Sustainability in the UAE: The Need for Greener Mind-sets
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Masdar City, UAE
Updated on 21st May 2018 by Planters
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Sustainability in the UAE

Thirty percent of our planet’s land is considered to be ‘arid’ and this number is only set to increase with the rapid climate change. As the climate changes, so must we and the way that we think about sustainability in use throughout the cities that dwell within these ‘arid’ zones. The main focus of this new move towards a green agenda is to create far more liveable cities for the people who live and work there. One way that these cities like Dubai and Abu Dhabi are doing this is through Blue and Green infrastructures.

Masdar City, UAEBlue and Green infrastructure is the use of sustainable techniques throughout the infrastructures of a city to best defend it from the environmental calamities. The use of shade and plant life can have a dramatic effect on the city’s efficiency and sustainability. The ideas behind Blue and Green infrastructure, if implemented correctly and widely enough, could help shape a much brighter future within these ‘arid’ cities. This type of infrastructure is used to create not only more usable outside space as well as more pleasurable and efficient inside spaces, but to offer inhabitants a better quality of living within the city. There are many ways that this can be achieved – from celebrations and exhibitions on sustainability as can be found at the Abu Dhabi sustainability week; to the abundance of Green walls Dubai has seen installed over the last year and the Vertical gardens Abu Dhabi customers are asking for being on the rise.

As the amount of ‘arid’ land on earth rises, so does the need for new cities to be built with sustainability in mind. The old city planning methods that may have once worked well are no longer suited to this changing climate. These infrastructure designs which have been popular since the 1950’s, have only led to the effect known as Urban Heat Islands.  This is where the heat in the city itself is far more intense than the areas immediately surrounding it. The Urban Heat Island effect will see cities that fail to act become drier as well as far less inhabitable. But with a green agenda and the use of Blue and Green Infrastructure, these effects can not only be stopped but they can help to somewhat reverse the negative effects of climate change on an ‘arid’ city.

So, you can see that there is now more than ever a need to do your part as a company to help efforts within these dry regions attempting to become sustainable cities. The increasing demand for office plants and number of companies specialising in sustainable designs prove that more and more people are now embracing the concept; but there is still far more that can be done; and needs to be done.

The Sustainable condition of the UAE

While there is a widening number of these ‘arid’ regions across the world, there are few that are developing as fast as those within the UAE. Cities like Dubai and Abu Dhabi are therefore on the forefront of this fight against the rising effects of climate change. And they are using Blue and Green infrastructure and Green agendas to do so. But why is there such a need for this type of sustainable thinking when building within cities like Dubai and Abu Dhabi? Well, it is because these fast growing cities can be adversely affected by the so-called Urban Heat Island effect.

However, they are also the type of cities that are best able to affect change due to the constant and rapid growth. The higher the number of these new projects that utilise these types of infrastructure while building, the better the city’s chance of surviving in an ever worsening climate. The UAE is especially vulnerable during the harsh high heat of the summer months which greatly decreases the ability for a ‘normal’ green habitat to flourish. These places have more need of efficient water system and sustainable living wall type features that minimise a need for maintenance but more importantly maximise the effectiveness of any resources used. 

Though there has been a rise in sustainable movements such as installing plant walls and Moss walls, Dubai and the rest of the UAE still has a long way to go. Larger projects are also doing their part with whole areas being built in a sustainable manner or at the very least, with a green agenda at the heart of its design. Areas like the Mshireb complex in Doha, which while taking inspiration from traditional trains of thought, is massively responsive to the climate. This mix of residential spaces, commercial properties, heritage sites and retail outlets was planned and built with a strong focus on making it climate responsive. This means that the architecture of the city takes into account a wide array of climatic factors and uses this information to increase thermal efficiency and comfort in both indoor and outdoor spaces for the inhabitants of the area. This is not only revolutionary design but it shows a change in thinking for the better.

Larger building projects like the Al Bahar Towers in Abu Dhabi have a dynamic new type of modular shading system which can adapt to the movement of the sun around the building in order to offer shade to those living or working within. This is the top end of the spectrum and though we will hopefully see an increase in larger projects and entire areas that dedicate themselves to better heat efficiency and comfort, it does not start and end there. Cities like Los Angeles have seen success in trials of a new pavement coating of CoolSeal paint which has been proven to drop ambient temperatures in the street by 6.6 percent. This is such a small move but when taken as part of larger scale, has a massively positive effect. Smaller business are also now taking the initiative of improving the use of their green spaces to somewhat contribute to the country’s sustainability efforts.

The UAE is on its way to sustainability

As mentioned above, the UAE has made some drastic and forward-thinking moves to show that they can answer the call when it comes to sustainability country-wide. The use of climate-responsive building and efforts towards sustainability through the use of Blue and Green infrastructure have helped make cities like Dubai amongst the most attractive prospects for business investment. More and more companies are now offering services geared towards greener thinking and sustainability within the work place. More plans are including these sustainable ideals from the outset and not as a secondary thought.

For those places that were not built in this way, there are still a wide selection of choices on offer to advance the sustainability in use within your business, company or building project. The use of green walls made of plants, moss or even barks can bring an instant burst of nature into any space. In the drive to become a sustainable city, Dubai, in recent times raised the amount of focus placed on this green agenda. There is now an almost strict need for new developers to include climate responsive and sustainable infrastructure in their designs.

