Movement to promote ‘Green schools’ in the UAE takes off

The Emirates Coalition for Green Schools brings together the UAE’s strongest advocates to create a national platform for the proliferation of green schools in the UAE.
Sunday 28/01/2018
A view of the Swiss International Scientific School in Dubai. (SISD)
Long-term investment. A view of the Swiss International Scientific School in Dubai. (SISD)

DUBAI - A concerted move has begun in Dubai to create awareness about the long-term benefits of “green schools” in the United Arab Emirates. The endeavour will contribute to enhanced health and productivity among students, decreased absenteeism and improve the value of school buildings, officials and advocates said.

The Emirates Green Building Council (EmiratesGBC) hosted a discussion with environmental groups, energy service companies, educators and private and public sector stakeholders to create a national vision for establishing healthy, high-performance schools conducive to learning while saving energy, resources and money.

EmiratesGBC, which is a founding member of the Global Coalition for Green Schools, seeks to help communities ensure “that every child in the UAE has the opportunity to learn in a green school within this generation,” a statement said.

EmiratesGBC, which was entrusted with drafting “a national vision for green schools” based on the discussion’s conclusions, pointed out the growing interest in the Emirates Coalition for Green Schools.

“This indicates the wide level of interest in this platform and highlights the attention that schools in the UAE need,” said EmiratesGBC Chairman Saeed al-Abbar. “The Emirates Coalition for Green Schools brings together the UAE’s strongest advocates to create a national platform for the proliferation of green schools in the UAE.”

“While we focus more on the physical aspects, that is the building itself, green schools should also function to increase the environmental literacy of the children so that they can become future advocates of sustainability. Therefore, the vision of green schools cannot be achieved by a single entity alone and needs the collaboration of multiple stakeholders,” Abbar said.

He said the main stakeholders — government entities, owners and operators of educational institutions, the private sector, which includes energy saving companies and consultants, and organisations that run school-specific environmental programmes such as the Environment Agency- Abu Dhabi, Emirates Environmental Group and Environmental Centre for Arab Towns — have a vital role in achieving the group’s vision.

Charles Blaschke is the founder of Taka Solutions, an energy service and technology finance company that invests and profits from the savings it generates from clients’ facilities. He noted that “it was very stimulating to use technology, engineering and finance to make a true impact in the world and solve one of the world’s largest global challenges, which is climate change.”

“It’s an exciting time in general and we are excited about the region and have plans of deploying upward of Dh500 million ($136 million) of capital in existing buildings in the UAE to make them smart, intelligent green buildings, including schools, and schools are a very special place for us.”

Blaschke, whose company is a corporate member of EmiratesGBC, said: “Schools are a very different type of buildings. Every building is unique. Schools are very vital because they hold children. They are young and their bodies are not fully developed so there is a big effect whenever the environment is not great for them and it hinders them from learning.”

To improve the environment, Blaschke said the government or the education regulator could enforce building codes for a certain level of performance for schools, by linking it to licensing, insurance, annual ratings, awards and to school fee levels. “The school owners need to take the action necessary for them to be a high-performance green school,” Blaschke said.

From the energy standpoint, it was very easy, he said. “Schools need to be at 150 kilowatts per sq. metre of energy consumption; very standard, very simple. Start to get people to look at it and then it will start to change.”

He said all stakeholders have a role to play and it is only possible to transform to green schools if they are all involved and supporting.

“If we say the goal is to really transform all schools to green schools, there needs to be a programme and incentive where the private sector gets involved and it is there to support and offer their expertise and it is their expertise that is going to physically get the work done,” he said.