‘Sustainability’ is one of those words that in 2023 feels like you hear every day. No matter what country or industry you’re based in, sustainability is something we’re all being urged to consider both in our personal and professional lives. This goes doubly for those involved in construction, with sustainable building practices having become the focus of increasing attention across the world as nations prioritise tackling environmental challenges.
In Bahrain, a country known for its unique climate and rapid urban development, embracing sustainable building practices presents both opportunities and challenges. Needless to say that at Al Manaratain, we’re enthusiastic about the environmental and economic benefits of sustainable building practices, however, we also understand why to many others, taking ‘sustainability’ into account just looks like an additional cost that businesses have to either absorb or pass on to their customers. Frankly speaking, this can be the case but it doesn’t always need to be and when it does, there are usually advantages worth paying a little extra for.
When considered carefully and balanced against other considerations, sustainable building practices can actually help to improve performance, increase productivity, and elevate the quality of concrete products and other building materials. Better still, they can have a huge positive impact construction projects as a whole, leaving customers with an end result that everyone involved is proud of.
To back this claim up, we’re going to take a quick look at some practical examples of how using sustainable building practices in Bahrain can offer some very real advantages, as well as provide a well-rounded perspective on the impact of sustainable practices in the Middle East.
Impact On Bahrain’s Look & Feel
We’re going to start by discussing something that’s very close to our heart, maintaining the country’s distinctly Arabian architectural design and aesthetic. One of the concerns we hear most often from customers is that sustainable practices do not align with the look and feel of traditional Bahraini buildings. This is a perfectly valid concern and one that we have discussed internally and with various industry partners.
The thing is that while the majority of sustainable building practices and techniques have been developed overseas, they do not need to conflict with architectural traditions. Design elements can be integrated to ensure that new construction blends harmoniously with the existing urban fabric and many architects are already incorporating sustainable features into their designs, respecting Bahrain’s cultural heritage while more than meeting environmental standards.
Impact On Cost
As already mentioned, the use of energy-efficient materials and technologies, renewable energy sources, and sustainable construction methods can increase the initial costs of a project. While there may be an initial investment period, however, the medium-term financial benefits quickly offset these concerns.
One of the major focuses of sustainable construction in Bahrain is improving energy efficiency, which leads to reduced operational expenses in terms of electricity and water bills. Over time, the initial investment can pay off in the form of significant cost savings, especially when you factor in the forecasted EWA increases.
With all that said, not every sustainable building practice comes with an initially higher cost. From an architectural perspective, it’s possible reduce a building’s heat gain and increase its energy efficiency simply by factoring in the surrounding landscape and buildings, optimising roof space for solar panels, considering the size, angle and placement of windows and doorways, keeping ceilings low, and so on. Each one of these passive design principles can have a significant impact on energy efficiency and help to keep a building’s running costs under control, without bringing any additional costs with them when the right architect is consulted.
Impact On Property Values
Following on from the last point, the energy-efficiency of sustainable buildings in Bahrain will translate to lower utility bills, making them more attractive to potential residents be they private citizens or professional entities. In fact, given that expats pay significantly higher EWA bills than Bahrainis, foreign homebuyers and renters often appreciate the prospect of reduced long-term operating costs, which can increase the value of sustainably built homes when it comes to rental or sale. This isn’t to say that Bahraini buyers and renters won’t also appreciate the lower bills that come with more energy-efficient properties, they just won’t feel the financial benefits to the same extent.
Businesses on the other hand are sure to feel the full cost-saving benefit of energy-efficient premises, which is why sustainable building practices are essential when it comes to constructing offices, malls, restaurants, and so on.
Impact On The Local Economy
One of the most basic principles of sustainable construction is reducing your ‘carbon footprint’ and the easiest way to do that is to reduce the distance that your raw materials have to travel. Because of this, it’s always preferable to work with national suppliers when possible and regional suppliers when there are no national players capable of meeting your needs. If there are no regional suppliers capable of meeting your needs, only then do you look further afield.
While working with local suppliers may not always be the cheapest option, it keeps the money circulating within the local economy, improving the market’s cashflow. What’s more, local partners are far more likely to be capable of referring new customers to you than overseas suppliers with fewer connections in the market, so they are able to provide far more indirect value. This point actually highlights something very important and that’s that sustainability is more than simply sustaining the environment; it’s also about sustaining the strength and fertility of your local market.
With all this said, sometimes working with international suppliers thousands of miles away is the only practical business decision and this shouldn’t be ignored for the sake of sustainability. Like any factor worth taking into account, sustainable considerations ought to play a role in the decision-making process rather than lead it at the expense of all others.
Impact On Indoor Air Quality
The quality of air inside a building or structure is important because of how much time we spend indoors (especially during the summer months). Poor indoor air quality can have a negative impact on health and well-being, which is why sustainable building practices incorporate designs that promote good indoor air quality. Reducing the levels of indoor air pollutants, increasing natural ventilation, and reducing the infiltration of outdoor air pollutants results in a number of health benefits, including a decreased risk of respiratory problems – such as asthma and allergies. It also helps to reduce the spread of airborne diseases, something that we have found more and more customers are talking about since the COVID-19 Pandemic.
As you can see, good indoor air quality comes with a number of benefits, including improved health and well-being for residential occupants, as well as reduced absenteeism and increased productivity throughout workplaces. For many of our commercial customers, this point alone is reason enough to pursue sustainable building practices and invest in materials that might come at a higher price but pay for themselves in time.
Interested In Finding Out More?
If you’re interested in learning more about the benefits of sustainable building practices or would like some more information on how Al Manaratain products can contribute to the sustainability of your building projects, don’t hesitate to get in touch or visit us in our Sehla showroom.