Appraising a decade of LEED in the MENA region

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The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region-Arab countries share similar development goals and challenges to promote the green building industry. The Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) has recently been introduced to this area as an internationally recognized third-party Green building rating system (GBRS). The study has adopted a dual-tier cross-comparative approach to answer two research questions (Q); on one hand, setting the LEED system as a common base recognized the variations of countries' adoption patterns of LEED certification and pinpoints the associated challenges (Q1). On the other hand, countries of similar development backgrounds but variations in their economic, environmental, legislative and judicial conditions indicate the factors determining the diffusion of the LEED system in the area (Q2). In this regard, the analysis has highlighted two sets of governing parameters; a) LEED diffusion associated parameters and b) countries' associated parameters. Accordingly, a quantitative methodology has been applied to investigate both sets, on the regional level including seventeen countries and this is narrowed down to a detailed level for principal LEED adopting countries. To answer Q1, it has been found that the diffusion of green buildings is slowly taking place on a steady rate but it is more pronounced as a trajectory form for new construction buildings and standalone high-income housing projects but is it alarming to note the minor share of the existing building stock. Nevertheless, the adoption rates of different categories vary to reflect the regional potentials and challenges of applying green design and construction measures; they are highest for the ‘Innovation in Design’ and ‘Regional Priority’ followed by the 'sustainable Sites’ and ‘Water Efficiency’, less for the ‘Energy and Atmosphere’ and ‘Indoor Environmental Quality’ categories and least for the ‘Materials and Resources’ category. Moreover, the total average adoption rate of the five principal categories, as well as the prevailing type of LEED, version and certification level, correspond with the international status. To answer Q2, the previously defined parameters are put for statistical analysis. Significant inter-correlations have indicated that the rate of adoption of categories is strongly influenced by the number of LEED certified projects, accredited professionals and member organisations in one country. Furthermore, significant intra-correlations have associated countries' average adoption rates of categories with their economic parameters (gross domestic product and gross national income) as well as their emissions' release and energy use. This points out that the main push-factors for the diffusion of the LEED system in the MENA region are the economic vantage of hosting countries, in addition to the presence of a robust legislative framework within strategic national objectives. This contribution enables deducting the main factors that may help endorse or else hinder third-party green building certification in developing countries and pinpoint the importance of adopting a comprehensive approach to promote sustainable buildings which shall serve as the basis for successive research work.