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Sustainability has a key role in UAE

Rohma Sadaqat (staff Reporter)
Filed on November 8, 2014

Speaking on the sidelines of the recent 10th World Islamic Economic Forum 2014 in Dubai, de Graaf told Khaleej Times that architecture has a tradition that is older than the word “sustainability”.

Dubai: In light of the fast-paced rate of change in today’s cosmopolitan cities, it is the adaptability of buildings rather than durability that is a bigger factor in the overall sustainability of a building, an expert recently explained.

OMA partner Reinier de Graaf, an accomplished architect and urban planner, further explained: “We originally thought of buildings as something that is permanent. Nowadays it is completely possible to totally disassemble a building without generating any waste. In the age of sustainability it is strangely enough the temporary building that emerges victorious.”

Speaking on the sidelines of the recent 10th World Islamic Economic Forum 2014 in Dubai, de Graaf told Khaleej Times that architecture has a tradition that is older than the word “sustainability”.

“There are a lot of smart practices in architecture. You have to look very closely at the way you are going about a building project. You have to see where a building is doing damage; if it is energy inefficient then it is clearly doing damage because of the level of energy consumption,” he said.

“But, you should also remember that the construction process itself generates about 40 per cent of all the waste in a project. Waste generated from building buildings, and waste generated from demolishing buildings,” he further elaborated.

“You have to look very closely at the process of construction, as well as the process of demolition. You have to focus on its whole life cycle from the time you think of the project till the time you demolish it. This is the change in thinking that needs to take place.”

Speaking on sustainability in the UAE, de Graaf said: “Sustainability is finding the best possible balance between the economy and the ecology. What I think is most interesting here [in the UAE] is the dialogue between modernisation and tradition. Cities are built with technology, and modern technology often uses a lot of energy. There is a tradition here of building very compact cities.”

“There is an ongoing notion in the West that a city needs to be compact; it doesn’t need to sprawl for it to be sustainable,” he noted. “Yet you have these compact cities [in the UAE] long before the word ‘sustainability’ ever became an issue. So what I think is very interesting here is that you have a tradition which is much older than the word sustainability.”

De Graaf also noted that cities like Dubai had a “huge responsibility” when it came to climate change. He revealed that agreements like the Kyoto Protocol had failed since nation states essentially failed to reach an agreement, but that it was in the wake of failing nation states, that cities around the world have risen and taken the initiative to organise long-term sustainability models.

“It’s very interesting to see that while nation states can’t reach an agreement on climate targets, cities almost everywhere in the world are involved in a sustainability race, in terms of implementing government policies that force them to meet certain targets. So I think that the behaviour of cities such as Dubai are a very hopeful sign,” he said.

While de Graaf lauded projects such as Masdar City in Abu Dhabi and the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park in Dubai, he cautioned that it was very important to never be “totally satisfied” when it comes to sustainability.

“When it comes to sustainability we should acknowledge that we are not at the final destination and that everything we do is an attempt. The achievement of today is obsolete tomorrow and you have to keep doing more,” he said. “I think that there will continue to be more of a focus on the residential segment in the UAE in the future, and that will accelerate the progress that will be made in terms of sustainability.”

— rohma@khaleejtimes.com





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