen from clients and developers who have taken the time to understand their building, their employees and building occupants. There is a growing emphasis on clients taking the key design aspects of for example BREEAM and the WELL Building Standard and working with the needs of their users to develop bespoke design solutions that cater directly to their stakeholders.”

Nicola Forest, Senior Sustainability Manager, ISG.

The adoption of sustainable designs in the workspace is essential for driving environmental stewardship, enhancing corporate reputation, and meeting client requirements. By adhering to accredited practices such as the Estidama Pearl Rating System, LEED certification, and others, businesses can elevate their office space to new heights of sustainability and innovation. Embracing sustainable design principles not only benefits the environment but also contributes to the well-being of employees, fosters a culture of sustainability, and positions organizations for long-term success in a rapidly changing business landscape.
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