The Future of Urbanism: Is the UAE Pioneering it?

Masdar City in Abu Dhabi. Credit: Masdar

By Rabiya Jaffery
ABU DHABI, UAE, Feb 22 2019 (IPS)

According to data from the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the
Arab world is one of the most urbanised areas in the world, with
more than 70 per cent of the population of the six-member Gulf
Cooperation Council (GCC)— Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi
Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE)– living in urban

In 2018, about 93% of the population of the UAE lived in urban
cities – and it is expected to continue rising in the coming
years. Dubai, the largest city in the country, has a population of
over 3 million people, one-third of UAE’s 9.3 million, and is
expected to double by 2027.

As the country’s cities continue to expand and grow, the
challenge of civic authorities to provide adequate living
conditions, water, sanitation, public transportation, and waste
management features becomes more important to address.

“One of the direct results of the increase in UAE’s
population, nearly all who live in urban cities, is the huge
expansion in construction, facilities, and infrastructure,” says
Habiba Al Marashi Chairperson of the Emirates Environmental Group
(EEG), one of the most active non-government organization (NGO)
based in the UAE.

“While construction is a major contributor to UAE’s economy,
it is also amongst the most resource intensive sectors. Thus,
growing cities such as Dubai need to plan along sustainable lines
in order to reduce their negative environmental impacts and natural
resource depletion,” she adds.

EEG mounted an awareness campaign to popularize the concept of
green buildings in an environment that was still unfamiliar with
the imperative for sustainable development and energy transition
several years ago.

And Al Marashi states that a change – an understanding of the
importance of sustainability – has begun to roll out.

The UAE sits on eight percent of the world’s oil reserves,
meets most of its energy demand through fossil fuels, and has had a
history of having one of the largest carbon footprints in the world
but it seems to now be taking active measures to change this.

In 2017, during the World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi, the
country announces its intentions to transition to at least 44%
renewable energy by 2050.

“Our aim is to balance our economic needs with our
environmental goals,” Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE
prime minister and ruler of Dubai, said on Twitter to accompany the
announcement. “The plan aims to increase usage efficiency by 40
percent and increase clean-energy contributions to 50

Masdar City in Abu Dhabi. Credit: Masdar

This includes making sustainable development one of the key
goals of its ‘Vision 2021’, including a focus on ‘green’
urban development.

“Cities are at the heart of any country’s development and
define the direction of its growth and innovation and this is
especially relevant in the Arab world where nearly all people are
urbanized,” explains Al Marashi. “And the the future of
urbanism is in sustainable cities and UAE wants to be a

Masdar City in Abu Dhabi is one of UAE’s most ambitious
sustainable urban development projects that was built to be amongst
the world’s “most sustainable developments” and “serve as a
green-print for the sustainable development of cities through the
application of real-world solutions in water, energy efficiency and
the reduction of waste.”

The residential and retail development that is housing thousands
was developed by Masdar, a renewable energy company based in Abu
Dhabi, to be one of the region’s first entirely sustainable,
mixed-use, low-carbon development that relies on solar and other
renewable energy sources.

It is also home to Masdar Institute, the Gulf’s first research
institution dedicated to advanced energy and sustainable
technologies that, to date, has secured 14 US patents.

One of Masdar’s projects, in cooperation with Bee’ah, is
spearheading waste-to-energy production in Sharjah that is
currently generating enough power to supply to 28,000 residential
complexed. Due to the facility, the rate of diversion of waste from
landfills has gone up from 20% in 2009 to 70% in 2016.

The project’s goal is to eventually reduce the Sharjah’s
landfill contribution to zero.

And on-site in Abu Dhabi, Masdar has developed a residential
eco-villa, which aims to consume 35 percent less water and 72 per
cent less power than a typical villa of the same size.

The prototype is being monitored for its energy, water, and
waste management performances and the data will then be used to
refine the eco-villa to support the eventual commercialization of
the building concept.

Abu Dhabi also has a mandatory sustainable development framework
for all its buildings. Developed by the Abu Dhabi Urban Planning
Council (UPC), Estidama, Arabic for “sustainability’, was
introduced in 2009 and was amongst the first sustainability
initiatives in the region.

The framework establishes a clear vision for sustainability as
the foundation of any new development occurring in UAE’s

Estidima imposes sustainability requirements in the planning
process and imposes a green building code with the classifies
development projects under a ‘pearl’ rating system. All public
buildings must have a minimum two pearl rating and all other new
buildings must meet a minimum one pearl rating criteria.

“Right now, the focus of Estidama is on new developments,
however, there are talks – and we are hoping – that it will be
expand to include already existing buildings be retrofitted to meet
the new standards,” says Al Marashi.

Dubai’s municipality also introduced its ‘Green Buildings
Specifications’ in 2011 which were immediately mandatory for all
new government buildings and then, in 2014, became a prerequisite
on all new building developments.

“In practice this means goals of reducing energy and water
consumption, the use of environment-friendly materials, renewable
energy characteristics, alternative energy sources and increased
efficiency,” says Al Marashi.

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Future of Urbanism: Is the UAE Pioneering it?
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Source: FS – All – Ecology – News
The Future of Urbanism: Is the UAE Pioneering it?