The construction industry is responsible for 39 per cent of global CO2 emissions. How can it transform itself and contribute to a sustainable future? Consistent Engineering Consultants combine traditional sustainable principles with modern tech to create green, energy-efficient construction projects.
The world is on the edge of a precipice. While political arguments continue as to whether the cause of global warming is cyclical or people-led, all scientists agree that carbon emissions are the cause.
Where does construction fit into this crisis? The World Green Building Council has estimated that building and construction account for around 39 per cent of the world’s CO2 emissions, with operational emissions accounting for 22 per cent. The construction industry is also responsible for 36 per cent of global energy consumption. With the population set to increase 30 per cent by the end of the century, people and businesses will always need buildings and infrastructure. However, there are alternative, greener ways to create them.
With changing trends in the construction sector, Consistent Engineering Consultants has adopted the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as part of its core mission. The CEC team comprises several experts in engineering services for designing sustainable systems, energy modelling, analysing potential EEMs and renewable energy solutions. Consistent’s goal is to “equip structures that serve as beacons of sustainable infrastructure in urban and industrial environments.”
So what does sustainable MEP construction mean in practice?
Sustainability is a mindset that percolates into everything we do, and covers three intertwined aspects: environmental impact, economic impact and social impact.
Environmental impact concerns the design and construction of buildings and infrastructure, how the materials used perform and the inclusion of renewable energy sources for build and operation. The goals that cover demand for clean and affordable energy (SDG 7), sustainable cities and communities (SDG 11), and climate action (SDG 13) emphasise minimising the adverse effects on the environment.
Examples include new forms of energy being developed that can be integrated into buildings. There is even the potential for large buildings to become “energy positive” – feeding energy from solar power or wind into the grid rather than relying on it for power. And with older buildings that are still reliant on fossil fuels, there is an opportunity to use sensor technology to ensure that lighting and air conditioning systems minimise energy requirements.
Economic impact means moving towards a circular economy of renewable energy, waste and water, thus reusing the by-products of a building’s life cycle. Techniques such as water harvesting and recycling, natural ventilation and heat recovery systems can reduce the impact of construction and development on our planet.
As Sagar Kulkarni, Managing Director of CEC says, “Sustainable development demands change in the mindset and habits of people, and therein lies the challenge. The fact that we get requests to develop the design to meet an indoor temperature of 20°C, and face a reluctance to use recycled water in facilities, all indicate these mindset issues. So, the parameters of reduce and reuse become challenging as part of a circular economy.”
Consistent Engineering Consultants: quality, commitment and sustainability
Sagar Kulkarni, Founder and Managing Director, Consistent Engineering Consultants
From its foundation in 2007 as an MEP consultancy firm in Dubai, Consistent decided to pivot towards sustainable MEP solutions after noting that climate change had become a severe threat. Today, it offers a range of solutions, from conventional MEP designs and green buildings that adhere to international standards, to energy-efficient retrofitting of existing buildings and large solar PV installations.
“Sustainability provides a holistic approach towards development in the long run and does not focus only on initial costs,” says Kulkarni. “It is all about balancing out the interests of individuals without harming the needs of the planet.”
Consistent is committed to delivering quality “comfort-driven” solutions while meeting sustainable goals. Take for example its heating, ventilation and cooling (HVAC) techniques. The focus is on combining active air conditioning systems – essential for human comfort – with passive systems such as natural ventilation and thermal mass to regulate thermal conditions. Refrigeration systems with ozone depletion and global warming potential are avoided or minimised.
What does Consistent’s approach look like in practice? Oneexample is this high-end luxury villa in Dubai. With care taken over the orientation of the windows to avoid excessive solar heat gain, a heat transfer coefficient 40 per cent lower than that stipulated, and a solar heating and hot water system, the result was a near-zero energy building.
Energy modeling for baseline model
Energy modeling for green building standard model
Energy modeling for proposed model
As can be seen, the electric consumption is significantly reduced in the design proposed by the Consistent team.
