Analysis: Saudi Arabia’s Brand New Futuristic City
By Ramanath Jha
In 2017, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman, announced the launch of the nation’s futuristic and fully automated business zone, NEOM. This hi-tech business hub, to be located in the Tabuk province in the northwestern part of Saudi Arabia along the Red Sea coast, is to be established at a cost of US $500 billion (INR 37.5 lakh crore). The region has been selected in view of its relatively mild climate. Most of Saudi Arabia has a desert climate with extremely oppressive day temperatures of above 45° Celsius. The project’s total area is slated to be 26,500 square kilometre and will link Jordan and Egypt via Saudi territory. The project is expected to generate 380,000 jobs and contribute US $48 billion (INR 36,000 crore) to the kingdom’s GDP by 2030.
More recently, in Jan 2021, the Crown Prince also announced that, as part of the NEOM project, a zero-carbon city called ‘The Line’ would be set up. The Crown Prince labelled the city project as a “civilisational plan that puts humans first”. ‘The Line’ is crafted as a linear city for one million people, running 170 kilometre long, with a width that would be walkable in five minutes. It is anticipated that people from all over the world would be drawn by the city’s excellent environment, state-of-the-art infrastructure and superior quality of life.
‘The Line’ is not designed to be a conventional city but a futuristic one. A city’s usual amenities such as schools, hospitals, and gardens will be carefully crafted in view of the residents’ expected proclivity towards the availability of top-quality education, health, and recreation. Additionally, the city would position itself as a top tourist destination. The Saudi administration also seeks to dispel any misgivings about the governance model that ‘The Line’ would follow. The entire NEOM area, including ‘The Line’, will be a free trade zone with its own tax structure and an autonomous legal system.
The technological and environmental plans of the “zero cars, zero streets, and zero carbon emissions” city have drawn the most attention. Drawings of ‘The Line’ show the city infrastructure and services arranged in three layers. The top layer, above ground, will be a pedestrian layer. It will be supported by two underground layers. The one immediately below ground will be the service layer of physical infrastructure. And further below the service layer will be the spine layer for transport. Project proponents stated that “High-speed transportation, utilities, digital infrastructure and logistics will be seamlessly integrated in dedicated spaces running in an invisible layer along The Line”. The high-speed transit is being designed to reach people anywhere in the city within 20 minutes. Alternately, people could walk to conveniences within five minutes. Artificial intelligence will have a critical role in the city. ‘The Line’ would be powered by 100 percent clean energy, rendering the city pollution-free, healthy, and sustainable. The city would be run totally on smart city technologies. Robots will play a key role in the areas of security, logistics, home delivery, and provision of care.
It is expected that the city infrastructure would cost between US $100 to 200 billion (INR 7.5 to 15 lakh crore). Investments are planned to be drawn from the US $500 billion allocated for NEOM, the Public Investment Fund (PIF) which is the Saudi’s sovereign wealth fund, and local and global investors over 10 years. Construction on the project’s first phase has already begun. NEOM Bay, some hotel complexes, and luxurious apartments have been completed. In 2019, the NEOM Bay Airport was inaugurated. A huge complex of palaces for the Saudi king, prince, and royal family members has also been started.
NEOM and ‘The Line’ are projects with a larger objective. As the world moves towards a non-oil-based future, Saudi Arabia, as the largest producer of oil, finds its economy threatened unless it finds alternate sources of wealth creation. Global trade and tourism would be the key areas for Saudi’s new economy. NEOM, backed by ‘The Line’ as the first fully automated city, could emerge as the leading global destination. In this, there is commonality between Saudi Arabia and the other gulf countries. Bahrain (Economic Vision 2030), Oman (Vision 2040), Qatar (National Vision 2030), UAE (Vision 2021) and Saudi Arabia (Vision 2030) are all seeking to diversify their economies and reduce dependence on oil.
