In the past couple of years, sustainability has been one of the key topics surrounding conversations about the UAE and where the country is headed. Right from Dubai announcing several sustainable developments, to sustainability being at the heart of Expo 2020 plans, the UAE is making conscious efforts towards moving to a more sustainable future. We take a look at this pertinent subject and some highly-innovative sustainable developments in the UAE that are helping the country reduce its carbon footprint and become a pioneer in the region.
What are Sustainable Developments?
Speaking in real estate terms, the concept of sustainability applies primarily to the construction and execution phases of a property. Sustainability developments are defined as those that “meet the needs of the present, without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” or more specifically, an “economic development that is conducted without depletion of natural resources.”
The concept can be interpreted in several ways, but at its core, the guiding principle is to balance different, and often competing, needs while being mindful of environmental, social and economic limitations that we face globally. Natural resources are limited, and in developing new projects this fact is often forgotten. The key driver of a development could be a strong need for something, that doesn’t fully consider the wider or long-term impact on the environment. Sustainability initiatives in the UAE aim to address this global issue and make its cities some of the most sustainable in the world.
UAE Sustainability Initiatives
Numerous federal and local strategies are in place within the UAE that set clear goals for the country to shape its future to be more sustainable. These UAE sustainability initiatives include the UAE Vision 2021, the UAE Centennial 2071, and the UAE Energy Strategy 2050, which sets a 50% target for clean energy in the country, among others. These have already established several sustainable development goals in the UAE and serve as a guiding principle for most upcoming projects.
There are two major regulations in Abu Dhabi and Dubai that standardize construction projects to promote sustainability in the UAE, primarily in the real estate sector.
Abu Dhabi: Pearl Building Rating System or Estidama
Estidama, which means “sustainability” in Arabic, was introduced by Abu Dhabi in 2009 as one of the UAE sustainability initiatives and became one of the first organic sustainability frameworks in the Middle East. It implemented a ‘pearl’ rating system for all new developments to ensure that the project is established in a sustainable manner. New developments in Abu Dhabi are subjected to a Development Review Process where the applicant must present an Estidama vision for the project. Once planning permission is granted, the development must comply with the standards of the ‘pearl’ rating system. These will vary based on the type of development, for example, a building, a villa or a whole community. The Government of Abu Dhabi requires that all government buildings have a minimum of a two pearl rating, whereas new buildings must meet a minimum of a one pearl rating.
Dubai sustainability plan: Green Building Regulation or Al Sa’fat
Dubai’s Sa’fat is the latest initiative driving sustainable developments in the UAE, making it mandatory to keep “green” practices in mind when constructing new buildings. The Dubai Municipality’s ‘Green Buildings Specifications’ first became mandatory for new government buildings back in 2011. Starting in March 2014 these standards became mandatory for developers for all new buildings. These regulations primarily focus on ensuring that the way buildings are constructed, and how they function after they are built, economizes consumption of resources and encourages the welfare of its inhabitants. The practice of these standards has meant sustainability considerations such as the use of solar reflective materials and the inclusion of ‘green’ elements such as including indigenous species of plants or living or ‘green’ walls as eco-friendly architectural elements.
Sustainable Developments in the UAE
Here are some of the popular sustainable development projects in the UAE.
Masdar City Abu Dhabi
Initiated in 2006, Masdar City is one of the most prominent sustainable urban developments in the Middle East. A pioneer in sustainability practices, Masdar City uses technology and solar power to help reduce energy and water consumption to preserve the environment – right from the big-picture elements of a large development, to the day-to-day operation of the city. The innovative, low-carbon development includes educational and recreational, housing, retail, manufacturing, and office spaces, powered by renewable energy. In houses, water consumption is ensured by the use of high-efficiency appliances, low-flow showers, a water tariff, smart water meters and treated wastewater, which is later recycled for plant irrigation. Masdar City also houses the headquarters of International Renewable Energy Agency, an intergovernmental organisation that supports countries in their transition to a sustainable energy future, along with Masdar Institute of Science and Technology that aims to drive sustainability in the UAE.
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Sustainable City Dubai
Aligning with the Dubai Plan 2021 to make Dubai a smart and sustainable city, the AED 1.1B Sustainable City in Dubailand is the first development of its scale in this cosmopolitan city.
Established in 2015 and spanning over 5 million sq. ft., Sustainable city Dubai is the eco-friendly project that focuses on social, economic and environmental sustainability, covering all aspects to conserve energy and provide a wholesome lifestyle to its residents. Properties in Sustainable City in Dubai include several architectural and technological innovations to ensure energy conservation, without compromising on luxury. Rooftop solar panels, nature-inspired architecture, plenty of green spaces, car-free zones and energy-efficient appliances in residential and commercial units are a few examples of how this sustainable development in the UAE is making the city more environmentally-friendly. Natural ‘biodome’ greenhouses, organic farms and individual garden farms for local food production are also present.
Expo 2020 Site, Dubai
The venue of the highly-anticipated Expo 2020 is also one of the upcoming sustainable developments in the UAE. The country has quantifiable targets to make the Expo 2020 one of the most energy-efficient in history, with a keen focus on eco-friendly practices in all the plans for the gargantuan event. Initiatives include powering some of the electricity through wholly-renewable sources, partly generated on site. 30% of the construction will use recycled materials, while wastewater recycling, and monitoring the carbon footprint of the site are also key focal points of the development.
Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park (DEWA), Dubai
Led by Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA), the Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park is the largest single-site solar park in the world based on the Independent Power Producer model, and one of the most ambitious sustainability projects in the UAE. This sustainable development in the UAE, which is valued at AED 50B aims to increase sustainability in the UAE and is currently in its third phase of development. When complete, this will be one of the sustainable developments in the UAE that will produce 5,000 MW by 2030 reducing 6.5 million tonnes of carbon emissions in the UAE annually. The 13MW photovoltaic first phase became operational in 2013, with the second 200MW phase launching last year, and the 800MW photovoltaic third phase expected to be operational by 2020. The project is in line with the Dubai Clean Energy Strategy 2050 and aims to provide 7% of Dubai’s total power output from clean resources by 2020, 25% by 2030, and 75% by 2050.
With these developments and several UAE sustainability initiatives that have been implemented, the fast-developing country is definitely taking a stride towards the right direction – to ensure that growth doesn’t come at a cost to the environment and that the UAE continues to pave the way for a more sustainable future.
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