In the year that Expo 2020 Dubai takes centre stage in the emirate and where sustainability is one of the key themes of the mega-event, the idea of tackling climate change and helping create a greener future is high on the agenda for companies throughout the UAE.
The country has developed staggeringly fast, with Dubai and Abu Dhabi becoming renowned for constructing
ambitious and exciting urban developments. Entire districts have risen from the sand, leading the population to grow and tourism to explode. Of course, this has meant that there are more cars on the road and
power consumption has risen.
In a bid to control the effects of climate change and tackle these issues, the UAE government launched the Vision 2021 initiative. Targeting a sustainable environment and infrastructure, numerous projects were launched to help the country combat a problem that is being felt around the world.
An important part of this process saw the government reaching out to architecture firms and engineering companies in a bid to discover ways to construct new districts that would use renewable energy, have low emissions and zero waste.
City of the Future
One of the first projects hoping to address the issues of climate change was Masdar City. The original mandate was clear and forward thinking, and in the middle of Abu Dhabi, the world’s first carbon-neutral, zero-waste, car-free city would be constructed.
The brainchild of world-renowned architects Foster + Partners, every building would be built with sustainability in mind and water would arrive via a solar-powered desalination plant. Powered almost entirely by solar energy, residents would move around in travel pods on magnetic tracks.
Hugely ambitious, the project has suffered delays but there is hope that it will still be the perfect place for architects and renewable energy engineers to try out innovative clean energy technologies.
Foster + Partners have also been heavily involved in the construction of another wide-reaching project that
will change the landscape of Dubai. The firm is one of a number of architecture companies who have contributed to the Expo 2020 site, that will become known as District 2020 when the world fair comes to an end in April 2021.
The company has designed the Mobility Thematic Pavilion which will become a high-end office space when the expo closes. Grimshaw Architects, Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture and Santiago Calatrava have also designed specific structures, while AECOM constructed the masterplan for the 2.7-square-kilometre site.
All of the companies were informed that sustainability had to be at the forefront of their designs, and this has led to almost 80 percent of Expo’s built environment being retained for District 2020.
The masterplan also incorporated clever techniques and technologies to combat many of the issues that arrive when constructing a new city. There are smart controls for metering and irrigation that will reduce water consumption; clean energy will be produced throughout renewable resources; 85 percent of all waste will be diverted from landfill by recycling and repurposing, and carbon emissions will be minimised through a strategy to mitigate and offset greenhouse gases.
For the UAE, another way of countering the environmental problems that come with rapid expansion was to look at alternative energy solutions. This led to a joint venture between Abu Dhabi Power Corporation, Japan’s Marubeni Corp and China’s Jinko Solar Holding.
The trio of companies came together and helped transform an unremarkable patch of Abu Dhabi desert into the largest solar power plant in the world. Opened late last year, the site is home to more than 3.2 million solar panels that create enough energy to power 90,000 homes.
The plant will now play a part in battling to reduce carbon emissions and address climate change by reducing the emirate’s carbon emissions by one million metric tonnes, the equivalent of taking 200,000 cars off the road. It is also just the first of a number of solar energy facilities that are set to open throughout the UAE, taking full advantage of the year-round sunshine in the country.
But it is not just the sun that will be harnessed. Another commodity that is plentiful in the region could play a major role in sustainability when it comes to housing. Dubai-based architecture firm, Ibda Design, are promoting the use of locally-sourced sea salt as a building material.