Information on many areas in regard to ‘The Line’ are scarce. However, based on the material available, a broad assessment is possible. Firstly, the history of megaprojects in Saudi Arabia has not been happy. “The Saudi landscape is already dotted with failed or abandoned megaprojects”. Furthermore, such projects do not always turn out the way they are planned. Adverse turns in the global economy, cost overruns, and reduced financial returns on investment are some of the most common failings. Even if the above cited observations are dismissed as speculation, the fact is that this urban endeavour incorporates certain technologies that do not exist. Robot maids, dinosaur robots, and flying cars are still in the making. Neither are high-speed transits today capable of speeds of 512 kilometre per hour, which the city would require for end-to-end travel in 20 minutes.
Furthermore, irrespective of whatever kind of city one builds, a city’s foundational philosophy ought to remain the same. The quality of a city rests on its economy, its environment, and its equity. A city that overstates one to the detriment of the others imbalances itself and over time becomes unsustainable. The project proponents have talked profusely about the economic, technological, and environmental angles, but nothing is known about how equitable the city would be and who could afford to live there.
NEOM and The Line, as cited earlier, would be governed by a set of laws different from Saudi Arabia. But given the nature of the Saudi polity, where some of the governance practices are among the most regressive, uncomfortable incongruities for residents may surface. Since the city is looking for people to move in from the rest of the world, such concerns may not enthuse populations to move in. Saudi Arabia is not very kind to dissent; hence, very few voices of disagreement from inside the country have emanated. Some have mildly sought to remind the Saudi administration that there is no point spending billions of dollars on a totally new venture when the already existing Saudi cities were in a state of disrepair and needed fixing.
The Saudi administration highlights its environmental concerns and is planning to build a totally eco-friendly city. As the Crown Prince said, “Why should we sacrifice nature for the sake of development? Why should seven million people die every year because of pollution? Why should we lose one million people every year due to traffic accidents?” However, this does not seem to be practiced on the ground. The city’s construction is cutting “through its surroundings, forcing its way through tough terrain rather than embracing natural features such as the coast line.”
The Saudi administration also faces criticism on account of the attempt to evict the 20,000-strong Howeitat tribe from its centuries-old homeland that falls within the territory of NEOM. The tribe is resisting eviction. When leaders of the tribe protested, several from the leadership found themselves behind bars. The most vocal critic of them all, Alya Abutayah Alhwaiti, lost his life. The negative publicity was sought to be countered through a public relations exercise, crafted by an American PR company. However, much of the disquiet around the project remains.
Construction Kenya’s INSIGHTS advises as to how to build sustainable cities for the good of all. Still, in an era of rapid urbanisation, we witness increasing demand for additional housing, infrastructure, transport and green spaces. We can only agree on how all around the world thinkers can help tackle these challenges.
How to build sustainable cities
More than 66% of humanity projected to live in urban areas by 2050.
In the next thirty years, more than two thirds of humanity is projected to live in urban areas with most of the urban population growth expected to happen in lower income nations.
With that in mind, there is an urgent need for planners to ensure that urban areas are inclusive, safe, sustainable and resilient enough to meet the anticipated population growth.
But what makes a city liveable? While there is no single magical bullet, cities can make themselves more habitable by adopting a range of social and technological measures.
Here are 10 ways to build more sustainable cities:
1. Clean energy
Although most cities can generate clean energy, their high level of power consumption means the metropolises are unlikely to be self-sufficient in terms of energy production.
However, cities can lower their carbon footprints by, among other things, converting sunshine into electricity; using timber from local forests to produce low-carbon energy for heating and electricity generation; and using solar to heat buildings and water.
Converting waste into energy is also a great step towards improving a city. The Indonesian city of Sodong, for example, has implemented an air-filled waste disposal system that uses pipes to suck trash from homes into processing centres that automatically sort the material to recycle and turn it into renewable energy.
London Heathrow, one of the busiest airports in the world, uses “springy” tiles to harness the kinetic energy in foot traffic and convert it into electricity.
Such innovations can help cities to become more sustainable.
