Notable experts speaking at Solar Show MENA, occurring in Cairo last week, described rising interest among developers to integrate sustainable practices into construction processes in Egypt. Their conversation reaffirmed that Egypt is slowly warming up to green construction, a topic that was high on the agenda at COP27 in Sharm El Sheikh last year.
At COP27, Egyptian developers showed a clear inclination to incorporate green standards into the construction process, in light of the government’s directives to realize the sustainability goals of the Egypt Vision 2030 national agenda.
The trend, albeit nascent, is growing in popularity among the Egyptian construction industry.
“The competition between the different developers (in the field of the green building) will create an incentive in the market and this is happening and I can see it in my business,” said Karim Farah, green building expert and sustainability consultant.
He spoke during a panel discussion, ‘The future of green building in Egypt’ at the Solar Show MENA. The event took place at the Egypt International Exhibition Center in Cairo.
During the panel discussion, Farah also highlighted that an entirely green residential compound will soon launch in Egypt, without giving further details about its location.
He further stressed the need to have policies in place to encourage the adoption of green building practices, such as ensuring the availability of affordable building materials and incentives for the use of eco-friendly practices in construction. But for this to happen, he said, close coordination must be established among all stakeholders.
“There’s a reason why the idea of the government putting regulations does not work very well immediately, because the market and the government need to work together,” he said.
“It's like a rope. If I pull the rope too much it will break, if I leave it it will be too loose.
“So the government has to manage the market the right way, meaning it should be kept to a minimum, but putting difficult regulation in place will only make this rope cut and that nobody will follow these (regulations),” he added.
SPURRING AN EGYPTIAN SHIFT
Currently, there are a total of 14 buildings that are certified to be entirely green across Egypt, with another 10 in the process of being licensed, according to Nadia El Masry, an environmental and climate change expert at the Cairo-based Regional Center for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (RCREEE), who also spoke in the panel discussion. The figure is likely to be a little higher because not all existing green buildings are formally certified.
“Overall, the number of green buildings that we have in Egypt is negligible when compared to millions of buildings that are constructed with non-eco-friendly materials,” said El Masry, in an interview with Cityscape Intelligence on the sidelines of Solar Show MENA.
She also mentioned that the majority of these buildings belong to corporates such as banks and IT companies, highlighting an adverse lack of awareness among people about the environmental, financial, and health benefits that come as a result of resource-efficient buildings.
The shift towards green building is likely to be spurred by local constraints such as rising energy costs in light of the ongoing economic crisis and growing demand for affordable housing in Egypt, as well as an increase in global pressures to reduce the harmful environmental implications that are associated with traditional construction methods.
“The initial costs of constructing a green building might be high, but in the long run, they are proven to be a great way to conserve energy and power and therefore help bring down energy bills, which benefits the local economy at large,” argues El Masry. “This counts as a great incentive to start adopting sustainable practices in construction at a national level.”
Traditional construction methods, which include the use of non-renewable materials, are the main culprit for a significant chunk of greenhouse gas emissions across the globe and that includes Egypt as well.
“They (the buildings) are no longer suited to our weather which is usually humid and hot all year round.
“There’s a growing need for an energy-efficient design, one that ensures better utilization of daylight and proper ventilation,” says El Masry.
“To continue to opt for resource-depleting construction methods runs counter to the state directions concerning sustainability; an increased adoption of green construction is crucial in attaining national development goals (NDGs),” she concludes.