General Manager, Kuwait Green Building Council (KGBC)
In this week’s exclusive interview, The Business Year talks to Sandra Draskovic, the general manager of Kuwait Green Building Council (KGBC), on the organization’s activities, aims and future plans in the country.
She began by highlighting some of the major highlights of KGBC in the past few years. “KGBC is a membership-based organization that serves both the public and private sector. We try to bridge these two spheres together through events and initiatives. We moved our activities online when COVID-19 struck, which was a real challenge. Networking online is unlike networking in real life, and so our members certainly felt that change; however, it was also successful because it shed some light on these challenges.
“We thought about the benefits we can provide for our members during a time of crisis. We discussed the well-being of people inside their homes. We organized weekly ‘Green Talks’ on Instagram and we also shared it on YouTube. We discussed the benefits of lockdown on the environment in Kuwait, sustainable transportation, benefits of green building practices for the future, and how we could save energy and water while stuck at home.
“We created a digital, informative animation titled ‘The guide to energy and water saving at home’ on how people can save domestic water and energy use by simply changing their behavior. It was a successful campaign that reached a large audience. We plan to do more online campaigns and infographics related to technical aspects of green buildings. We have also organized webinars, technical training, and workshops for LEED building certification. We reached an audience of around 3,000 people and trained around 30 professionals on various related topics.
“We organized our first face-to-face ’Green Talks’ as soon as events and gatherings were allowed. We partnered with our member, Volvo, to discuss existing buildings in Kuwait, which was an important topic that not many people had discussed before because the focus was on new development, projects and buildings. We discussed what we can do with the old buildings with low performance that likely consume a great deal of water and energy. That initiative was also successful, and we will certainly host more lectures and training of this kind that will equip engineers with technical skill-sets and know-how to deal with sustainable renovations and retrofitting projects.”
Expanding on the progress level of sustainable practices being applied in Kuwait. Ms. Draskovic noted: “Currently, there are several major developments in the country and more on the horizon. One is housing development that includes five pillars and is focused on Kuwait Vision 2035. The government is planning to provide at least 65,000 housing units. There are also existing projects like the new Airport Terminal and an extension of Kuwait’s Scientific Center.
“All of these projects are aiming to obtain green building certification. Some of them are applying for LEED certification or to be LEED compliant. For example, The Kuwait Scientific Center will be LEED compliant, which means they might not reach the certification level, but will nonetheless be following sustainable practices during construction. The challenge lies with the new 90,000 housing units because these are private investments and projects that do not incline towards sustainable solutions. The government is working on this segment, especially the Ministry of Electricity, Water and Renewable Energy.
“But it is difficult to make a drastic shift from unsustainable to high-performance buildings that are respectful of the environment and resource consumption.
The first step is to change the behavior of the people and give them incentives to save water and energy. For instance, If consumers manage to save a certain percentage of water and energy, they will have their annual bill amount reduced by 40 percent for electricity and 50 percent for water bills. This incentive will help the government to collect data on consumption and encourage people to conserve resources more consciously and responsibly. It will change people’s behavior and help them accept sustainable practices more easily.
“This is where we try to provide information and the technical know-how, including to engineers, consultancy offices, architects, and even the governmental sector like the Kuwait Municipality. It is important to know how to build sustainably. Increasing the energy tariffs for the end consumer is one of the solutions to guide behavioral change. Nevertheless, the government’s main goal is to save resources for the future generations and reduce consumption. Indeed, this is one of the sustainability pillars of Kuwait Vision 2035.
“We first need to reduce by introducing no-cost solutions, then by introducing passive design solutions and cost-solutions. We need to build and equip buildings with high-performance MEP systems, and operate them and maintain them in a better way to have building units that are energy and water efficient. When we have this in place for existing and new buildings, then we can think about increasing the energy tariffs.”
Explaining what KGBC offers companies entering Kuwait, Ms. Draskovic noted, “KGBC is the best membership-based platform in Kuwait to provide information on current developments in different segments of sustainable construction and green buildings. We have access to information related to governmental initiatives, country building and energy codes and building legislations, governmental entities, and private sector organizations who are practicing in the field of building material manufacturing, supplying, engineering, contracting and consultancy.
“We aim to be an online and printed platform. Our goal is to have a magazine that will be issued every four months to provide information to each of our members from all related sectors. We already provide people with information, consultancy and one-on-one support, but we want to improve that service, and will create a single platform where everyone can access required information, through paper-based and digital magazines. We believe this will be the best way for companies seeking to partner with each other, enter a tender, or offer their services. We are putting together a business plan and will likely partner with certain governmental entities as well. We hope to bridge the public and private sectors and start issuing information in 2023.”
Asked what were the core factors behind her success as a project manager with extensive experience across different countries, Ms. Draskovic elaborated: “Each country has different cultural values and business climates. Working in Europe, Mongolia, Russia or Kuwait is not an identical process. It takes time to understand how to communicate and what values are in place. People in Kuwait value personal connections, so it is crucial to understand what matters to them. We focus on hiring Kuwaiti nationals, because I personally believe that if our team is Kuwaiti oriented, they will have a personal drive to improve their own country, to be more sustainable, to work and live in a comfortable, pollution free, resourceful environment. This will motivate and encourage greater involvement and motivation.”
Turning to the key initiatives that KGBC is focused on for the upcoming year, Ms. Draskovic explained: “We will focus on education and consultancy, hosting conferences, webinars, seminars, and Green Talks. We also intend to work closely with schools and universities through frequent visits to offer students some insight into the private sector. We also plan to provide technical workshops, training and courses mostly for companies and the government sector. At the same time, we will be delivering knowledge on LEED and other sustainable certifications such as WELL and BREEAM. We will provide technical sessions on how to design, build and operate sustainable building, facility management, operations, deep retrofitting, and everything related to those issues, plus provide engineering, and consultancy offices tools enabling the design, construction and operation of green buildings in Kuwait. And of course, we plan to launch our magazine.”
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The Business Year