Working towards a smart and sustainable Sharjah

CW finds out what it takes to become a smart and sustainable city from Sharjah-based developers

Arada is behind the upcoming Aljada community in Sharjah
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Arada is behind the upcoming Aljada community in Sharjah

In 1998, Sharjah received the title of the Cultural Capital of the Arab World by UNESCO.

Cut to more than two decades later - the emirate is undergoing a smart and sustainable makeover with game-changing projects such as the upcoming Sharjah Sustainable City and Aljada community, while still staunchly echoing the UAE's culture and heritage. 

Is the incorporation and adoption of tech and green elements enough for a city to be both, smart and sustainable? 

For starters, sustainability is three-fold, chief executive officer of Sharjah Sustainable City, Yousif Ahmed Al-Mutawa explains. 

The $544.5m (AED2bn) mixed-use development is being developed on a 668,901m2 plot, featuring 1,120 villas. The Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq) and Diamond Developers are working joined forces to develop the project.

"Sharjah Sustainable City's environmental sustainability accelerates a low carbon footprint through solar energy generation. Other environmentally sustainable practices include indoor and outdoor farming and recycling of water and waste.

The economic sustainability of the city covers schemes which are aimed at reducing the cost of living. For example, the utility bills for the residents at Sharjah Sustainable City will see a reduction of 50% or more in comparison to other similar homes in Sharjah."

Sharjah Sustainable City is also actively leveraging "the smart use of high-quality building materials, equipment and construction systems, including well-insulated precast concrete," Al-Mutawa adds.  

Also, buyers are offered smart home features to improve the operability and security of their homes. "For example, smart meters and sensors will effectively collect and analyse data, to continually improve the operation of the houses and common areas for a cleaner, more sustainable future."

Lastly, social sustainability plays out interestingly in the development model for the city, through "world-leading education in a school that incorporates sustainability education in its curriculum." 

To add to this, Al-Mutawa explains that the city will offer health care facilities and active lifestyle elements and a utility park for knowledge sharing with the schools, universities and community at large.

While appropriate adoption of technology and green elements facilitate the building of smart and sustainable cities, mobility plays equal part in building these cities. 

Deema Aburizik, who is the design director - master planning for developer Arada, which is building Sharjah's upcoming Aljada community, says, "A city is smart when significant investment in social and physical capital, such as mobility and IT, takes place in order to fuel sustainable economic development, high quality of life and the careful management of resources."

Arada's 2.2km2 and $6.53bn (AED24bn) Aljada megaproject features residential areas, a leisure and entertainment complex – the Central Hub, designed by Zaha Hadid Architects – and a large business park.

Aljada's residential areas include Areej Apartments, The Boulevard, East Village, Misk Apartments, Nest, Sarab Community, and Rehan Apartments. Aljada’s first homes are scheduled to be handed over to owners in Q3 2020.

Earlier this year, the developer launched Madar, which is a 55,741.8m2 entertainment complex in the Aljada community. 

While planning the community of Aljada in the Muwaileh district of Sharjah, and as in the case of any smart city, "the first step is to ensure the implementation of next-generation and ultra-secure 5G digital infrastructure," Aburizik says, adding that digital infra forms the backbone of Aljada.

"Once that is in place, we can then focus on the other four key areas that we have earmarked at Aljada: mobility, utilities, the ‘circular economy’ and waste management. In each of these areas, technology embedded throughout the project will make life more convenient for residents."

Mobility integrated concepts to be considered while planning a city, she explains, accounts for the safe and efficient movement of vehicles and public transport.

How can mobility be merged with sustainability? Aburizik tells Construction Week: "Arada's overall mobility strategy is anchored in the mass transit network; we know that public transit is by far the most efficient way to connect people and jobs across dense urban areas.

Integrated mobility covers expanded walking and cycling infrastructure to encourage the use of active transportation modes, with bike-share, scooter-share, and other low-speed vehicle options playing an increasing role.

Finally, new mobility options — such as carshare, taxi, and ride-hail services — can help reduce the need for residents or workers to own a car while still facilitating vehicle trips."

Aljada will host a 'sustainability lane' for electric vehicles as well as an internal environmentally-friendly shuttle bus network which is free-of-charge. 

In addition, Arada will be providing free transportation for students between Nest, which is its student housing community, and Sharjah’s University City, Aburizik explains. 

Furthermore, an effective and "smart parking system, which will allow residents to ‘book’ spaces in advance, to cut down on travelling time and improve convenience," will be made available. 

Staying true to its core and taking efforts to reduce the carbon footprint at the Sharjah Sustainable City, Al-Mutawa explains the increasing importance of clean mobility. 

"Our goal is to spread the culture of clean mobility by encouraging the ownership of electric vehicles. We will facilitate this by providing charging stations within the community, while also using autonomous cars to serve the residents and guests. Shared electric vehicle programs will also be incorporated once the city is operational, thereby reducing the number of vehicles on the road."

In a bid to further reduce the need for conventional modes of transport, Sharjah Sustainable City will use drone technology for deliveries within the community, Al-Mutawa tells Construction Week.

Is Sharjah on its way to a sustainable future? “The road to sustainable infrastructure in Sharjah is long. Still, the developments underway at Sharjah Sustainable City demonstrate that with the passion for creating sustainable communities, this objective is not only right, but also realistic,” he says.

There seems to be a change in the way cities are now being built, Aburizik concludes, using Aljada as a reference point. “New technologies have always driven innovation in construction and building design. Today, drones, virtual reality, artificial intelligence, 3D printing, big data, and the Internet of Things are just some of the recent additions to the designer’s toolbox.”

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