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Journey to Net Zero: Retrofitting the UAE’s Built Environment

One of the topics discussed during The Filipino Times Watchlist: Top Filipino Engineers and Architects in the Middle East Summit—which was held on March 17 at Radisson Blu Hotel Deira, Dubai—was “Journey to Net Zero: Retrofitting The UAE’s Built Environment.”

It tackled how retrofits aimed at improving energy efficiency can become a natural progression for the UAE Real Estate and Facilities Management (FM) sectors, if implemented effectively. The main objective of retrofitting the built environment is to improve the efficiency and sustainability of an existing structure by reducing energy and water use. This can be accomplished in a number of ways, including retrofitting lighting, heating, ventilation and air conditioning, developing waste management strategies, and investing in digital infrastructure.

This panel session presented key takeaways on pilot successes, benchmarking criteria and mandatory upgrades, as well as how industry can adopt the building retrofit option.

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From left to right: Kirby Zalameda, Design Director of Architecture – DLR Group Middle East; Manosh De, Urban Planning Expert – Dubai Municipality; Christine Erlanda, Associate Partner – Godwin Austen Johnson & Architects; Dr. Karen Remo, Chief Executive Office – New Perspective Media Group

Kirby Zalameda, Design Director of Architecture at DLR Group Middle East, said: “Net zero is basically a new project, that is why a lot of these guidelines have been set up. A lot of these new rules initially started with the context of primarily addressing new buildings at play. But they are catching up in a sense that there is already the retrofit action. Retrofitting is actually a very big phenomenon right now.”

Manosh De, Urban Planning Expert at Dubai Municipality, commented: “When you think about retrofitting, you need to also think about whether the architectural landscape contributes to the image and identity of the city. So within that context, if you ask how long should a building last, yes it may last long but ‘is it worth keeping’ should be the next question. And sometimes, while it is easy to maintain a building and just fix it from the inside, if externally it does not add the value that you need, perhaps there is a case that it will fall down.”

Christine Espinosa-Erlanda, Associate Partner at Godwin Austen Johnson & Architects, highlighted: “For the next 20-30 years, were going to be designing more sustainably compared to recent strategies that we have done previously. In the next years I see that everyone will be interested in living sustainably. At the end of the day no one will thank us for designing a building or designing a masterplan that is badly placed, so I think it’s up to us as engineers and architects, or architects and engineers to be able to add sustainability in every aspect of our design.”

The Filipino Times Watchlist: Top Filipino Engineers and Architects in the Middle East Summit and Awards was held to serve as a unique platform for Filipino engineers and architects to exchange knowledge, experiences, and ideas with industry experts and peers. It also provided an opportunity for professionals to learn about the latest developments in their fields and explore new avenues for growth and advancement.

Lianne Micah Asidera

Lianne is a former News Correspondent for the Provincial Government of Bataan in the Philippines where she covered local government events and projects. She takes pleasure in winning over readers' hearts by showcasing stories of the world that matter and bringing the latest updates to both OFWs and international readers of The Filipino Times. Want to share your story? Reach Lianne on Facebook: or send your story at: [email protected]

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