In the race to set new records for building height and speed of construction, incorporating the natural environment into design has been neglected. But the Gulf’s growing awareness of environmental issues, demonstrated by the green building code, to start in Dubai in January 2008, is changing this.

International firms have made the most of the opportunities to create signature structures that act as marketing tools for Gulf cities. They now have another opportunity: to lead the world in sustainable building design.

Architects in the region speak of their clients’ unwillingness to pay for features that are deemed sustainable, such as photovoltaic cells and water recycling units.

But how hard have the designers been pushing these measures? Is it a failure of the client, or the designer who cannot create a business case and a clear argument for such design?

The architects and designers of these developments are as guilty of creating ugly, inefficient structures and urban developments as the clients paying for them.

They must work harder to convince clients that buildings should work with the region’s natural advantages, not in spite of them. Clients are finally listening and it is time to act.

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