The Emirates Green Building Council (EmiratesGBC) has defined the concept of nearly zero-energy buildings (nZEBs) within the UAE context in a new report.
According to the report, a nearly zero-energy building in the UAE is a "building with a site energy use intensity (EUI) [of] less than 90 kWh per square metre per year, and covers a significant portion of its annual energy use by renewable sources produced on-site or off-site”.
In a statement, EmiratesGBC said that this definition is meant to serve as a reference to support the development of nZEBs in the country.
The council also stressed the important role nZEBs play in helping the country meet its pledge to combat global warming, which it made at COP 21 in 2015 and when it ratified the Paris Agreement in 2016.
EmiratesGBC further noted that the concept of nZEBs is particularly significant in the UAE since buildings account for 70% to 80% of the country’s total energy consumption.
In Dubai, the council added, nearly a quarter of its existing building stock has been found to be energy-inefficient.
To prepare the report, EmiratesGBC said that it carried out a comprehensive study of nZEBs, including their various concepts and global implementations; and evaluated the UAE’s current initiatives, strategies, building codes, and rating systems.
EmiratesGBC also reached out to 25 companies to obtain energy data on best practices of low-energy buildings, as well as surveyed 100 industry leaders and experts.
Saeed Al Abbar, chairman of EmiratesGBC, commented: “The concept of near zero-energy buildings is aligned with the sustainable development goals of the nation and its global commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in line with the COP21 climate change agreement.
“This technical research publication underlines the commitment of EmiratesGBC to support the sustainable vision of the UAE through the implementation of nZEBs, which will also boost the adoption of energy efficiency [and] renewable energy in built environments.”
He added: “With some compelling success stories in implementing nZEBs in the UAE already, the nation is well-aligned with the global timeline for their adoption. Through public-private-sector collaboration and promoting awareness on the long-term beneficial impact of energy-efficient buildings, we can bring tangible change.”
Addressing the issue of cost, the report points out that any action plan concerning nZEBs must be cost-effective and incorporate lessons learned from strategies that have been adopted by EU member states.
Moreover, the report recommends that renewable energy be considered beyond the building, citing district renewable energy systems and the extension of the regulated Renewable Energy Certificates as possible solutions.
Another recommendation it puts forward is the establishment of energy benchmarks in the UAE as a way of enabling the evaluation of a building’s energy characteristics.
According to EmiratesGBC, its report “presents the challenges and opportunities to nZEB in the UAE, sustainability and building strategies, energy conservation measures, and passive design in nZEBs”, as well as case studies on the participating properties, energy indicators of nZEBs, and energy analysis.