Policies to Buildings: The UAE’s Emergence as the GCC’s Sustainability Leader

UAE Map

Karim Elgendy

Settling along the shores of the gulf

In the barren deserts of the Arabian Peninsula, people have always settled in locations that provided freshwater and enough natural resources to enable trade and economic development. Human settlements in the southern shores of the Gulf, in what we now know as the United Arab Emirates (UAE), are no exceptions to this.

For the last four centuries, the Bedouins of the Banu Yas tribes have settled a strip of land along the northern edge of the dune fields of the Arabian Peninsula’s Empty Quarter. Drawn to its plentiful ground water resources they established what is now known as the Liwa Oasis and developed date plantations which provided subsistence. But when fresh water was discovered on the Abu Dhabi Island in the late 18th century, Al Bu Falah branch of Banu Yas moved to the coastal location which – in addition to providing fresh water- also allowed them to develop pearling industry and trade.

In the early 19th century, another branch of the Banu Yas, known as Al Bu Falasa, moved from the Abu Dhabi Island to settle near a natural creek 90 miles east of the Abu Dhabi Island. In addition to ground water and pearling, the creek – now known as the Dubai  Creek- allowed the establishment of a port which facilitated trade with neighbors across the gulf and beyond. They quickly established a settlement on the western shore the creek – known later as Bur Dubai – but had to abandon it two decades later and move to the eastern shore after a smallpox outbreak. By the end of the 19th century, the combined advantages of fresh water availability, the natural port, the pearling industry, and the good geographic location, were sufficient for the new settlement to endure a sweeping fire that burnt through most of it dwellings. The Bedouins that have settled in Dubai sought no other location and simply rebuilt their settlement.

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In Pursuit of Sustainable Energy Sources : Challenges and Solutions

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In Pursuit of Sustainable Energy Sources : Challenges and Solutions

Karim Elgendy, Founder and Coordinator of Carboun, was recently commissioned by Frederich Ebert Foundation (Frederich Ebert Stiftung) to produce a set of visual guides to renewable energy in the Arab World to coincide with the 23rd Conference of Parties (COP23). The infographic below is the third of three visual guides. It represents an analysis of the challenges facing renewable energy growth in the Arab World. The three guides, which were researched and designed by Karim Elgendy for the Frederich Ebert Foundation, were based on raw data provided by International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), Regional Center for Renewable energy and Energy Efficiency (RCREEE), Lazard, World Energy Council, and Bloomberg. Copyrights for this infographic are reserved for the Frederich Ebert Foundation and the author. No reproduction or republishing of any infographic or part thereof without prior written consent from Frederich Ebert Foundation and the authorGuide 1 covers the state of the region and Guide 2 covers Regional Aspirations. They can also be reached via the infographics page.

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In Pursuit of Sustainable Energy Sources : Regional Aspirations

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In Pursuit of Sustainable Energy Sources : Regional Aspirations

Karim Elgendy, Founder and Coordinator of Carboun, was recently commissioned by Frederich Ebert Foundation (Frederich Ebert Stiftung) to produce a set of visual guides to renewable energy in the Arab World to coincide with the 23rd Conference of Parties (COP23). The infographic below is the second of three visual guides. It represents a review of plans and aspirations to grow renewable energy capacities in the Arab World and the scale of planned increase in renewable energy capacity. The three guides, which were researched and designed by Karim Elgendy for the Frederich Ebert Foundation, were based on raw data provided by International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), Regional Center for Renewable energy and Energy Efficiency (RCREEE), Lazard, World Energy Council, and Bloomberg. Copyrights for this infographic are reserved for the Frederich Ebert Foundation and the author. No reproduction or republishing of any infographic or part thereof without prior written consent from Frederich Ebert Foundation and the author. Guide 1 covers the state of the region and Guide 3 covers Challenges and Solutions. They can also be reached via the infographics page. Continue reading In Pursuit of Sustainable Energy Sources : Regional Aspirations

In Pursuit of Sustainable Energy Sources : The State of the Region

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In Pursuit of Sustainable Energy Sources : The State of the Region

