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Wishing you a pleasant stay: Why Dubai’s hotels are upgrading on energy efficiency

Hotels in Dubai are reaping the rewards of saving energy and water, thanks to EmiratesGBC’s commitment to the Building Efficiency Accelerator programme to improve energy efficiency and reduce the carbon footprint of buildings in the UAE.

It’s been nearly 4 years since the Paris Agreement was established in December 2015. 195 signatories and 186 parties agreed to undertake ambitious efforts to keep a global temperature rise well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius. With buildings and construction accounting for 36% of global final energy use and 39% of energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2emissions, it’s clear buildings have a key role to play in meeting the Paris Agreement targets – and making our buildings more energy efficient is where we must start.

Now, more than ever, Green Building Councils (GBCs) around the world need to assume their advocacy role and work, hand in hand with their governments on building efficiency. In the United Arab Emirates, Dubai has taken steps and joined the Building Efficiency Accelerator, a programme led by the World Resources Institute (WRI) under the UN programme, Sustainable Energy for All (SEforAll), which aims to accelerate implementation of building efficiency policies and programs, and double the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency by 2030.

As part of Dubai’s commitment to the BEA, Emirates Green Building Council (EmiratesGBC) established the first industry benchmarks to evaluate water and energy, and help drive policies and regulations towards higher building efficiency. The project studied the performance of 120 buildings, within three typologies (hotels, malls and schools), to help limit their carbon footprint through the efficient and responsible use of water and energy, beginning with the calculation and analysis of the Energy Use Intensities (EUIs) and Water Use Intensities (WUIs) to assess performance.

Hotels were the focus of EmiratesGBC’s benchmarking programme since the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) recognises the tourism sector as “one of the best contributors to the transition towards sustainability”. Additionally, as one of the most visited tourist destinations in the world, the travel sector contributes considerably to the UAE’s economy.

Committing to the BEA means committing to the processes of assessing, implementing, and monitoring “locally-appropriate building efficiency policies and actions” and allows cities to access the needed technical resources on condition of a minimum implementation and tracking standard. This commitment to energy efficiency brings about various environmental and economic benefits on every scale, with an emphasis on lower demand on energy import, lower costs, and lower greenhouse gas emissions.

Maha Khogali, Communications and Stakeholder Engagement Officer at EmiratesGBC, describes these from a perspective that goes beyond finance: “There are many benefits to assessing energy and water consumption and taking decisive action to improving efficiency which go beyond monetary savings in utility bills or minimising maintenance requirements.

“Efficient buildings can greatly improve occupant comfort and wellbeing, which is a significant factor for industry stakeholders as this added value creates additional business opportunities and increases the lifecycle and long-term value of properties. Therefore, it is important to gradually enforce benchmarking regulations to additional building typologies and contribute to increasing the number of efficient and sustainable building stock.”

Back in 2016, EmiratesGBC established the UAE’s first benchmarking project for hotels and assessed energy and water consumption in 46 hotels. In January 2019, the GBC published updated benchmarking and baselines – this time, covering 85 hotels and 36 buildings of different typologies – that provide new data to support the progress of efficiency policies and initiatives, as well as bring stakeholders’ attention to the importance of energy efficiency.

The key findings of this report reveal the gap in consumption and performances across different hotels; with the best performers consuming 65% less water and 58% less energy per area than the worst performers; with the median being at a rate of 252 kWh/m2 of energy, and 1486 L/mof water. This gap indicates that there is a potential for saving, or consumption reduction at the very least. Majd Fayyad, the Technical Manager at EmiratesGBC, sees huge potential around this reduction and around shrinking the carbon footprint of buildings – given that they account for over 70% of energy consumption in the UAE.

EmiratesGBC responded to the data collected with three main actions: identifying the key factors influencing consumption, providing tailored benchmarking to all participating hotels, as well as establishing the baseline to assess performance within the energy and water scales. The Benchmarking Programme exemplifies the commitment of EmiratesGBC to reducing the carbon footprint of the UAE’s built environment, specifically those relating to the tourism and hospitality sector.

Today, Dubai remains the only city in the Middle East to commit to the BEA. However, by demonstrating the multiple economic, environmental and social benefits of energy efficiency, we hope the city’s success will inspire other cities in the region to join the BEA programme and realise the benefits for themselves.

Mohammad Asfour is Head of WorldGBC’s MENA Regional Network

This blog was researched and co-written by Luna Mansour, an intern for WorldGBC’s MENA Regional Network

To find out more about EmiratesGBC’s work on the Building Efficiency Accelerator, click here.

To enquire about joining the Building Efficiency Accelerator, click here.