Or take water conservation. Consistent employs public health engineering experts who coordinate with architects and structural engineers to create sustainable plumbing solutions.
For example, the government-owned Dubai company ENOC was tasked to operate car washing and vacuuming services for the Dubai Taxi Corporation. A turnover of 3,000 taxis per day would mean significant potential water wastage. Consistent installed and oversaw the installation of awater treatment system that led to a 75 per cent reduction in freshwater use. Fresh water consumption was reduced by 350,000m3 per annum with a payback period of just one year. This was regarded as one of the successful sustainable projects implemented for ENOC.
Knowledge and skills
Consistent has executed diverse projects in hospitality, healthcare, industrial, educational, commercial and residential sectors through its technical expertise in sustainable building engineering services. It has in-house specialists with accreditations in supporting sustainable development (LEED AP, WELL AP, CEM, CEA, CMVP, M.Sc.), energy and solar PV specialists, with a highly motivated design team handling various types of modeling software to achieve remarkable results for its clients.
More recently the company has also built up considerable expertise in solar PV systems. Concentrated on projects in the Gulf and India, these are perhaps the most appropriate way to minimise dependence on fossil fuels. With certified solar energy experts and successful projects including installing solar roofs on large facilities such as warehouses and schools, CEC has established its credentials in the renewable energy sector.
Management processes match these skills. The company follows a number of international standards, including quality management (ISO 9001), occupational health and safety management (ISO 45001), environment management (ISO 14001), and energy management (ISO 50001).
Leading the way
Consistent’s operational values – which combine sustainability goals with meeting the client’s needs and advanced eco tech with the best expertise available – might explain its phenomenal success. Over 13 years, the company has grown and expanded, managing MEP construction in more than 600 projects in the Middle East, India and Africa.
Consistent shows that sustainability is compatible with construction, and it provides a model which other companies in the sector can emulate. But can it convince others? The company believes that “sustainability is the new normal”. Says Sagar Kulkarni, “Everything is affected by environmental depletion and global warming, from the food we eat to our basic social structures. There is no other choice. We need to act fast by applying the best green technologies to the sector. We intend to lead on sustainability, combining thought leadership with an active demonstration that MEP can encompass quality and sustainability.”
Senior management has ensured that Consistent Engineering plays its part in promoting knowledge and best practice within the industry. The company leadership is active on the Emirates and US Green Buildings Councils (GBC) and regularly shares insights at GBC workshops. Recently, Consistent was involved in redesigning an office building and with detailed engineering, and was able to reduce cooling load by 24 per cent. The details of the case were shared by the EGBC video webinar and vlog.
Consistent recently conducted a webinar series, “Securing Sustainable Futures”, to create awareness about sustainable development and its goals in the construction sector. In addition, the company is working on a number of studies that will be published, such as designs for sustainable villas, geothermal cooling and ways of reducing energy consumption for existing designs.
Not confined to the industry, Consistent has also implemented a campaign on eWaste in Dubai, designed to educate ordinary consumers as well as companies about the dangers of electronic waste. In less than two weeks, they managed to collect almost a ton of electronic waste. Through social media, the campaign received an enthusiastic response from the residents of Dubai.
Team Consistent during the E-Waste Management Campaign
Developing the skills to understand and manage the requirements for sustainable building are globally applicable lessons, and the approach Consistent takes is to share its knowledge as widely as possible. As the world slowly emerges from the shadow of the pandemic, the company has pledged to make sustainability the new normal for the construction industry.
It is time to establish a balancing act between various factors, whether social, environmental, or economical, initial or operation and maintenance costs, or even individual and collective requirements. A minimalistic approach is the best way to drive the behaviour of society towards responsible consumption. As Kulkarni says, “When we can truly establish balance between our ancient customs and modern technology, that will be the key to the successful adoption of sustainability.”
Header image provided by: Residential Building Project at Al Qusais for WASL Properties, Consistent Engineering Consultants