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November 26, 2023

The Future of Sustainable Architecture in Abu Dhabi

Sustainability means adapting daily practices and meeting current needs without harming the environment or hindering future generations, using strategies that conserve resources. In architecture, this translates to a design philosophy focused on creating healthy living spaces with minimal environmental impact and efficient use of energy and natural resources.

The combination of architecture and sustainability gives us sustainable architecture: a holistic approach that includes choosing eco-friendly materials, efficient construction methods, and responsible resource use, all guided by a design philosophy that considers a building’s entire lifecycle, from construction to demolition. Its goal extends beyond functionality and aesthetics, aiming for long-term energy and resource efficiency.

Benefits of Sustainable Architecture

Sustainable architecture (sometimes called eco-friendly architecture) offers several advantages for both individuals and communities, impacting various aspects of life:

  1. Lower Carbon Emissions

    A key benefit is its ability to lower carbon emissions. For instance, while natural gas releases 0.6 to 2 pounds of carbon dioxide per kilowatt-hour, renewable sources like solar power emit significantly less, at just 0.07 to 0.04 pounds. This makes natural gas emissions about 186% higher than solar energy.
  2. Multi-Purpose Vegetation Cover

    An example of green sustainable architecture practices is “living walls”: vertical gardens that use hydroponics for plant growth, mixed with the natural elements essential for their growth. They offer many advantages, such as:
  • Improving air quality
  • Supporting mental health
  • Reducing heat loss from buildings by 30%

The Importance of Sustainable Architecture

The 2017 United Nations Global Environment Report highlights the significant role of buildings and construction in global energy use and carbon dioxide emissions, accounting for over 35% of energy consumption and nearly 40% of CO2 emissions from energy generation. Despite a decrease in these figures since 2010 due to growing sustainability awareness, there remains a pressing need for further action. Sustainable architecture is essential, not merely a trend, but a vital response to environmental challenges.

This approach to architecture combines building design with environmental considerations, functionality, and the building’s interaction with its surroundings. The aim is to achieve a balance, creating aesthetically pleasing and functional structures while being environmentally responsible and sustainable in resource use.

The UAE’s Green Agenda - 2030

The United Arab Emirates is advancing sustainability through the UAE Green Agenda 2030. This agenda sets out comprehensive programs for various initiatives to foster a more sustainable future. Key areas of focus include:
  • Integrated Urban Planning

Developing urban planning that aligns with environmental needs.

  • Environmental Studies

Researching environmentally sensitive areas and urban heat island effects.

  • Sustainable Building Program

A national initiative promoting sustainable green architecture and construction practices.

  • Sustainable Infrastructure Legislation

Enacting laws for sustainability and environmental considerations in road infrastructure.

  • Sustainable Architecture Standards for Public Housing

Implementing international standards and sustainable energy practices in residential projects.

  • Green Building Materials

Supporting the purchase and development of eco-friendly building materials.

  • Rationalising Energy and Water Consumption

Legislating to enhance energy and water efficiency in buildings.

  • Autonomous Homes

Encouraging the development of energy self-sufficient homes.

  • Residential Sustainability Standards

Applying sustainability standards in residential complexes.

  • Global Partnerships in Energy Provision

Exploring international cooperation for energy provision.


Steps Taken by the UAE Towards Sustainability

The UAE has shown a strong commitment to sustainability, starting with ratifying the Paris Agreement in 2015 (the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) and its initial national contribution aimed at achieving 24% clean energy by 2021. This commitment was further demonstrated through initiatives in infrastructure development, energy and water efficiency, management, and public awareness.

In 2020, the UAE revised its national goals, setting an ambitious target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 23.5% by 2030. This includes increasing clean energy usage, improving energy efficiency, advancing carbon capture technologies, preserving blue carbon ecosystems, fostering sustainable agriculture, and enhancing waste management strategies.

Your Role in Sustainable Architecture

Your contribution to sustainability is crucial. It’s about making choices mindful of the environment and future generations and incorporating eco-friendly designs and architecture to make your home. Within sustainable architecture, it can manifest in different ways. For instance, if you own land with 100 rare trees yet want to build a house. Traditional methods might clear all trees, disregarding environmental impacts. However, sustainable architecture suggests different approaches:

  1. Exploring Alternatives: Is there barren land available that wouldn’t require removing the rare trees?
  2. Resource Management: How can wood be utilised sustainably to benefit others?
  3. Eco-Friendly Design: Can the house be constructed while preserving all or most of the trees?

Companies like Aldar are at the forefront of sustainable property development. Aldar’s varied sustainability strategies and programs exemplify how commercial investment firms can be leaders in incorporating sustainable practices into contemporary architecture. This significantly aids in achieving the United Arab Emirates’ extensive green objectives. By supporting these initiatives, individuals and companies can dramatically impact the global movement towards sustainable architecture.