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ARZ rating System Review by Mario Saab


“The ARZ Building Rating System is designed to measure the extent to which existing commercial buildings in Lebanon are healthy, comfortable places for working, consuming the right amount of energy and water, while having a low impact upon the natural environment. In addition, the rating system will stimulate building owners and facility managers to achieve ever-higher certification levels to attract discerning tenants and clients.” – Taken from Arz building rating system’s website

This interview with Mario Saab [LEED AP (BD&C), Pearl qualified professional] featured on page 100 of Ekaruna Magazine’s issue number 17, conducted by Editor in Chief Bassam Karam.
Q: From a sustainability professional background, how do you evaluate the establishment of a first of its kind green building rating system in Lebanon?
A: The ARZ rating system is a very good first step towards raising awareness to environmental concerns and the growing need for green buildings in Lebanon that the LGBC is thanked for. Given the weakness of proper infrastructure for other types of green building rating systems, such as credits targeting off-site renewable energy for instance in other systems, the ARZ rating system has the advantage of accounting for a specific context of Lebanon’s climate, environment, design and building techniques. Other green building rating systems would assess the Lebanese buildings based on factors which may be outside of Lebanese developers’ control or not relevant to the country, such as mass-transit stations, train stops and bus stops for instance or FSC certified Wood products. These other systems, LEED becoming the de-facto worldwide, do of course apply to Lebanon but they still contain factors which limit Lebanese projects from reaching high certification levels. Also, it is noteworthy that the registration fees are minimal (around 100$) compared to around 900$ to 1200$ for the LEED standard. The major limitation of this system however is that it only targets existing office-type accommodations, which means that it excludes retail, residential, hospitality, educational, healthcare and other structures not to mention that it also excludes all new construction.
Q: What critique do you have towards the ARZ rating system?
A: There are several issues that need further clarification or development in the ARZ rating system, most important of which are:
a. The water conservation module (M8) gives minimal weight to water conservation measures (9 points out of 150 possible) although I believe the issue of scarcity of water and the depletion of this precious resource Is a very important one in our country.
b. The energy performance module (M1) is not clear as to what benchmark is adopted for energy consumption when assessing the performance of the building. It is thus not possible to understand on which basis the points are given.
c. The scoring systems, as well as the required prerequisites, are not clear for each module, which makes it more mysterious for the building owner or facility manager to know which specific issues they should target in order to get the certificate. In the LEED rating system, for example, if you reduce water consumption by 20%, you fit the pre-requisite and if you get down by 30%, you get 2 extra points. The ARZ rating system is not that clear in that matter.
d. The “ARZ Assessors” shouldn’t be the sole party that rule on the energy conservation measures that need to be implemented in order to get the required 80 points (First level of ARZ certification) or else this might raise some questions of conflict of interest.
e. Assessment fees reach up to 1000$ in addition to 1.5$ per square meter. In comparison, LEED for existing buildings charges roughly a total of 1500$ for areas less than 5000 sqm, 0.3$ per square meter for areas between 500 and 50000 sqm and a total of 15000$ only for areas above 50000sqm. A simple comparison for a 50000 sqm existing building between the 2 yields at 76000$ if certified under the ARZ rating system in contrast with only 15000$ under the LEED Certification.
Q: What are the recommendations you have to develop Lebanon’s National Rating system?
A: a. It should first expand to cover all building types.
b. The review fees should drastically lowered in order to financially attract building owners to adopt our national system rather than the more marketing-wise appealing LEED system.
c. There should be a rapid focus on new construction in Lebanon since this field is growing tremendously and in a very non-environmental and wasteful way.
d. Further efforts should be carried with the Order Of Engineers to enforce meeting basic pre-requisites as a prior condition to issue a construction permit.
e. Online resources need improvement. Not all forms and utilities are functional
I understand the absence of clear infrastructure to create benchmarks or bases for comparison and all my previous remarks stem from the sole goal of leveraging our national building rating system to become a norm we all stand by and fiercely battle for implementation. In the end, we all look forward for the day where sustainability is legislated and becomes an essential part of the design and construction process.

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