THE SUSTAINABLE CITY
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.
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Sport Horse jumping show is part of the events at The Sustainable City in Dubai