Ali Amiri, Head of Sustainability, Middle East
Global trends today show that people spend most of their time indoors. The built environment profoundly influences our personal and professional lives and our overall well-being. At Ramboll, we design more than 10 million square metres of construction every year and we aim to be at the forefront of the sustainable building movement.
Ali has been notable in his contribution to Ramboll’s goal of creating a sustainable society through many and varied projects for over a decade. He specialises in sustainability appraisal methods, carbon accounting and climate change as well as sustainability strategy and policy. He has shared his expertise at a number of global forums this year including the World Green Buildings Congress in Jordan and the Emirates Green Building Council’s 8th Annual Congress in Dubai as well as The Cityscape: Abu Dhabi.
At Ramboll, Ali is keen to emphasise that “the idea of sustainable development is not a mere decorative statement”. He goes on to add, “We further the idea of sustainability through measurable key performance indicators (KPIs). I also intend to enhance the awareness with my colleagues internally to bring them up to speed with the evolving trends such as climate change adaptation, circular economy, sustainable development goals (SDGs) and how to reflect these in our day to day activities.”
Today, people are more aware of the need for sustainable buildings, which means having a building with much lower indoor air pollutants, better thermal comfort, optimum daylight and less adverse impact on our planet and so the drive for sustainability has been steadily increasing globally. In some countries, green buildings have become mainstream, and the term ‘brown discount’ is even used for buildings that are not so green since they now have a diminished asset market value. With the introduction of SDGs by the United Nations, governments worldwide are now creating national strategies to meet SDG targets.
Our clients in the Middle East and Asia Pacific region are also following this trend and it is no longer a challenge to convince clients to embed the principles of sustainable development into their requirements. These days, the hesitation that most clients have is with regards to the costs of incorporating sustainability measures into their developments. But the truth is, where additional costs are envisaged, it is typically not as high as is perceived by the development industry. Energy savings in green buildings typically exceed the design and construction cost premiums within a reasonable ROI period. This, of course, will require a good commissioning, effective management, and collaboration between owners and occupiers.
Sustainability is not a simple fixed target, Ali tells us. “Sustainability is an evolving subject. It is no longer a concept, but a business case and one needs to stay up to date with the advancing trends globally. With governments streamlining building standards and prioritising sustainability, buildings that are not sustainable today run the risk of being non-compliant in the near future.”
Talking about one noteworthy project, Ali says “the Makers district in Abu Dhabi is one of the projects that we’re very proud of. We worked very closely on this project to include a range of sustainable features in the design, going beyond the Estidama requirements and making it future-ready. To name a few, we have replaced the cement content in the concrete by specifying cement replacements like GGBS, which saved massive amounts on the embodied carbon of our structural design since each kilogram of cement is equivalent to almost one kilogram of CO2e”. In certain parts of the design, in particular, the ‘Pixel towers’, he explains that “we reduced the core wall thickness of the towers above certain floors, which again resulted in reduced embodied carbon. We also designed for the condensate to be collected and reused for irrigation across the plantation around the Pixel. We considered the impact of the changing climate when designing the beach and its landscaping. We conducted an extensive study of passive and active measures so as to embed sustainability as part of the design right from the start”.
For young engineers who are just starting their careers, he observes that they “are very familiar with the concept of sustainability. They are expected to know standards and tools such as LEED and BREEAM, as well as principles of circular economy and must have sustainability embedded in their way of thinking and engineering. There are constant threats and challenges to the sustainability of our planet, and we must constantly keep studying and know more about these to push the sustainability agenda further.”
Recalling the beginning of his career in sustainability, Ali tells us that one of his professors from his University in London who suggested that he could explore the area way back in 2005. At that time, sustainability was still a novelty, and it did not seem particularly promising as a career path – and yet, “14 years later, here I am, heading sustainability for Ramboll, working on some amazing projects and thoroughly enjoying what I do!”
A vibrant hub responding to the rise of the maker movement – a global social movement with an artisan spirit – that is set to become one of Abu Dhabi’s most iconic communities.