2. Efficient buildings
Buildings consume most of a city’s energy intake while emitting large quantities of carbon. Cities should encourage the design and construction of efficient buildings – which are often more cost-effective and functional compared to installation of costly devices for clean energy production.
Creating efficient buildings involves the insulation of walls, windows, and roofs, and operating energy-efficient lighting and heating systems.
Passive House in Darmstadt, Germany, is a great example of energy efficient building. The ultra-low energy house is so highly insulated that it requires no heating or cooling.
Singapore and New York have shown the world how small initiatives such as painting roofs white and planting trees can reduce city temperatures by up to 2°C – thereby cutting a city’s energy consumption.
In Scandinavian and eastern European countries, hot water for heating is distributed to buildings through insulated pipes underneath the streets. The water is heated using energy generated from extremely efficient power stations that generate both heat and electricity.
3. Efficient transportation
While vehicles, trains and aeroplanes facilitate the smooth running of a city, the transport systems can cause traffic congestion, poor air quality and gas emissions.
To minimise the number of cars on the road, some cities have formulated ideas that can be adopted in other parts of the world.
The Scottish city of Edinburgh, for example, has developed one of the largest car-sharing clubs in the UK, which allows members to use cars only when they need to.
Singapore and London have designed high-quality bus and underground rail systems, as well as low-emission areas where only electric vehicles are permitted.
In Copenhagen, Denmark, cycle commuting is highly encouraged with cyclists given priority at traffic lights throughout the city.
4. Urban agriculture
The food we eat comes with a carbon footprint, which is worse if the produce travels hundreds of miles to reach us. It is therefore a great idea to encourage urban farming to ensure local sourcing of foodstuffs.
Urban farmers such as US-based Aero Farms are already embracing vertical farming solutions to produce food in cities. Vertical farming produces crops on stacked layers, often on skyscrapers, instead of on a single layer in either an open field or a greenhouse.
Advances in lighting and automation, as well as other factors such as reduced use of pesticides, enable vertical farmers to make higher profits than traditional farmers.
5. Sharing spaces
City residents around the world are reducing the carbon footprint of consumption through sharing of resources. It is increasingly common to find inhabitants engaging in carpooling, lodging rental and shared ownership of facilities such as gyms and lounges.
6. Design for social integration
Once considered the world’s most dangerous city, Colombian city of Medellin has transformed itself by focusing on architecture and design.
The city has adopted the use of shared spaces and improved public transport to blur economic boundaries and create a sense of connection among its residents.
7. Mobility on demand
Smartphone-assisted traffic management and car routing can reduce time and fuel wasted trying to navigate through congested cities.
Likewise, self-driving vehicles and carpooling can increase efficiency by maximising use of vehicles and reducing the need for space to park idle cars.
8. Nature-based solutions
Nature-based solutions to urban problems can help cities to tackle climate change while reducing disaster risks.
New York City’s greened rooftops and streets that can better manage storm water runoff and improve urban climate are a great example of natured-based solutions.
Another great example is China’s introduction of the concept of ‘sponge cities’, cities with open spaces that can soak up floodwater and prevent disaster in ecologically friendly ways.
9. Pocket parks
In densely populated cities such as San Francisco, local authorities have put in place small green spaces that help to increase green cover while providing recreation space to residents.
Most pocket parks re-use spaces that previously served other purposes — for example, rehabilitated street parking spaces or a public right-of-way that was earlier used for transportation.
10. Pervious concrete
Pervious concrete is a mixture of cement, coarse aggregate, water and admixture, with little or no fine aggregates. It is designed to allow water to penetrate the asphalt for absorption by the earth. This can help cities to tackle flash floods and worsening quality of water in river courses and so on.
Hailed as one of the most promising sustainable material today, pervious concrete has outstanding potential to counteract these adverse impacts while providing necessary structural integrity, thus supporting continued urbanization.
