Beyond bricks and mortar: How UAE is turning buildings green

Expo City is only a glimpse of the future that is being shaped by the UAE


Somshankar Bandyopadhyay

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Published: Tue 12 Dec 2023, 6:00 AM

Last updated: Tue 12 Dec 2023, 9:17 AM

Expo City, the venue of COP28 in Dubai, is characterised by cutting-edge technologies, climate-responsive designs, the use of green materials, and human centricity. It posits that the future of construction isn’t just about reducing carbon footprint but also about maximizing people-centric outcomes without compromising environmental responsibility.

If some of the leading contemporary architects are to be believed, Expo City is only a glimpse of the future that is being shaped by the UAE. Prasoon Shrivastava, the founder of his namesake architectural and design firm, Prasoon Design Studio, and AI-driven project management platform, Zepth, believes sustainable designs in the UAE are aimed at reclaiming a lost human element in cities while future-proofing them from evolving environmental risks.

“There is a broad consensus among architects and decision-makers about the need for people-centric, pedestrian-friendly cities, which have been systematically eroded by transit-oriented developments in recent decades. The ‘urban sprawl’ that global cities are grappling with today is propelling the industry toward regenerative architecture, which involves fostering ecosystems such as parks and interactive spaces within built environments. Such pursuits will translate to more mixed-use spaces and vertical cities like ‘The Line’, where people can live, work, and interact in the same buildings without meaningless commutes and traffic congestion. In such urban environments, sustainability is achieved on several fronts, including reduced transportation and costs and unpolluted and pristine natural environments,” Shrivastava said.

Previously, such architectural goals would also elicit criticisms from a few sections of society due to the construction industry’s excessive carbon footprint and wastage. Construction is linked to a third of the world’s total generated waste and about 40 per cent of the total greenhouse gas emissions. Today, however, with the emergence of ConTech (construction technologies), especially in the context of AI, architects are unlocking higher efficiencies and addressing value-chain gaps that were originally responsible for high wastage and costs. According to Shrivastava, who modelled Zepth with the same efficiency-driven approach, technology is a prerequisite to sustainable construction and design.

Prasoon Shrivastava, the founder of Prasoon Design Studio.
Prasoon Shrivastava, the founder of Prasoon Design Studio.

Advancing sustainable construction through AI

Shrivastava said the integration of a common data platform with AI algorithms allows construction teams to intelligently collaborate, conduct site inspection, go paperless, and, for the entirety of the project life cycle, minimise the environmental impact of various processes. “Zepth’s AI-based construction risk manager, a first-of-its-kind globally, analyses all relevant project information and provides teams with real-time alerts about potential issues related to material quality, inventory delays, labour shortage, etc. and enables proactive rectifications, leading to higher efficiencies, reduced wastage, optimized costs, and fewer delays,” he added.

Shrivastava stressed that AI-based outcomes hinge on training the models using refined data sets. “As we integrate AI deeper into sustainable design, we need to uphold a covenant of ethics. By establishing robust data governance and engaging in continuous AI system audits, we are crafting a blueprint for the ethical application of AI in design. We are cultivating a culture where education on AI ethics is standard practice, ensuring that we also build trust and integrity, along with our cities.”

The timely emergence of such enterprise solutions in the UAE can be interpreted as a sign of market readiness for sustainable construction and design. Most importantly, growing evidence regarding the economic, social and environmental ROI of sustainable construction is incentivising all stakeholders to embrace it. The likes of Shrivastava believe that their architectural legacy will be vertical cities that reach towards the sky not in defiance of nature but in harmony with it and communities that can grow without fretting over climatic and environmental risks.

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