Faris Saeed tells CEO Mid­dle East why green build­ing doesn’t have to be the ex­pen­sive op­tion


AS A FLAG­SHIP EX­AM­PLE OF SUS­TAIN­ABLE build­ing and man­age­ment, The Sus­tain­able City is an ex­am­ple of what can be achieved if strin­gent plan­ning and a ‘can do’ ap­proach go hand in hand. The Mid­dle East’s first fully-op­er­a­tional sus­tain­able com­mu­nity of over 500 vil­las de­liv­ers mea­sur­able out­comes across three key pil­lars of sus­tain­abil­ity: en­vi­ron­men­tal, eco­nomic and so­cial. The three in­ter­twine, tick­ing green boxes thanks to a re­duc­tion in the neigh­bour­hood’s car­bon foot­print while the in­no­va­tion in build and de­sign of­fers res­i­dents a chance to live in an al­most utopian-style en­vi­ron­ment. There are no cars once you’re in­side, and the ar­eas fea­ture abun­dant green spa­ces, so­lar pan­els, mini farms and com­mu­nal ar­eas de­signed to fos­ter a sense of com­mu­nity and con­nec­tion be­tween res­i­dents.

Awarded ‘Hap­pi­est Com­mu­nity’ for the third year run­ning, the com­mu­nity also as­pires to the en­vi­ron­men­tal goals of the Paris Agree­ment (2050), United Na­tions Agenda for Sus­tain­able De­vel­op­ment (2030), Dubai Clean En­ergy Strat­egy (2050), and the UAE Vi­sion (2021).

“The Sus­tain­able City was al­ways in­tended to be a work­ing blue­print for low-car­bon liv­ing,” says its founder, CEO of Di­a­mond De­vel­op­ers Faris Saeed (he also hap­pens to be a res­i­dent of the de­vel­op­ment).

“When we first set out to de­sign it, we went through a mon­u­men­tal amount of re­search, as there was noth­ing in the re­gion we could

re­fer to.” To­day, Saeed is proud to share the breadth of ex­pe­ri­ence gained with oth­ers;

The Sus­tain­able City stands as a bench­mark glob­ally for what can be achieved.

“In de­vel­op­ing The Sus­tain­able City, I re­alised that de­vel­op­ing a project with sus­tain­abil­ity at its core is not as ‘out of reach’ as many people per­ceive. Nei­ther is it as de­mand­ing on a de­vel­oper as many de­vel­op­ers be­lieve. An­other chal­lenge that seems to im­pede prop­erty de­vel­op­ers is the in­abil­ity to recog­nise the in­her­ent re­la­tion­ship that ex­ists be­tween en­vi­ron­men­tal build­ing de­sign and its eco­nomic and so­cial di­men­sions. Ad­di­tion­ally, there seems to be a mis­con­cep­tion re­gard­ing the price point; no ex­tra needs be in­curred when adopt­ing a sus­tain­able ap­proach. It’s a mat­ter of mind­set, the right knowl­edge tools, and the will to sur­pass the norm and present a sam­ple of the fu­ture rather than a copy of what al­ready is.”

Saeed and the project’s co-founder Was­sim Ad­louni re­searched sim­i­lar com­mu­ni­ties around the world for sev­eral years be­fore alight­ing on a blue­print that would work well in the en­vi­ron­ment of Dubai, se­cur­ing 5 mil­lion square feet in Dubai­land, a then empty stretch of road along Al Qu­dra. The project work com­menced in 2013, with pre­cast wall pan­els to re­duce con­struc­tion waste and many re­cy­cled ma­te­ri­als in­clud­ing crumb rub­ber in­cor­po­rated into the build from the be­gin­ning.

The first res­i­dents moved to The

Sus­tain­able City in 2016.