CleanTechnica written up by Carolyn Fortuna provides an overview of the specific situation of the struggle against climate change in the developed world via building better-adapted codes. So is it time to stop relying on Outdated Building Codes? Instead of adopting the same process in the MENA region, it was decided to opt for solar/renewable Building Codes instead, quickly labelled Green Buildings. These are at this conjecture, a popular demand-side support scheme by the industry. Green buildings contribute to sustainable construction and environment and benefit building owners and users with increased comfort, healthier indoor environment quality, and enhanced durability and fewer maintenance costs. The impact of such green building codes on solar thermal technology is relatively small. And despite that, several countries in the MENA region have shown keen interest in adopting a unified green building code. So, what to do?
It’s Time To Stop Relying On Outdated Building Codes
Building codes and referenced standards need to be updated to replace historical weather data with future-focused climate data.
Outdated building codes are a real problem. Today’s changing global weather and other unexpected events such as high winds, flooding, wildfires, and heatwaves makes it imperative for international collaboration to design updated, practical, and appropriate codes. Building codes rely on climate data, and that data is generally updated on a 10-year cycle. The requirements related to structural/ atmospheric loads for wind and snow/ ice, energy use/heat stress, flooding, and wildfire/ bushfire protection have changed tremendously in the last 10 years due to the climate crisis.
It’s time for countries around the world to step up and assess the way they review building codes.
As the weather becomes more severe from year to year, the underlying historical data simply does not accurately reflect the risk to buildings as a result of these extreme weather-related events. The building codes in some countries, particularly in Europe and the US, do reference design standards and dictate the energy performance and structural standards that impact wind loads and snow/ice loads. The issue is that the underlying data is updated on an “as needed” basis, which can exceed the 10 year average.
So a new struggle has emerged in the building industry. Relying on historical climate and weather data no longer provides the same level of safety and resilience for future extreme weather events as they have in past years and decades.
The Global Resiliency Dialogue
Building code developers/ researchers from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the US have launched the Global Resiliency Dialogue as a joint initiative to inform the development of building codes that draw on both building science and climate science. Their goal is to improve the resilience of buildings and communities to intensifying risks from weather-related natural hazards.
The following “Findings on Changing Risk and Building Codes” statement outlines the work by the members of the Global Resiliency Dialogue, including:
Identifying strategies for the identification of future risks and the development of building code solutions that support adaptation to those risks
Cooperating on the development of international building resilience guidelines and further exploration of the relationship with land use planning instruments that help determine the location of buildings
Supporting research initiatives to better understand climate science, to assist in aligning expectations for building durability and resilience with the projection of future hazards
Developing and deploying messages and resources that enhance understanding of building codes, support a common understanding of risk and communicate the importance of up-to-date building codes
Advancing risk and impact analysis to recognize the multiple economic and social benefits provided by resilience investments and the desirability of alternative approaches that fully capture the benefits and costs provided by the building codes
The primary function of building codes universally is to protect life/human safety. Often this requires structural durability, resistance to fire, adequate means of egress, and other related functions to ensure that lives are protected. However, in discussions of natural hazard mitigation and community resilience, particularly as risks continue to become more severe and impact different geographic locations, the question of greater levels of property protection and bounce back recovery of function following an event is increasingly debated by key decision makers.
Survey findings from the Global Resiliency Dialogue describe the status of international building codes today. Currently, none of the building codes in use in the surveyed countries addresses future climate risk – all are focused on addressing risk based on past weather experiences and extreme events. However, — and this is a really good thing — discussions are underway about how to include future-focused risk in outdated building codes. As is to be expected, some countries are farther along than others.
Integrating Climate Data & Building Codes
Most building code development and research organizations rely on outside organizations with expertise in natural environmental sciences to develop the climactic and hazard maps that are included in the codes. The climate data used to inform provisions of building codes is generally not limited to the building safety industry and has the potential to impact other sectors of society. That’s important, particularly because the key science agencies are often national bodies that service the diverse needs of state, provincial, tribal/indigenous, and local jurisdictions.
