What have been your main contributions to the country?
DIAA EL-MASRY When we started in 2011, we were pioneering the area of green building and sustainability. At that time, the level of awareness was still low, and not everyone knew about environmental sustainability or the impact of buildings on the environment. As we are architects and have basic knowledge about these issues, we started to provide trainings and free sessions on green building, sustainability, energy efficiency, and applying these dimensions in buildings to help the local economy and environment at the same time. Our efforts in those first two years were minor compared to those of the government, especially with the enactment of Qatar National Vision 2030. Lately, sustainability has become a hot topic in Qatar, and every organization was trying to be in line with the National Vision. The trend took solid shape in 2014 and 2015, which was the start of a real green movement in the country. So far, we have been involved as sustainability consultants in almost 120 projects in Qatar, and the majority have been completed.
MARC VERMEERSCH Part of the academic mandate is building knowledge, which is extremely important. We still publish scientific and technology-oriented publications, though there is a gap between the publication itself and the final practical outcome. We seek to bridge this gap through a technology readiness level (TRL) system that measures and quantifies the readiness of a technology from idea to inception; TRL1 means it is still just an idea while TRL8 or 9 means it has gone to market as a product. In each of the five centers, we have senior research directors leading this process. We are now having a real impact on the different industries in the country and, thus, the national vision. Another component that brings value to our mandate is that we are now authorized to sell our services, so we can issue commercial offers to requests from industry players. This means the research is more relevant to what the stakeholders need, as we now know exactly what the necessities are and where we have to steer the research effort.
When will we notice a jump toward mandatory green certification and enforcement?
DEM Having a sustainable or green building probably will cost more, but in the end you will get a better product. We do not consider this as additional cost but rather an investment. However, once you enforce something which seems costing more, people usually find a backdoor solution or work-around. So, before enforcement, educate people about the benefits they will get and incentivize them before punishment for violations. Incentives can be given not only in terms of tax deductions, but also additional allowances in terms of floor space. For example, in Lusail City, Qatari Diar requires a minimum GSAS certification of two-star; however, if companies go for three-star, they would receive 5% more floor area ratio (FAR) and another 5% each time they gain an additional star. This makes it worthwhile to invest in such targets. Whatever companies do in compliance with environmental laws can benefit them in obtaining GSAS or LEED certification, by giving additional points. Whatever companies do on the environmental side will help them on the green building side.
What have been the main successes in the last few years since you took office as executive director?
MV For three years, we have transitioned the institute, which was originally founded as an academic institute, into becoming an applied- and market-driven research institute, with a national mandate, covering key areas for the country: energy, water, and the environment. We have created five research centers hosted by the institute—energy, water, the environment and sustainability, corrosion, and natural and environmental hazards observatory—and one Earth Sciences Program (ESP). Regarding our main projects, we have to mention three. The first is a wastewater COVID-19 project wherein QEERI has been launching collaborative research initiatives to monitor municipal wastewater with the aim to detect and control the virus. Another relevant project that we are extremely proud of is the collaboration with Total in solar energy to provide support to the deployment of the 800-MW Al Kharsaah photovoltaic (PV) power plant. Finally, we have signed an agreement with the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory called the Space Act Agreement to design a space mission that will probe under the sand dunes and potential ice sheets on the earth's driest places.