The neigh­bour­hood to­day spans 5 mil­lion square feet and com­prises more than 500 vil­las, grouped into five res­i­den­tial clus­ters and con­nected to an ur­ban farm and park that runs along the en­tire length of the de­vel­op­ment, form­ing the com­mu­nity’s ‘Green Spine’, within which there are 11 biodome green­houses. Fea­tures avail­able to its 3,000 res­i­dents in­clude an elec­tric­ity-gen­er­at­ing gym, eques­trian club, mixed-used plaza, Fair­green In­ter­na­tional School and sev­eral clin­ics. Res­i­dents have ac­cess to a park, and with cars parked nearby be­yond res­i­den­tial zones, children are able to run with the kind of free-range free­dom that

seems to al­most be­long to a by­gone era.

“We are proud with the progress that we have achieved with The Sus­tain­able City, but it’s the fam­i­lies who live there that have helped build the com­mu­nity, turn­ing it into a liv­ing, breath­ing space that has evolved with sub­se­quent in­no­va­tions and so­lu­tions, re­spond­ing and adapt­ing to the re­quire­ments of its res­i­dents over time. For ex­am­ple. ini­tia­tives for children de­vel­oped quite or­gan­i­cally, with art cen­tre, re­cy­cling cen­tre, ed­u­ca­tion ini­tia­tives, mo­bil­ity ini­tia­tives, and farm­ing pro­grammes be­ing in­tro­duced over time. A mu­sic cen­tre was added, with les­sons and mu­si­cal events and con­certs, and it is a space where res­i­dents can en­joy film screen­ings and neigh­bour­hood events.

That may not have been in the orig­i­nal blue­print, but it has be­come a key part of the com­mu­nity life­style.”

He is adamant that sus­tain­abil­ity must ex­tend not just to green cre­den­tials, such as low car­bon emis­sions and lower power con­sump­tion, but to com­mu­ni­cat­ing and ed­u­cat­ing res­i­dents to adopt a greener life­style for them­selves.

“When the first fam­i­lies started mov­ing in, it was es­sen­tial for us to keep them en­gaged by host­ing meet-and-greets and work­shops that in­tro­duced them to the so­lu­tions of­fered by The Sus­tain­able City.”

One of the high­light achieve­ments has been the es­tab­lish­ment of a re­search and de­vel­op­ment arm (SEE In­sti­tute).

It ef­fec­tively turned the city into a liv­ing lab to test and de­ploy all man­ner of in­no­va­tions and new tech­nolo­gies, such as ver­ti­cal and aquaponic farm­ing, au­ton­o­mous mo­bil­ity, and more.

Nearby, Di­a­mond De­vel­op­ers is also con­struct­ing Sanad Vil­lage, one of the largest re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion cen­tres in the world for people of de­ter­mi­na­tion. It ties in with the group’s man­date to be a force for good in the so­ci­ety in which it op­er­ates – a key tenet, many ar­gue, of any worth­while CSR plan.

“A pri­mary pil­lar for us is in­clu­sion, whereby people of de­ter­mi­na­tion are in­volved in all that we do, and the city was de­signed with them in mind and heart,” says Saeed of the Vil­lage. “We es­tab­lished the world’s largest re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion cen­tre, of­fer­ing ser­vices of ex­cel­lence in ap­plied be­havioural anal­y­sis ther­apy, speech ther­apy, phys­io­ther­apy, oc­cu­pa­tional ther­apy, vo­ca­tional train­ing, and life-skills train­ing.”

In build­ing a sus­tain­able fu­ture, ed­u­ca­tion of fu­ture gen­er­a­tions is key, he adds, not­ing that even the most sus­tain­ably built de­vel­op­ment can only en­sure a fu­ture of the next gen­er­a­tion adopts and ad­heres to its val­ues.

Ed­u­ca­tion is key to bring­ing upon a pos­i­tive ef­fect and real change in the be­hav­iour of people within com­mu­ni­ties, more so among kids. The fu­ture gen­er­a­tion adopts these prac­tices nat­u­rally in their day-to-day lives and con­se­quently passes them on to their com­mu­ni­ties and sur­round­ings, cre­at­ing a re­newed and pro­gres­sive ap­proach and un­der­stand­ing of life.

Low car­bon foot­print Shar­jah Sus­tain­able City proudly aligns with na­tional green strate­gies and Dubai Plan 2021

Sport Horse jump­ing show is part of the events at The Sus­tain­able City in Dubai

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