Qatar construction: Redefining the route to net zero
With its fortunes built upon vast resources of natural gas and oil, Qatar is now seeking to help spearhead the transition to net zero and rebrand as a global green hub. Nowhere is this more evident than in the construction industry
To become a global shop window and knowledge hub for sustainable development would count as a hugely impressive metamorphosis for this independent desert emirate. Qatar has more of an interest than most in promoting sustainability and being part of the solution to reduce emissions and combat climate change, given already searing daytime temperatures and an overwhelmingly low-lying built environment.
Beyond dire predictions regarding temperature increases if things continue unchecked, the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) predicts global sea levels will increase by 52-98 cm by 2100, raising in Qatar the very real prospect of catastrophic damage to infrastructure and the contamination of precious water supplies.
Changing the architecture
The construction of buildings and infrastructure accounts for approximately 20 percent of global carbon emissions annually.
Informed by this, Qatar has rightly identified reaching net-zero carbon construction by 2050 as a priority goal, and to this end is urgently seeking innovative ways to reduce carbon emissions across the construction value chain to deliver infrastructure and real estate.
Beyond directly targeting the highest emitters, such as flaring gas, oil and cement production, government funding and redefined ecosystems are helping construction organisations find mutually-beneficial partnerships and shared investments that can accelerate emission reductions.
Across multiple large-scale, state-owned construction projects, sustainable strategies have been fundamentally revised and new benchmarks set. These now need to be implemented more effectively.
Solar power in the net-zero mix
With average daily sunshine of 9.5 hours, low-cloud cover conditions, and low population density outside the metropolises, there is excellent scope for solar-power projects in Qatar to assist with green-building techniques. One example is the Al Kharsaah Project, which is set to be the world’s largest such facility. Once fully operational, it will meet 10 percent of the country’s peak electricity demand and act to avoid 26 million metric tons of CO2 over its lifetime.
Whole life carbon – a key criteria
With investors and developers placing sustainability outcomes higher on their strategic priorities, it is crucial for construction industry stakeholders to help align project teams with their sustainable and commercial agendas.
With the Qatari Government having now made compliance with Global Sustainability Assessment System (GSAS) standards mandatory for all new private and public sector projects, it is promoting the adoption of a whole-life-cycle-carbon approach, meaning buildings must be informed by sustainable thinking from the conceptual stage.
The potential of prefab
While the adoption of modular construction in Qatar is still in its infancy, it is quickly gaining traction in the commercial sphere, for the sustainability benefits are clear.
These include increased energy efficiency, lower transportation emissions, standardised construction, maintenance and redevelopment processes, less waste to landfill and greater scope for recycling and reuse of materials at end of life.
Adopting a net-zero waste concept
Any plan to achieve net-zero emissions in Qatar must also include a comprehensive sustainable waste-management strategy.
Currently, this country of less than 3 million people generates more than 2.5 million tons of solid waste each year, with the vast majority heading straight to landfill, representing a major environmental challenge for authorities.
Much of this figure can be attributed to the huge increase in construction over recent years, with measures to remedy the situation including a stated objective to include 35 percent circular procurement in all public infrastructure. This translates to works, goods and services that contribute to closed energy and material loops within the supply chain being prioritised.
Action not words
As the global knowledge base for net-zero construction expands, the industry itself must evolve to keep pace. In Qatar it is essential that key construction stakeholders not only question past practices, but also have the courage to implement new best practices if the government wishes to achieve its goals. As the 2022 FIFA World Cup has concluded, the eyes of the world are no longer be fixed upon the Gulf emirate, but the logic for action in reforming the construction sector to make it more sustainable will be no less profound.