Green interiors: What are the challenges and scope for sustainable fitouts in Qatar?
Although Qatar’s focus on sustainable construction has grown over the years with the promotion of green certification systems such as the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) and Global Sustainability Assessment System (GSAS), the drive for green interiors and fitouts has lagged behind due to the lack of awareness and regulations. We speak to some of the architects and artists from Doha to understand the scope of sustainable interiors and challenges they face.
When planning your fitout, clients should ensure that sustainability and energy efficiency are the major considerations
The concept of green interiors is where, as designers and contractors, we use ecologically sustainable materials across the building’s lifecycle (manufacture, installation, use and post use/demolition). In addition, the utilisation of resource-efficient appliances, fixtures and fittings provide a quality indoor environment. For instance, a green fitout may include Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified timber products, low Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) building materials, separate recycling bins (for instance, for paper, plastic and biological material), bicycle storage facilities, and associated amenities and lighting solutions that maximise natural light and use electricity efficiently, by using items such as compact fluorescent globes and LEDs.
In terms of its application in Qatar, while there are some major construction projects underway that have been designed to very high international accredited green standards, I feel that as a country, there is much more that can be done and has not been taken up by private developers as much as the government projects.
There are many ways in which fitouts can be carried out in a more sustainable manner, from using sustainable materials, making environmentally-conscious choices and employing energy-saving technologies. Planning the project carefully to maximise space, daylight and the availability of fresh air is also fundamental.
When planning your fitout, clients should ensure that sustainability and energy efficiency are the major considerations, and specify mechanical and electrical systems, furniture and fittings – basically everything. The simple things make the biggest difference, for instance planning for recycling areas and removing individual waste bins. You could save on lighting by installing daylight capture systems and motion sensitive fittings. Purchase products that have recycled materials within them, and ensure that your timber products are all FSC certified. Considering sustainable solutions in the heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems is probably the most important.
I personally believe that over the coming years, more and more countries will have to adopt green building credentials and rating systems in order to combat climate changes as part of a United Nations’ drive.
To promote sustainable interiors in Qatar, there are no real hurdles except the lack of awareness among the end users
The term ‘green interiors’ is probably misused a lot because it is not just about being eco-friendly as a designer. In my view, the better term to use is sustainable interior design. That means a designer needs to meet the following objectives: energy efficiency, good materials choices and resource usage, maintaining a healthy indoor environmental quality, and ensuring a healthy social and economic impact in the value chain.
To start with, Qatar has undertaken a number of initiatives to make its construction and building codes more eco-friendly. However, when it comes to interiors, there are no standards that are being used by the government to regulate or incentivise the use of sustainable interiors. A few changes could help: firstly, use materials that come from environmentally sound sources and are recyclable or have a lower carbon footprint; secondly, have incentives for interior designers and contractors to use more sustainable practices; and lastly, increase awareness for clients around sustainability in their living, working and recreational spaces.
To promote sustainable interiors in Qatar, I do not see any real hurdles except the lack of awareness among the end users of sustainable interiors. It is our duty and that of all interior designers to ensure that they promote sustainable practices and inform clients of their alternatives at every opportunity.
I believe that the Qatar interiors market is not unlike other regional market. At the end of the day, interior designers have adapted to the needs and tastes of their clientele here.
Qatar is a well-developed country, and will lead the way to implement green rating systems
To be honest, green fitouts and interiors are not given that much importance by many clients in this region, but we are doing our part to conserve water, energy, and reduce wastage of resources.
From our experience, we can say that clients always expect best quality fitouts, executed within a reasonable timeframe and cost. Today, clients are very well exposed to the international designs and concepts. They are not only present in the Gulf region but also in Europe and the United States (US). So their expectation and demand from architects and designers are very high.
In order to meet that demand, we always make sure that we allocate the work to a dedicated team comprising engineers and other technical staff. We are working with professional people who know exactly what choices should be made in order to achieve a sustainable end product. Their job is to make sure that the project is executed as per the specifications and standards set out by the client. It is also important to use right kinds of materials and workforce at the right time to achieve your goal.
However, it is quite challenging to source fitout materials in Qatar. Most of our retailer clients who deal in international brands require special materials, which are not always easily available in the local market. Many local suppliers are not having the full range of required products, especially the finishing materials.
That is where our experience and connections, not only in the Middle East but also in other parts of the world such as Europe, the US and China, come into play. Having our branch office in Dubai also plays a very important role in allowing us to source all types of material in quick time.
Qatar is a well-developed country, and I think it will lead the way to implement green rating systems in line with international standards.