Greener Dubai needs aggressive decisions and sustainability governance

Dubai, the metropolis that overwhelmed the Expo 2020 delegation last week, has come to be known as a city with more money than it knows what to do with. Over the years, this cosmopolitan city is increasingly turning into a mature global city, as well as a business and cultural hub in that part of the world.

Last week, the glamorous emirate released its state of energy report, which explained the strategy of Dubai’s energy sector in the future, and integrating solar and nuclear energy

Robin Mills, a senior consultant and one of the contributors in the energy bill of Dubai, has commented on the energy bill in The National this week and expressed his excitement with the strategy. He also urged the government to push more towards educational campaigns for the community to consider energy and water saving.

Since UAE’s urban population is expected to reach 7.9 million by 2020, more sustainability and urban development measures need to be implemented. While Dubai is enjoying the privilege of implementing a marketing aspect over cost and efficiency aspects now, it won't be able to afford that with the rapid increase of residential and industrial facilities in the future.

Thus, Dubai has the privilege now to implement its own sustainability standards. While LEED is the most recognized sustainability standard, it's beneficial in cities like San Francisco, the city with most LEED certified buildings, since it facilitates the registration of the buildings in the state and it's also a great tool in the real estate marketing. LEED is also trendy in Europe because credits like material reuse and storm water treatment for brownfield and existing buildings renovations actually matter in the sustainable development in Europe.

The 98-credits platinum certified building of DEWA shows the government’s intent to lead Dubai towards a sustainable future. However, Dubai needs to go beyond the ordinary sustainability measures and craft its own standards based on the stats and expectations we have in hand now.

Air Conditioning consumes 40% of Dubai generated power. This can be simply brought down to 26-28% by setting all chillers and small units on 24 degrees.

The government needs to expand through establishing independent institutes that certify contractors and suppliers, for instance Dubai needs to grade the suppliers working in Dubai based on their spending on renewables, and set minimum percentage of operational or manufacturing power to be derived from renewable energy. The market needs a standard that ensures that 25% of contractors spending in construction goes to those graded suppliers and subjecting the whole process to audit.

The government must promote and award SMEs that develop innovative sustainability design or plan that leads to reducing  power consumption of the construction industry.

At one of the projects in Abu Dhabi, a team including Al Falah Ready Mix came up with the idea of re-using waste crushed concrete as aggregate in the concrete mix used in building temporary facilities. Nobody had tried this before in the UAE.
The mix has 82% recycled content by mass (76% by volume). An estimated 700m3 of recycled concrete will be used over a 5000 m2 area. At the end of the job the concrete will again be recycled.

Those innovative ideas needs to be appreciated and awarded to encourage engineers and designers to invest time in expanding their knowledge during all phases of projects to contribute together in updating and framing the sustainability standards of Dubai.
The Emirate expenditure on solar energy should have been spent on employing a powerful plan for the Feed-in tariff system inside Dubai; feed in tariff is a system that makes the government pays you for generating power by installing solar panels on the roof of your house. Mills recommended going for the feed in tariff in his article and I strongly support that point. The feed in tariff is the most convenient system to integrate the solar energy in the city and also to raise awareness, since the PV panels would be seen every day, and people would be part of the change happening in the city.

The government’s current plan for solar energy through more plants is very poor - it makes an insignificant change in dependency on gas. Solar plants need a massive area to build and vast maintenance cost to generate a very limited amount of power.

With great power comes great responsibilities, Dubai is leading the world in many economic stats but not the green energy, struggling EU countries are leading with very aggressive future policies in sustainability and green energy. Dubai government dedication in shaping greener future for the coming generations would start independent specialized institutes that enforce its own regulations and standards that consider Dubai geographic and metrological conditions.

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