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Sustainable cities will benefit the UAE's owners and occupiers alike

The UAE’s impressive sustainability credentials reiterate its commitment to developing green cities that benefit investors, developers, and occupiers alike

Abdulrahman Khansaheb is a director at UAE construction conglomerate, Khansaheb.
Abdulrahman Khansaheb is a director at UAE construction conglomerate, Khansaheb.

The UAE, like the rest of the Gulf, has changed dramatically over the past few decades, and has become a major business centre with a dynamic and diversified economy.  

However, there are challenges that come with this growth. The Gulf’s new cities were built to support growth rather than environmental sustainability, with tall glass buildings and multi-lane highways replacing the traditional form of urban low-rise buildings, narrow streets, and shaded lanes.

However, I am delighted to say that times are changing. There is increasing recognition among decision-makers in the region, who are addressing their cities’ future needs and acknowledging that new measures are needed to improve their long-term sustainability.  The discussion has moved from the sustainability of buildings to focus on how cities can be made more sustainable.

Thus, considerable progress has been made over a relatively short timeframe.  Creating and maintaining a sustainable environment and green infrastructure is a pillar of the National Agenda, in line with UAE Vision 2021. The UAE has more than 550 projects under LEED certification. Also, with 81% projects awaiting certification, Dubai has the highest ratio of LEED-in-progress developments across global cities, indicating the emirate’s “burgeoning interest in sustainability”, according to a new report by Core Savills.

Under the guidance of the UAE’s leaders, we have been following the same UAE Vision 2021 to pursue sustainability strategies, in keeping with the mounting calls for a more sustainable future. One of the goals of UAE Vision 2021, for instance, focusses on waste management, with the target to divert 75% of waste from landfills within five years. By 2030, a 98% diversion rate is being targeted.

At Khansaheb, we have set a goal to be part of the sustainable future with our Mirdif 35 development, a lifestyle mall that is LEED Gold-certified, as well as our a 3,500-strong workers’ accommodation, which is LEED Platinum-certified, and the first workers’ accommodation in UAE to secure Platinum certification. These are examples of our commitment to creating sustainable developments in the UAE.

Sustainable buildings are becoming an increasingly attractive prospect to landlords, since reduced operating costs generate higher net returns. Every dirham saved can potentially be an extra dirham available in rent.

And it is not just in new buildings – sustainability measures can also be incorporated into existing structures. Nowadays, many – but not all – measures to reduce energy and water demand involve some capital expenditure outlay, but if introduced at the right time in the asset’s lifecycle, then the incremental expenditure need not be overly costly.

The decision that sustainability would be one of three key themes was one of the many reasons Dubai was successful in its bid to secure Expo 2020’s hosting rights – it was an indication that sustainability would be taken more seriously in the UAE. For example, The Sustainable House, developed by the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre, is the first of its kind in the UAE, and there are plans use it as a model for new houses across the country.

The sustainability phenomenon is not a passing trend. For investors, developers, and occupiers alike, it is most definitely here to stay, and it is directly relevant to how new buildings are designed, and how existing ones are managed. Corporate occupiers of offices, warehouses, and shopping centres will continue to demand more environment-friendly and efficient buildings. Investors and developers that work with these parties to produce sustainable buildings will not only benefit by minimising their impact on the environment – they will also achieve more profitable projects.

While the future is bright – and I am confident that we will see great strides towards creating more sustainable buildings and communities in the Gulf over the next five years – much remains to be done. At the end of the day, the alignment of social and financial advantages will ensure that more sustainable buildings become a major feature of the Gulf real estate market as we look to create a better environment for our future generations.

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Construction Week - Issue 725
Jan 19, 2019