In an article by The National, it was told that mashrabiya, or the elaborate screens found in the old, traditional Arabic structures, can help developers or designers in creating more sustainable designs without going too far.

These beautiful features of the ancient architectures just needs to be improved by integrating a more modern technology and making it more climate-responsive. This report shows precisely the type of thinking that is currently keeping cities like Dubai at the front of the pack when it comes to new cities moving towards sustainability.   

A Blue-Green Infrastructure and Green Agenda: How can your business benefit?

The benefits that your business can achieve through the correct usage of a Green agenda are astounding. And the first steps that you would need to take are nothing compared to their eventual outcome. If you are a developer, then you will definitely want to take these new design trends and techniques into account when you build your next project, and if you are re-designing your company’s offices then you should be sure to utilise one or more of the new blue-green infrastructure solutions that are on offer today. The fact that there are now more companies that specialise in the installation of living walls or office plants Dubai and Abu Dhabi wide means that the prices of having a sustainable green agenda is falling and the amount of knowledge that these specialists have is only growing by the day as more and more research is carried out.

Your business moves in a forward direction, along with the times and has a need to be able to adapt to problems in order to work in general. Well, believe it or not, climate change is becoming a problem; one of the largest that the world faces today. There is far more focus on sustainability on the world stage and both clients and investors have begun to care more about the sustainable nature of the companies and businesses that they work with. If your business does not have any form of green agenda and shows no attempt to adapt to the changes, then those clients and investors, especially in cities like Dubai, are likely to bypass your business for one that does. Whole businesses are built around sustainable models but it can start with changes as small as office plants. Living walls and green areas would be the next step and from there, the possibilities are near enough endless as technology progresses.

Offices all over dry cities like Dubai and Abu Dhabi are now using water management and living walls or green spaces to make their businesse more climate responsive. This also serves the purpose of making them more appealing to new clients and investors which also helps business. By installing this type of green feature in your office or commercial property, you do not only benefit from being part of a move to make yours a sustainable city, you also benefit from better productivity from your staff which leads to better profits.

Because the installation of climate conscious infrastructure can lead to a much more efficient use of water as well as lower costs attached to cooling in the summer and heating in the colder months, the financial benefits are instantly apparent. The use of shade trees can increase insulation and further reduce these costs. The effects aren’t merely economical though as there are widespread social benefits also. This leads to happier people and a more appealing city for both commerce and tourism.

Sustainable Examples throughout the UAE

As we have mentioned, there are a large number of projects throughout the UAE who are progressively trying to affect change. They have done this in the way that they approach the design of their offices to the way that a building is set up on a whole. This new approach has completely changed the face of some businesses and office spaces for the better and helped attract new clients and investors as well.

Some examples of this Blue-Green infrastructure being used throughout the UAE on a somewhat smaller scale can be seen in building projects like the living walls installed at the Abbvie offices or the British American Tobacco Middle East offices, or the artificial plants and trees at the Dubai Airport and the Dubai Mall. All were installed by Planters group. The installation of plants to brighten and freshen up the interior of hotels Dubai wide can also be seen at the Fairmont Hotel and Grosvenor House; also the work of Planters Group.

Another great example of Green architecture benefitting a business can be seen at The Change Initiative in Dubai where the use of solar panels and light holes added to the use of plants and greenery throughout makes for an amazing series of spaces. This forward thinking design can also be seen in The Dutch Design Centre in Dubai’s Design District where floral touches and climate responsive design join forces to create a building space that works on all levels towards sustainability in use. One of the larger and indeed greener projects in the city of Dubai would have to be the over 30 metre tall living wall which adorns the outside of the Dubai Municipality head office building. Which, due to the smart technology used, enables the owners to monitor the status of the plants within the wall through the use of a specialised layer covered in sensors.

All of these businesses or companies that have been mentioned above are doing their part for the sustainability not only of their own company but for the city of Dubai as a whole. Dubai is not on its own with this as the push for sustainability in business and design has spread throughout the UAE and will soon no doubt be a pre-requisite for any design or building project.

Be sure to choose the best for the job

When implementing a Green agenda or indeed any form of Blue and Green infrastructures into your project or design plan whether large scale or small, you will need to ensure that you are using a company with a proven track record who will get the job done. But not only that, you would ideally want that very same company to be passionate about the change that they are helping to occur. This will enable said company to do their very best to supply not only great design ideas but sustainable ones alongside that Blue and Green infrastructure that is the defining step forward for anyone currently operating their business in the UAE today.

One great company to make serious waves and some impressive headway in the sector of sustainable landscaping throughout the UAE is the Planters Group. This is the company that have won the National Landscape Awards seven times between 2008 and 2017 so they know better than most how to help a business like yours to best reap the benefits from greenery. In order to stand a chance of success in today’s business climate in a city like Dubai or Abu Dhabi, you must take action to make your business more sustainable and efficient. This will help these cities become sustainable one.

Consult Planters Group for your next landscaping project to integrate the concept of sustainability within your business, and be part of the country's Green Agenda.
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