Most building codes that address extreme events do so as part of the design standard and based on the probability of the occurrence of the specific event, with the design requirements changing based on the potential severity of the event, location, or the importance of the building. Design events are frequently measured in probabilities, with the ratios varying greatly by country with no apparent international consistency. In some cases, certain extreme weather occurrences have been determined as difficult to address through building codes due to either the localization of an event or the severity of the natural forces involved. Two such examples are hailstorms and storm surge impacting coastal regions.
As countries consider modeling scenarios to incorporate future climate-related risk in building codes, one option under wide consideration are Representative Concentration Pathways (RCPs) – scenarios that consider the emissions and concentrations of the full suite of greenhouse gases, aerosols, and other chemically active gases, along with land use by the year 2100, based on the radiative forcing limit reached on earth before emissions begin to decline. If climate modeling is used, building codes and referenced standards will need to be updated with future-focused climate data. In most countries, this type of change will follow the standard code revision process.
Assuming that code provisions can be adjusted to address future climate risk assessments, countries will need to have a process in place to ensure that the changes are not only adequate but equally suitable and proportionate in scope. This work will fall primarily to the building code development and research organizations in each country, where they utilize their own internal processes. Some entities may develop new standards to assist with regulatory impact analysis.
In the US, a National Climate Assessment is conducted every 4 years by the US Global Change Research Program, a joint effort of 13 federal agencies. To date, the assessment has only focused on the built environment at a relatively high level. As the fifth assessment gets underway, there may be increased focus on the needs of the design and construction industry, which may result in a deeper dive into outdated building codes.
Final Thoughts About Outdated Building Codes
A whole bunch of job types are involved with the design and implementation of building codes:
Building safety professionals & industry associations
Conformity assessment bodies, such as product evaluation services
Consumers or consumer advocacy groups
Energy efficiency advocates
Fire safety professionals
Government entities: federal/national, state, provincial, tribal, territorial, local
Insurance industry representatives
Manufacturers of building products
Plumbing professionals & industry associations
Subject matter experts
As Forbesnotes, building codes must keep pace with technology advances in order to help tap much larger potential energy savings and cost reductions. By adapting to reflect the growing trend of fuel-switching and electrification to enable zero-emissions technologies like efficient electric heat pumps and electric vehicles, policymakers can cut consumer costs and harmful pollution while supporting the transition to a clean economy.
Architectural Digest‘s TRAVEL published just in time for Earth Day: 7 New Sustainable (and Stylish) Hotels would not typically create interest. However, in these extraordinary days of planet earth being heavily affected by human interference coupled with a semi-cloud of worldwide pandemic infection, the following are most welcome. They would find customers and many.
There’s a stigma that anything “eco” or “sustainable” must be low-budget, when in fact it’s just the opposite. Prior to the pandemic, the travel industry was one of the few that had been moving toward a more sustainable future. Hotel developers began looking at the extra costs of creating a sustainable luxury property as an investment, going beyond simple initiatives like prohibiting single-use plastic. Instead, they’ve focused on ways they could implement sustainability from inception. The past year of shutdowns and travel bans revealed the impact that the travel industry has on the environment, with carbon emissions dropping 7% globally in 2020. According to recent data from Booking.com, 70% of consumers are likely to book an accommodation that they know is implementing sustainable practices. And with the alchemy of sustainable hotels in the luxury space, travelers are quickly realizing that you don’t need to sacrifice luxury for sustainability. In many ways, sustainable hotels go hand in hand with high design. From hotels that are powered entirely by solar energy, to others that are built using vernacular architecture, luxury design hotels are paving the way to a more sustainable future in hospitality from the ground up, without skimping on all the comforts a luxury experience typically provides.
