DUBAI, UAE, 16 March 2022: The Emirates Environmental Group (EEG) reported framing a blueprint for sustainable future of housing during its Sustainable Urban Development conference, held on March 16 under the theme, ‘The Future of Housing Innovations for Developing Affordable and Sustainable Communities’.
The event, conducted in partnership with the Global Urban Development and in association with the Embassy of Switzerland to the UAE and Bahrain, and supported by Emirates Green Building Council and Council Clean Energy Business, had the commercial support of Knauf UAE and HOK UAE, EEG said. Arabia CSR Network was the Sustainability Partner, it said. The conference achieved the tag of a carbon-neutral event, courtesy of Farnek, it added.
Throughout history, buildings have evolved to address human needs, EEG said. A living example is the advent of skyscrapers, a century ago, which exploited the new technology of steel framing to overcome the scarcity of land to build real estate properties, it said. Today’s building industry appears to be entering another era of change, with a view towards minimising impact, albeit a different kind of impact – that is, energy, carbon and environmental footprint of commercial and residential buildings, EEG added.
Once again, change is being driven by a need to optimise the consumption and, at the same time, conserve resources, which is clean air, water and energy as well as land, EEG said. Undoubtedly, transformative sustainable green technologies hold the key to address these challenges, it said. In the conference, architects, engineers, designers, developers and academia discussed frameworks to minimise the operating costs and environmental impacts of buildings, while also increasing their functionality and appeal to occupants, enhancing the go-green trends, EEG said.
The conference aimed to present and discuss the current characteristics of the building sector and its impact on energy, environmental quality and economic and social status, to depict the existing phenomena, problems and opportunities; to analyse future trends, synergies and challenges; and critically investigate the potential pathways towards a partial or full de-carbonisation of the building sector, EEG said.
The conference formally began with an opening video message from H.E. Reem Ebrahim Al Hashimy, Managing Director, Expo 2020 Dubai Bureau and Member of the Higher Committee of Dubai Expo 2020. Her Excellency said: “The conference has come at a correct time and place with a critical question that we have to answer, which is how can we live in harmony with one another and the planet? Sustainable living conditions are a priority as a nation to UAE. The fundamental human right of safe and affordable living conditions will be achieved if we build habitats that have sustainability and inclusivity ingrained at every level.”
H.E. Maimunah Moh’d Sharif, Executive Director, United Nations Human Settlements Programmes (UN Habitat) supported the conference through a video address, wherein she said: “Building and construction sector are responsible for 40% of GHGs. They consume 12% of world fresh water and are responsible for 40% landfill waste. Globally with the building stock expected to double by 2050, emissions and GHGs are also set to increase.
We need to drastically improve our buildings’ sustainability, the housing design and the way we consume resources. Environmentally sustainable housing must not be sacrificed for the affordable housing, because environmentally sustainable housing presents the opportunities to strengthen resilient structures against climate change. Investing in green sustainable technologies will contribute to a more efficient use of natural resources and also promote the concept of circular economy in cities.”
Presenting the conference, Habiba Al-Marashi, Co-Founder and Chairperson, EEG, said: “Large-scale urbanisation is all but inevitable. Nations do not need to avoid expanding cities but should instead focus on making them sustainable. Experts estimate that 66% of the world’s population is expected to be living in cities by 2050. As the world becomes more integrated and populations from various parts of the world congregate in urban hotspots, the need for developing affordable and sustainable housing for the communities of the future becomes increasingly strident.
“Sustainable cities will not just be concrete and tarmac, but spaces that will help biodiversity thrive. In future, sustainable urban areas will emphasise the importance of maintaining wildlife within city limits. The cities of the future will go a step further, though, considering energy conservation in building design itself. Designs will allow for things like easier airflow and natural lighting so that these structures will use less energy in the first place.”
Dr Marc A Weiss, Chairman and CEO, Global Urban Development (GUD), said, “Global Urban Development is honoured to partner with the Emirates Environmental Group to organise this important conference, promoting a vital conversation on how the public, the private sector and civil society can collaborate to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals, Paris Climate Agreement and New Urban Agenda by promoting new housing technologies for developing affordable and sustainable communities.”
H.E. Massimo Baggi, Switzerland Ambassador to the UAE and Bahrain, said: “The conference came at the right time and at the right place. Dubai Expo has been a place where historic discussion and decisions have been made to build a better world and shape a more sustainable future. The conference, through remarkable sessions showcased ideas, solutions and technologies from across the world, thus encouraging a transformational journey of progress in the field of constructions and building.”
H.E. Jan Thesleff, Sweden’s Commissioner General – Expo 2020 Dubai, said: “The motto for our participation at Expo 2020 is “co-creation for innovation”, and I firmly believe that an inclusive approach to urbanization is needed if we are to be sustainable – that is, satisfy the needs of today without compromising the satisfaction of the needs of tomorrow. Cities are not storage spaces for a growing population but living spaces for future generations.”
According to EEG, the five comprehensive sessions that the conference covered were:
- Integrating Technologies: Constructing Sustainable Housing
- Re-examining Policies: Inclusive Role of Leadership
- Accelerating Progress: Learning from Best Practices
- Empowering People: The Role of Financing
- Altering Urban Designs: Paths to Sustainable Communities
During the session, ‘Integrating Technologies: Constructing Sustainable Housing’, panelists said that architectural design, when amalgamated with sustainable technologies, can prove to enhance environment cohesion and cope with climate change. They advocated that green building construction technologies can be a permanent fix to unsustainable practices. The panel discussed such technologies as 3D printing with recycled concrete, recycled concrete blocks and biotechnology breakthroughs.
The session, ‘Re-examining Policies: Inclusive Role of Leadership’ focused on evaluating good housing policies that are inclusive for entire societies and that leave no one behind in the process. Panelists in the session highlighted various urban policies that provide sustainable solutions for climate change. The discussion revolved around four main topics of (1) environmental quality, (2) socio-economic impacts, (3) management and governance, and (4) transportation and urban design.
The session, ‘Accelerating Progress: Learning from Best Practices’ shared best practices that can contribute to the successful implementation of strategies to promote affordable housing and sustainable community development, which helps fulfill the UN SDGs, Paris Climate Agreement, New Urban Agenda and Sendai Framework.
The session, ‘Empowering People: The Role of Financing’ highlighted how investment in affordable housing, green buildings and smart transportation can help make cities more inclusive and sustainable. It concluded the role of financial institutions as imperative in global urban development and creating sustainable inclusive cities and communities.
The session, ‘Altering Urban Designs: Paths to Sustainable Communities’ saw panellists addressing the future of sustainable urbanism. Plenary speakers echoed the importance of applying sustainable principles that are integral for design, planning and management. The session concluded by addressing issues such as public health, climate change, clean air and water, and accessible and renewable energy, which will require the upcoming generation to reimagine city designs and urban planning approach.