Built to last: Renewed focus on sustainable construction practices

On October 22, 2016, Morocco will welcome the 22nd Conference of the Parties (COP22), the supreme decision-making body of the 1992 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The ultimate objective of the UNFCCC is to “achieve stabilisation of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system”. The UNFCCC gathers together 196 states, along with the EU.

Article 3-4 of the UNFCCC provides that parties “have a right to, and should, promote sustainable development”. Sustainable building is an important aspect of sustainable development.

Erecting a sustainable building involves limiting the impact of buildings on the environment, while the superior quality of aesthetics, durability and resistance of the building is guaranteed. It takes into account the lifecycle of the building, from design (including choice of materials) to demolition, with the possibility of recycling the raw materials. Raw materials used in the construction shall be chosen in such a way as to preserve natural resources. The buildings shall limit the use of energy by using renewable energy resources or energy-efficient methods.

According to Nabil Benabdallah, the minister of housing and urban policy, sustainable building is not only erecting buildings that are efficient in terms of energy. It also means designing buildings with a global view to preserving the environment, and with an architectural design that aims to reduce power consumption and answers the inhabitants’ needs.

Moroccan law already includes various texts linked to sustainable energy, even if there is no general law gathering provisions on this matter. Following is a summary of the main legal provisions on sustainable building that are applicable in Morocco.

Principles & Philosophy

The first legal provision to mention is Dahir (King’s Decree) No. 1-14-09 of March 6, 2014, promulgating Law No. 99-12 providing for the National Charter for Environment and Sustainable Development.

The law contains the main principles and philosophy of Morocco relating to sustainable development. According to this Dahir, all natural persons and legal entities shall refrain from undermining the environment. In addition, all public or private persons, natural persons and legal entities will contribute to individual and collective efforts to protect the environment, and to promote and broadcast a culture of sustainable development in Morocco.

This law defines sustainable development as a development step based, in its implementation, on the link between the economic, social, cultural and environmental dimensions of development activities, and which aims to answer present needs without compromising future generations in this field.

This law presents sustainable development as a fundamental value that all components of society shall integrate into their activities. It consists in courses of action that are asked of all participants in the economic, social, cultural and environmental life of the country. Implementation of these principles consists in reducing pressure on natural resources, the use of production technologies that are favourable to the environment, and trying to continuously improve the accessibility of all social classes to the products and services of this field.

Some sectors are considered by the law as having high potential for sustainability, construction being one of them. The law invites government authorities in charge of these fields to ensure effective durability rules are adopted in management methods and production, and to broadcast such principles.

Energy Efficiency

The second set of provisions to look at is Dahir No. 1-11-161 promulgating Law No. 47-09 relating to energy efficiency. This law aims to avoid waste, reduce energy costs to the national economy, and contribute to sustainable development. Its implementation is based on the principles of energy performance, energy efficiency requirements, energy impact surveys, mandatory energy due diligence and technical control.

Two elements relate to sustainable buildings. The first relates to the energy impact survey. This shall be conducted for any new urban development scheme or any building construction programme, whatever its use, listed in a Dahir according to the thermal or electric energy consuming threshold for each kind of project. In addition, the law adds to legal provisions relating to town planning, in that any town planning zone will specify the zones where projects will require, according to their size or their nature, a preliminary energy impact survey.

The second is also included in Dahir No. 2-13-874 of October 15, 2014 approving the general construction regulations establishing energy efficiency construction rules and setting up a national committee for energy efficiency in the construction field.

Energy efficiency construction rules provided for in the general construction regulations are applicable to residential and tertiary buildings to be erected. A residential building is defined as a building where more than 80 % of the built surface area is for housing use, whereas a tertiary building is any public building and building which is for hospitality, health, education, commercial or services use. The provisions of Dahir No. 2-13-874 do not apply to:

  • Buildings that existed before the date of entry into force of the Dahir (which is one year after the publishing of the Dahir in the official bulletin, i.e. October 15, 2015);
  • Buildings used for agricultural, craft or industrial activity (or housing premises located in the same buildings);
  • Buildings used for manufacturing, industrial and storage operations;
  • Buildings requiring particular internal conditions, such as greenhouses and storage premises, and;
  • Individual rural housing units.

The purpose of the energy efficiency construction rules provided in the general construction regulations is to set out the characteristics the buildings shall comply with, depending on which climatic zones they are erected in, to reach the following results:

  • Reduce the building’s heat and air conditioning needs;
  • Improve the thermal comfort in the buildings;
  • Participate in the reduction of the national energy bill; and
  • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Six climatic zones have been determined according to the temperature over the last 10 years in these regions. When the external temperature is below 18°C it is considered that the premises need to be heated, and when the external temperature is above 21°C there is a need for air conditioning in the premises. Technical minimal specifications are provided for each climatic zone and building type in two ways: a global approach (performance approach) and a OBG would like to thank Lefèvre Pelletier & associés for its contribution to THE REPORT Morocco 2016 simplified approach (prescriptive approach). Dahir No. 2-13-874 is considered by Law No. 47-09 as the general rules for construction that shall be complied with. From our point of view, compliance is mandatory for the owners who are erecting a building, but also, if possible, for the public administration when studying a building permit request and when delivering such building permit.

Protection Of The Environment

The third set of provisions to have in mind is Dahir No. 1-03-59 of May 12, 2003 promulgating Law No. 11-03 relating to protection and enhancement of the environment.

Article 6 provides that building or allotment permits are delivered in conformity with the applicable laws and regulations in view of the possible impact on the environment. Building and allotment permits may be refused or subject to specific rules if they may have damaging consequences on the environment, the safety, wellness and health of the inhabitants, or constitute a risk for the neighbourhood.

From a legal point of view, Morocco has basic sets of provisions supporting sustainable building activity. A choice may then be made on the legal details that Morocco is willing to add to either encourage the actors to reach a certain performance level or to comply with strict methods targeting sustainable construction. In the real estate market, many private initiatives have emerged to direct the efforts towards sustainable building.

Nevertheless, a cultural change shall also occur in the behaviour of developers that currently integrate the sustainability of their building only as a marketing tool: such marketing tools shall become the reality of the construction. Ultimately only the sophistication of the real estate purchaser’s market will completely ensure that all buildings will become sustainable.