AESG – Reducing the carbon footprint of buildings

BSBG’s key partner in terms of achieving green design and sustainability in buildings and development is AESG; a specialist consultancy and commissioning firm headquartered in Dubai with offices in Abu Dhabi and London. AESG specialises in five core departments: Sustainability, Environment, Fire and Facades, Energy and Commissioning. The relationship between BSBG and AESG has been immensely strong from the start, and for over five years we have worked together on many key projects, including the Estidama 4 Pearl-rated Masdar HQ, and the LEED Gold-rated ICD Brookfield Place.

In the first of an ongoing series of posts on the BSBG blog, in which our partners highlight some of the issues in the construction industry and the solutions they offer to overcome these, AESG’s blog post today discusses the importance of reducing the carbon footprint of a building, and the challenges that must be overcome in achieving this.Masdar Hq is an example of how the carbon footprint of buildings can be loweredThe carbon footprint of a building is the result of a combination of activities that occur throughout the entire life cycle. We use Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) as a methodology through which the carbon footprint of a building can be assessed across the life cycle, while energy modelling focuses on the estimated energy consumption during the operational stage. We combine these two assessments to ascertain an accurate estimation of the overall environmental impact.

Structural components, such as concrete and steel, typically account for the highest carbon footprint. Procurement of materials with a higher recycled content results in significant reductions, while locally sourced materials, especially bulk order items typical for structural components, can also result in cutting the environmental impact.

Global Warming

More than 97% of active climate scientists agree that climate warming trends over the past century have been caused by human activities. Since 1970, CO2 emissions have increased by approximately 90%, with around 78% being accounted to fossil fuel combustion and industrial processes. The construction industry has a social responsibility to reduce its own impact on these statistics and to attempt to minimise any potential role it might play in the worsening of them.the carbon footprint of buildings directly affects global warming“The carbon footprint of buildings is responsible for an estimated 39% of CO2 emissions in the US, which is more than any other sector”

Carbon emissions are a direct contributor towards Global Warming, a phenomenon which has already caused sea level rises and increased the number of large wildfires and extreme storm/weather events. The carbon footprint of buildings is responsible for an estimated 39% of CO2 emissions in the US, which is more than any other sector. In order to prevent further environmental impact resulting from Global Warming, more sustainable development practices must be implemented to meet the targeted limit of a 2-degree Celsius global temperature increase above pre-industrial levels.

Carbon Footprint Regulations

In Europe, an Energy Performance Certification is required for properties when constructed, sold or let. There are minimum energy performance standards for buildings dependent on the type of building, and the actual performance of the building must then be displayed on the certificate to advise potential owners and/or occupants of the expected energy consumption.

“The UAE hopes to establish itself as a leader within the Sustainable Development industry”

There is no equivalent as of yet in the UAE, however with regulated Sustainable Development guidelines now in place, including Estidama in Abu Dhabi and the Dubai Green Building Regulations in Dubai, it is anticipated that such regulations may be in place in the near future relating to carbon emissions of buildings. The UAE hopes to establish itself as a leader within the Sustainable Development industry, with a focus on the development of legislation and innovative design solutions, as well as renewable energy technology.renewable energy also plays a role in reducing the carbon footprint of buildings

Green Building Misconceptions

Our major clients consist of developers, architects and contractors, while we also work with government bodies and private clients on innovative research projects. The biggest misconception within sustainable development is the cost. Most clients believe the implementation of sustainability features within developments significantly inflates the budget, however research shows the cost for achieving “green building” status can be negligible, resting at around 2% of the total. This is due to the growing market and investor appetite for more sustainable products and increasingly stringent legislation.

In order to ensure the implemented measures are cost effective, Life Cycle Costing (LCC) can be conducted. This assesses capital investment required versus savings achieved during the building’s life. With LCC, investors can clearly understand the tangible benefits of proposed measures.


AESG has taken an involvement in eight projects with BSBG. The approach to sustainability has been in line with most higher-quality architects in the region, ensuring that sustainability regulations and client requirements are addressed and fully incorporated within the design from an early stage. Most recently, AESG conducted a Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) assessment for the new IKEA store located within the Big Box Retail mall in Jebel Ali.The Big Box Retail mall has raised the bar in terms of lowering the carbon footprint of buildings Through the LCA model, material specification and selection can be refined, dependent on the associated carbon footprint. This model considers a variety of factors including extraction and transportation, life expectancy, material composition, and end of life disposal. Energy modelling was also conducted in order to identify energy conservation measures, such as the reduction in lighting power density, higher efficiency HVAC equipment, improved thermal performance of the building envelope, and installation of Renewable Energies.

Reduction in Carbon footprint of architecture – the responsibility?

The responsibility for reducing carbon emissions in buildings lies with stakeholders including the government, design team, owner/developer, facility management and building occupants. The government has the responsibility to drive reductions in all buildings to meet emissions targets, both international and national.

The owner/developer is responsible for the completion of the building in compliance with regulatory requirements and best practice, while the design team are responsible for the design of buildings in line with the client’s best interests. Some design practices, such as innovative structural design, efficient MEP design and considerate interior design, can result in cost savings for the owner through both reductions in materials requirement and operational costs. Building facility management and occupants are responsible for the correct maintenance and operation of buildings, ensuring the efficiency of the building is maintained to reduce wasteful resource consumption.

The future

The appetite is growing for buildings that lead the way in sustainable and green features, and from a credibility and reputational perspective, it’s now regarded as fundamental to implement sustainable features or initiatives targeted at minimising the carbon footprint of a building. This is only going to continue to grow and gain traction until it is no longer a preference, but a requirement by law. BSBG is one of the architects that has consistently embraced this and strived to accomplish high performance levels since AESG was established, and the practice works hard to encourage its clients in the UAE to do the same.

You can visit the AESG website here