Hours after switching off lights for Earth Hour, Dubai on Sunday announced its decision to switch to green concrete to make its ever-expanding built-up areas healthier and more sustainable.
From April, all new buildings coming up in Dubai will have to use green alternatives for original Portland cement (OPC), the major component of concrete mix that is found to emit toxic gases.
With each tonne of OPC produced puffing out more than one tonne of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other toxic gases, the Dubai Municipality (DM) has made it mandatory for consultants and contractors to use more of greener and safer alternatives like Fly Ash, and Ground Granulated Blast Furnace Slag (GGBFS), officials said at a Press conference.
The aim is to keep Dubai a healthy city that follows the highest standards of sustainable development and provide residents clean and pollution-free environment. The move followed a study by the municipality’s Building Department that ascertained the negative impacts that Portland cement can have.
When one tonne of cement is produced, studies have found, 164kg of dust is also dumped to the air, which contributes to intensifying the phenomenon of global warming and also causes several diseases including cancer.
“We are keen to provide what is best for the city. We are looking at every element of buildings,” said Dubai Municipality Director-General Hussain Nasser Lootah.
He said the new options comply with green building requirements, are more durable and offer better quality at the same or even cheaper rates.
Officials said the construction industry in the UAE depends solely on a dozen cement-manufacturing companies. “The capacity of the 12 cement companies in the UAE is 39 million tonnes. But we are producing only 19 million tonnes as per the demand, which is going up slowly,” said DM Assistant Director-General for Engineering and Planning Sector Abdullah Raffia.
These factories will now be producing more of GGBS and Fly Ash. With a minimum of 66 per cent of these materials in the concrete, which are recyclable byproducts from other industries, the concrete mix becomes stronger. Apart from causing less emission of dust and fume, they are better resistant to water, salt and sulfate. Raffia said the ash and slag are considered lifetime materials that give 40 more years for buildings. “We have calculated an estimated saving of Dh192 billion for Dubai because of the extended durability of buildings.”
Depending on the design and specifications of buildings, he said, only up to a maximum of 34 per cent of OPC will be allowed in the concrete mix.
The industry here is very well prepared to switch to the green concrete, according to Robin Styles, technical support manager of CEMEX.
“From the ready-mix industry perspective, I think we are very well prepared for the change…The municipality has been engaging with the stakeholders for a few years. By using these alternative options, you can reduce the carbon footprint of concrete by up to 45 per cent,” he said.
Talking about the benefits for individual building owners, Styles said: “If you have a villa, you have less maintenance, less problems and the structure will last longer…You get more rentable time before you need to do repairs.”
As part of the “#Sustainable Dubai” initiative, the ready-mix concrete trucks in Dubai will also go for a makeover in their looks. A truck wrapped in the new design showing a green skyline of Dubai and carrying the tagline “Green Concrete for a Sustainable Future” was displayed at the venue where officials also witnessed a demonstration of the green concrete mixing process.
By Sajila Saseendran
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