Building a More Energy-Efficient Neighbourhood in Dubai

Retractable Ground Floor in Dubai HealthCare City. Credit:
Google Street View

By Karishma Asarpota
DUBAI, May 7 2019 (IPS)

Dubai is an Emirate in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) with a
population of about 3 million. The discovery of oil in the 1960’s
transformed Dubai from a sleepy port town to a global metropolis.
The recent shift to address environmental sustainability in Dubai
draws attention to energy issues in the city.

As per Dubai’s
Integrated Energy Strategy
, the Emirate aims to increase
renewable energy production to 44% by 2050. This will help to
reduce the dependence on natural gas for electricity production and
reduce fossil fuel-based greenhouse gas emissions. Further, this
will be supported with a goal to reduce energy demand by 30% in the
next 20 years.

The urban area of Dubai has grown by almost
24 times in the last 44 years
. This makes the pattern of urban
development central to discussing energy efficiency in Dubai.

The way our neighbourhoods are designed can have an impact on
energy efficiency. As residents, we can contribute to this goal is
by reducing the amount of energy and water we consume in our homes.
But a bigger responsibility is in the hands of urban designers,
planners and architects.

Often, we turn to technological solutions to address the energy
question such as installing more solar panels, implementing
district energy systems or upgrading to a smart gird. These
solutions overshadow urban design solutions that can help reduce
our energy needs to begin with.

To be more successful at achieving an energy-efficient
neighbourhood, technological solutions should complement urban
design solutions. Here are some of the ways in which we should
rethink architectural or urban design solutions.

1 – Improve pedestrian and cyclist
infrastructure

More neighbourhoods in Dubai need to have continuous pavements and
cycling lanes to support pedestrians and cyclists. This will help
encourage residents to change their travel choices and reduce the
number of trips made through mechanical means of transport
resulting in energy savings and its related carbon emissions.

But we should be mindful of the extreme desert climate in the
city. Dubai experiences a tropical desert climate with temperatures
reaching an average of 45℃ for many days. It is unrealistic to
expect people to cycle and walk in the extreme heat without
implementing design solutions to provide relief from the heat such
as shading and street orientation.

We need to turn to more climate appropriate urban design
solutions like retractable ground floor (image 1) or narrow and
shaded pedestrian areas.

Dubai Metro connectivity across the city. Credit: Karishma
Asarpota – (Author)

2 – Provide access to public transit

Residential neighbourhoods should be within walking distance of
a public transit stop to encourage the use of public transport and
reduce car-based travel. Ridership of Dubai Metro has increased
from
6% in 2006 to 15% in 2015
, which is remarkable.

The Dubai Metro has about 329,365 daily commuters which is just
about
10%
of the city’s population. This is low as compared to
other cities like Hong Kong or Vancouver where about
90%
and
20%
of the population are daily commuters on public
transport.

Though Dubai is taking steps in the right direction many areas
still remain disconnected from access to convenient public
transport. The map shows the connectivity of Dubai Metro.

3 – Design climate responsive buildings

The way buildings are designed can have a significant impact on
indoor and outdoor thermal comfort. This has a direct impact on the
amount of energy that is needed to maintain a comfortable indoor
climate. Buildings should be designed to respond to the
micro-climate of a place to avoid heat gain.

Dubai Sustainable City. Credit: Luca Locatelli, Institute for
National Geographic

Dubai Sustainable City is an example of a project that considered
energy demand in the architectural and urban design. Decisions such
as orientation and density helped reduce energy demand with little
financial investment.

Villas in Dubai Sustainable City use 42% less electricity as
compared to traditional villas in Dubai.

4 – Build a more compact development

Promoting compact and denser development can reduce transport
demand and its associated energy use and emissions and will
increase land use efficiency in urban areas. Moreover, less
resources are needed to meet infrastructural need such as transport
or utility networks.

As Dubai has grown, the city has spread along the coast
increasing the distance between neighbourhoods and making the city
dependent on car transport.

5 – Increase renewable energy supply

Increasing energy supply in neighbourhoods using renewable
sources of energy like solar or geothermal can help diversify fuel
sources and move away from carbon based fuels which have a high
carbon emission rate.

Sheikh Zayed Road, Dubai. Credit: Zuhair Lokhandwala

The
Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park
currently has
an installed capacity of 200 MW and is planned to expand to 5,000
MW by 2030. Al Shams is the new initiative by DEWA aimed at
promoting decentralized solar power production within individual
buildings. Though
Al Shams
is a step in the right direction, incentives to make
solar power more widespread are lacking.

6 – Implement district cooling systems

In Dubai, district cooling systems increase the efficiency of
cooling networks as chilled water is produced at a central point
and then distributed to individual buildings to be utilized in
individual AC (air-conditioning) systems.

AC systems generate warmer water which is sent back to the
district cooling plant for chilling. District cooling plants can
increase their efficiency by installing a thermal storage unit. A
thermal storage unit helps to manage demand better as it is capable
to store chilled and warm water.

Solar panels on a residence. Credit: Beacon Energy Solutions,
Dubai

This helps to reduce the size of the cooling plant as added storage
means that the plant can produce chilled water at night when
ambient temperature is low and chiller efficiency is high.

This way the plant needs to be designed as per average demand
and not peak demand. New neighbourhoods should be built using a
district energy system as it can increase energy efficiency by
about
40%
.

7- Conserve water

Water is a precious resource which should not be misused
especially in the Gulf region as it is water stressed. Moreover,
water in Dubai is produced through desalination which is an energy
intensive process.

District cooling system schematic. Credit: Karishma Asarpota –
(Author)

Conserve indoor and outdoor water use and avoid wasting water.
Indoor water fixtures should be upgraded to more efficient fixtures
where feasible. Outdoor landscaping should employ only native
species and use treated sewage effluent for maintenance.

Using native species for outdoor landscaping. Credit: Silvia
Razgova, The National, Abu Dhabi

The post
Building a More Energy-Efficient Neighbourhood in Dubai

appeared first on Inter Press
Service
.

Excerpt:

Karishma Asarpota is an urban planner,
researcher and Climate Tracker Journalism Fellow

The post
Building a More Energy-Efficient Neighbourhood in Dubai

appeared first on Inter Press
Service
.

Source: FS – All – Ecology – News
Building a More Energy-Efficient Neighbourhood in Dubai