Karim Elgendy, Founder and Coordinator of Carboun, was recently commissioned by Frederich Ebert Foundation (Frederich Ebert Stiftung) to produce a set of visual guides to renewable energy in the Arab World to coincide with the 23rd Conference of Parties (COP23). The infographic below is the first of three visual guides. It represents an analysis of the state of renewable energy in the Arab World region in its regional context. The three guides, which were researched and designed by Karim Elgendy for the Frederich Ebert Foundation, were based on raw data provided by International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), Regional Center for Renewable energy and Energy Efficiency (RCREEE), Lazard, World Energy Council, and Bloomberg. Copyrights for this infographic are reserved for the Frederich Ebert Foundation and the author. No reproduction or republishing of any infographic or part thereof without prior written consent from Frederich Ebert Foundation and the author. Guide 2 covers Regional Aspirations and Guide 3 covers Challenges and Solutions. They can also be reached via the infographics page. Continue reading In Pursuit of Sustainable Energy Sources : The State of the Region

Dubai Experiments with Sustainable Development

Karim Elgendy

Throughout the last three decades, the city of Dubai has not been known for its emphasis on sustainability as guiding principles for its development. Not only did it adopt an unnatural rate of growth by middle eastern and global standards, it has also long disregarded the environmental and social consequences of its rapid urbanization. Dubai’s growth relied on -and was economically fueled by- a development model which imported inappropriate and inefficient building forms and planted them in its extreme climate. The result was a 1,500 square miles city (3,885 square kilometers) with isolated island buildings that are not only divorced from their environments, but which also require a great amount of fossil fuel energy to remain habitable.

Image 1. Aerial View of Xeritown showing massing and landscaping. Copyrights: X-Architects and SMAQ

The city of Dubai also has one of the highest carbon footprints per capita in the world, and even though this footprint is partially a result of energy intensive water desalination processes on which the city relies for its potable water, Dubai’s carbon footprint remains higher than that of other gulf cities including Saudi cities which also rely greatly on desalination.

In many ways, it is fair to argue that the Dubai’s model of development has been, in essence, the antithesis of sustainable development over the last three decades. In other words, Dubai has come to represent the climax of an obsolete development model in which humans attempted to subjugate their environment rather than coexist with it.

In contrast to this un-sustainable development pattern, Dubai’s neighboring city of Abu Dhabi has long adopted a measured and less extravagant development model. Over the same three decades, Abu Dhabi’s development model was generally characterized with a more sustainable pace of development. In the last few years, Abu Dhabi has been attempting to champion sustainable development in the Middle East by establishing a sustainability oriented framework for its development over the next 20 years, and by establishing the Masdar initiative which includes the world’s most progressive sustainable city project at its outskirts with ambitious zero-energy and zero-waste targets.

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Abu Dhabi’s Masdar Headquarters: The First Positive-Energy Building in the Middle East

Karim Elgendy

As previously reported on Carboun, Masdar City – the $22 billion project of the Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company (Masdar) – is currently under construction and is due to be completed in 2016.  As the the first zero-carbon emissions and zero-waste city, the master plan for Masdar City integrates many passive design and planning strategies with renewable energy production to achieve its ambitious sustainability goals.

At the center of Masdar City lies its first building, the Masdar Headquarters, which will become the new home of Abu Dhabi’s Future Energy Company, as well as the secretariat of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). The building - together with other key building -will act as an anchor and a catalyst for the development of the city.

Image 1. Rendering of Masdar HQ. Copyrights: Adrian Smith+ Gordon Gill

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KAUST: A Sustainable Campus in Saudi Arabia

Karim Elgendy

UPDATED – The King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) at Thuwal (near Jeddah) in Saudi Arabia was recently announced as one of the winners of the American Institute of Architects’ Top 10 Green Buildings awards for 2010.

The new international graduate-level research university was established by the government-owned Aramco, the world’s largest energy corporation, to drive innovation in science and technology and to support world-class research in areas such as energy and the environment. The campus project was designed by HOK Architects and was completed in September 2009.

KAUST’s new campus is Saudi Arabia’s first LEED certified project earning a Platinum certification, the highest rating in the United States’ green building rating system At 496,000 Square meters, the project also represents the world’s largest LEED Platinum project.

Image 1. Night view. Copyrights J. Picoulet and HOK

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