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 Economic diversification needed for region’s future well-being

Volatility in the Middle East has highlighted the need for economic diversification.

The recent uprisings have acutely pointed to the importance of social, political and ultimately economic development in this part of the world.

Professor Neil Kirkpatrick, Head of Environmental Sustainability, Royal Group, says designing and building a city where infrastructure and buildings are tailored to optimise sustainable performance is now mission critical.

Kirkpatrick is a speaker at the marcus evans Infrastructure & Property Development MEA Summit 2011 taking place on 2 – 4 May in Dubai.

A growing hub for business and tourism in the Middle East, there is a clear plan for how Abu Dhabi will develop in the next 30 years, he explains.

“Considerable efforts have gone into developing a suite of tools to ensure that sustainable design and construction underpins how the city shall develop. Estidama – the Arabic word for sustainability – is a programme of initiatives that are helping planners and developers to design and build a city where our infrastructure and buildings are tailored to optimise sustainable performance.

“The Estidama Pearl Rating System defines performance criteria, where 1 Pearl sets the benchmark that all new buildings and communities have to meet (2 Pearls for Government funded projects) with increasing levels of improvement possible, up to a maximum of 5 Pearls. A 1 Pearl Design Rating is required to obtain a building permit and a 1 Pearl Construction Rating to secure a Building Certificate of Completion. No new developments or buildings will be constructed in the future unless minimum standards of sustainable design and construction are met.”

Dramatically improving environmental and sustainability records require a concerted effort, he adds.

“Each country has a different ecological footprint and this can be used to determine whether we are living sustainably; i.e. using resources at a rate no greater than that at which they can be replaced. In theory, the UAE actually requires the resources of six planets to sustain our lifestyle.

“Regulation, standards, policies, guidelines and incentives are needed to drive sustainability efforts. For a dramatic improvement, there must be set targets for a defined period of time, and a way to achieve goals in a measured and structured way. We have to prioritise where we can make the biggest difference and incentivise change. For the private sector, there has to be a commercial advantage. If a sustainable building costs more to build, can that be minimised by enhancing the efficiency and occupancy of space? A carbon credit system would also bring about change.”

At the end of the day, he notes, whilst there might be an abundance of greenery, beautiful buildings and wide highways, Abu Dhabi is still a desert with limited natural resources.  

The marcus evans Infrastructure & Property Development MEA Summit 2011 will take place on 2 – 4 May in Dubai.


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