Sustainable architecture and engineering are part of its initiative to become cleaner and greener
Possessing a desert climate and relying heavily on fossil fuels, oil-rich Dubai, one of the seven units of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), was recently named the most sustainable city in the Middle East by the design and consultancy firm, Arcadis. Historically, Dubai has been more concerned with development than sustainability, but with increasing energy usage, the government has unveiled a plan to make Dubai one of the “cleanest” cities by the year 2050.
“A city like Dubai that is growing at the speed that it is growing is very difficult to be sustainable,” Anita Nouri, CEO of Green Energy Solutions in Dubai, told The Media Line. “They always want to be the biggest and the best and the fastest, and doing that is not always sustainable, but they are trying to make it sustainable.”
According to consulting firm, Strategy&, the UAE’s energy consumption has more than doubled since 2005 and is projected to continue its rapid growth. Analysts say that Emirati residents consume almost 50% more water than the world average. Therefore, the city of Dubai and the national government of the UAE realized they needed to “go green.” Ranked at 52 and 58, respectively, Dubai, which is ranked after Philadelphia but before Baltimore and Abu Dhabi, which is ranked behind Moscow but before Houston, are the most sustainable cities in the Middle East, according to the Arcadis Sustainable Cities Index. “Overall, Dubai has a set goal to become the city with the smallest carbon footprint in the world by 2050,” Eamonn Collins, head of corporate communications at Arcadis Middle East, told The Media Line.
The index, which ranks 100 cities, looks at three aspects of sustainability: social, environmental and economic. According to Collins, Dubai scored highest in terms of economic sustainability and scored reasonably well in social sustainability. The luxurious city, however, scored lowest in its environmental sustainability. “(This is) largely due to energy consumption, pollution and the lack of available green space within the city,” Collins said.
The “City of “Gold,” whose economy is largely based on oil, has a number of green initiatives in order to achieve its goal of becoming one of the top ten sustainable cities in the world. This initiative is one of many in Dubai for the six month expo showcasing its development and innovation that will take place there in 2020.
“Sustainability is one of the main parts of all of the major events (in Dubai), especially the Expo,” Nouri said. “All of the governing bodies are trying to use every sustainable technology available.”
According to Collins, because Dubai is privy to a desert climate and relies heavily on fossil fuels, its overall energy consumption is higher than other cities. To combat this, the city has vowed to reduce energy and water demand by a third by 2030; the government has implemented mandates for 30,000 buildings to improve their energy efficiency; and, the government is currently pursuing the largest solar rooftop project in the Middle East, which will provide enough energy to power some 3,000 homes per year.
Economically, Dubai also launched the 2050 Clean Energy Strategy which will provide roughly $272 million USD in loans for investors in the green energy sector. This is all part of a broader plan to eventually ensure that 75% of Dubai’s energy is coming from sustainable and clean sources, Collins added.
“Even the metro system, which goes across the whole city, is running on a magnetic system. There are no drivers and there are no emissions. It is an unbelievable thing,” Nouri said.
Buildings in the city account for roughly 70% of all energy consumption. Therefore, in order to further its sustainability efforts, especially in building construction and building sustainability, Dubai hosted an international conference on Green Buildings, Civil and Architecture Engineering (ICGBCAE).
The conference, which was sponsored by Universal Researchers in Civil and Architectural Engineering (URCAE) and Universal Researchers in Science and Technology (URENG), is a forum for students, scientists, scholars and engineers to share ideas and present ongoing research in the realm of sustainability in building construction. Featuring researchers from universities in South Korea, Lebanon, the Gaza Strip, Algeria, the United States, and Malaysia, the conference describes itself as a middle man, hoping to encourage and foster relationships between researchers, businessmen, and other collaborators.
While Dubai is pursuing sustainable initiatives, it still has a long way to go. The city, along with its fellow Emirate and other Middle Eastern counterparts, was in the bottom half of the Index, falling behind many major European and North American cities.
The other Middle Eastern cities that made the cut are Doha, Qatar ranked at 72; Riyadh, Saudi Arabia ranked at 76; Istanbul, Turkey ranked at 77; Jeddah, ranked at 81; Amman, ranked at 86; and, Cairo, ranked at 99. The most sustainable city is Zurich, followed closely behind by Singapore, Stockholm, Vienna, London, Frankfurt, Seoul, Hamburg, Prague and Munich.
Katie Beiter is a student journalist at The Media Line.