The Future Build

Is the UAE doing enough to promote green building?

Sustainablity has become a hot topic the world over and, in the UAE, the last few years have seen the concept’s popularity soar as the country looks towards a greener future. The Dubai Government has announced its objective to transform Dubai into a smart city with an eco-friendly economy, aiming to make it the most sustainable city in the world by 2021. Abu Dhabi is also striving to construct its own fully sustainable city.

 Masdar City - Sustainability

What exactly does a sustainable development mean? Speaking to Construction Week, head of design management at Abu Dhabi’s Masdar City, Chris Wan, explains that a sustainable project is simply “a building that minimises its environmental impact by reducing energy and water consumption, and minimising waste production. It is also a project that fulfils the purpose it was built for, and provides a healthy environment for occupants”. At the same time, he says, the building must be a profitable project.

In 2008, Masdar City announced its plans to develop the world’s most sustainable eco-city. The planned city in the UAE’s capital relies on solar energy and other renewable energy sources to reduce energy, water and waste. Construction began on Masdar City in 2008 and the first six buildings of the city were completed and occupied in October 2010.

“We are now targeting 40,000 residents and 50,000 people working within the City by 2030. The figures are based on the rate of industry investment in clean technology, mobility, and our financial strategy that includes third-party investors in line with Abu Dhabi’s 2030 Economic Vision,” says Anthony Mallows, director of planning and delivery at Masdar City.

Today, approximately 5,000 people work at Masdar City, and the development receives 2,300 visitors on average as a part of organised visits each month. “With the current pace of construction activity, we expect the number to exceed 15,000 within the next two to three years,” Mallows says.

“Phase 1 amounts to more than one million square metres of gross floor area (GFA), of which 90% is completed or under construction. Combined with Phase 2 and 5, the total GFA of the City will exceed two million square metres.”

Approximately 2,000 apartments are either under construction or in the design phase, either through Masdar or third-party investors. This, Mallows says, will bring the residential population at Masdar City to more than 3,500 people within the next two to three years.

Wan from Masdar says: “We talk about the three pillars of sustainability at Masdar: environmental, social, and economic sustainability. Combined together, we will be moving towards a truly sustainable goal.”

The construction materials are not necessarily wholly different from other projects, he adds, and it’s more about how to select them. “In a traditional project, you pick from catalogues and talk to suppliers. Whereas, at Masdar, we look at where the product and where the material is manufactured. We ask how much energy would be expended to manufacture the product, get it onsite and put it inside a building. The aim here is that we want to minimise the energy footprint.”

In January 2011, Dubai Municipality made the Green Buildings Regulations and Specification mandatory for governmental buildings and voluntary for private ones. However, in March 2014, when a total of 44 green governmental buildings had been constructed, the municipality made the regulations mandatory for all new buildings in Dubai. The green buildings regulations and specifications address different aspects of green building design, such as ecology and planning, building vitality, energy, water, and materials and waste.

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