1 July 2013 — The Middle East and North Africa region, while having a growing dialogue and increased awareness of the need to create more sustainable buildings and communities, does not have the progress of other more mature markets in the world, a report has found.

The Jones Lang LaSalle report, Sustainability in the MENA Real Estate Market – Walking the Talk, assesses the region’s response to the global debate surrounding the environmental, economic and social sustainability of the built environment.

Alan Robertson

Jones Lang LaSalle Middle East and North Africa chief executive officer Alan Robertson said the MENA region faced a unique set of challenges and issues in terms of sustainable buildings and cities.

“For example, our water shortage is mitigated by costly desalination and we are faced with high water consumption which leads to a higher carbon footprint and ultimately impacts climate change,” he said.

“The fast pace of urban development, along with the short term and cost conscious focus of many regional real estate stakeholders are also limiting the uptake of sustainability initiatives and the more widespread development of sustainable buildings and communities.

“While sustainability is still in its infancy in the Middle East, we are seeing increased signs that real estate stakeholders are now adopting more initiatives.

“It is hugely encouraging to see initiatives like Masdar City and Estidama setting the sustainability agenda in the region.

“The combination of such initiatives, along with greater government legislation and an increased awareness of the financial premium associated with green buildings, will provide a further impetus towards the concept of sustainability.”

Highlights of the report include:

  • While there has been increased talk about the importance of creating more sustainable buildings and cities within MENA, progress on converting this talk into concrete action continues to lag behind that in more mature markets.
  • Four factors lie behind the limited progress on creating sustainable developments in MENA to date:
  1. Lack of legislation to enforce change and introduce new practices in most markets.
  2. Absence of any discernable financial premium.
  3. Subsidised energy, water and waste disposal costs.
  4. Limited awareness of environmental issues.
  • There is growing evidence of the significant advantages that more sustainable real estate confers on developers, occupiers and investors in overseas markets and these advantages are likely to become more widely recognised in the Middle East over the next five years.
  • The UAE remains the clear market leader within the Middle East, with a much lower awareness of the need for more sustainable buildings elsewhere in the region.
  • All three dimensions of sustainability (economic, social and environmental) must be addressed to create truly sustainable buildings and communities.