Situated on a secluded beach on a saltwater lagoon in Southern Mozambique and run by Sarah Birkett, Sussurro features various beachfront bungalows with indoor and outdoor bathing areas, as well as a library and gallery space, a lap pool, a yoga deck, and a bar and restaurant. Every aspect of the architecture, design, and experience has sustainability on the forefront. “Solar-generated power wasn’t an afterthought, like so many African safari lodges and hotels,” says Birkett. “More than 90% of the residence was built utilizing renewable energy. We began with the sustainable systems at inception.” Vernacular architecture is another way in which Sussurro is fundamentally sustainable. Using only natural and endemic materials native to their ecosystem is a means to preserve heritage craft skills as well. In this spirit, 100% of the materials are sourced and made in Africa. Sussurro’s commitment to protecting the environment is further emphasized through its efforts in their regenerative mangrove reforestation plan, where they plant carbon-rich mangrove seeds in their nursery in order to re-afforest an old salt pan that has been heavily eroded with native mangroves.
The new Casa di Langa in Italy’s Piedmont region is setting a new standard for luxury through sustainability. Situated across 100 acres of working vineyard and rolling hills, the 39-room property features a bar, a restaurant, and a spa, all combining traditional Piedmontese design with sustainable practices. Milan-based design firms GaS Studio and Parisotto + Formenton Architetti, who teamed up on the project, sought to create a property that was luxurious for both the guests and the environment. The team carefully incorporated a sustainable approach to both architecture and design. “Casa di Langa is committed to operating on 100% sustainable energy. That is why we designed the hotel with geothermal heating and cooling, installed solar panels on-site, and pay extra for utility electricity that’s certified renewable,” says Kyle Krause, chairman and CEO of the Krause Group.
Set on Mexico’s Lake Bacalar, Habitas Bacalar is slated to open this July as an eco-sustainable oasis comprising 35 cabanas with lagoon-facing views, a restaurant with an open-air kitchen, and a Mayan spa. Staying true to the brand’s innovative modular build and in an effort to minimize their environmental impact and carbon footprint, the rooms were designed by their local in-house team, which were then delivered and assembled on-site using only sustainable materials. “Biodiversity is another key pillar for the property with architecture that blends with the jungle and Bacalar lagoon,” says cofounder and CEO Oliver Ripley. As the first hospitality group to build on Lake Bakalar, there’s an added responsibility to protect it, so Habitas Bacalar will partner with a local organization to join forces for an environmental and water quality citizen science project that provides sound information for the management and conservation of the lagoon and its unique biodiversity.ADVERTISEMENThttps://3b3e19fefff3a6b64b9cbbe9421a9232.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html
While over the past few years AlUla, Saudi Arabia’s isolated and expansive desert region, has been a backdrop for art and music events, Habitas will be the first luxury hotel group to open with an 100-room property, featuring a yoga deck, wellness center, restaurant, and pool. Core to Habitas’s mission is sustainable hospitality. Much like its other properties, Habitas AlUla will be built using a modular construction plan, with organic materials only, and much of the power will be supplied by solar panels. Guests will also contribute to offsetting carbon emissions by using electrical buggies and bicycles that will be provided by Habitas to transport guests around the vast resort grounds.
Easily accessible from São Paulo or Rio de Janeiro, Six Senses Botanique is located in the heart of the lush Mantiqueira Mountains. The property consists of seven suites in the main building and 13 villas scattered throughout the property, all of which are constructed modularly and using only local materials, such as jacaranda wood, natural stone, and chocolate slate. The hotel also features a farm-to-table restaurant and bar, a spa, and an experience center. Additionally, there are seven natural springs on the property providing guests with their own mineral water (avoiding single-use plastics such as bottles) and a treatment station to return clean water back to nature.ADVERTISEMENT
Located in Nago City, in the north of Okinawa island, the Treeful Treehouse Sustainable Resort is the ultimate luxury glamping destination. The property, which is operated exclusively by solar power, consists of four design-forward tree houses along the Genka River. The tree houses feature floor-to-ceiling windows and hammock swings on the outdoor decks for a fully immersive experience, and are made from wood that is 50% carbon. The resort also features the Aerohouse, a communal treehouse consisting of a kitchen, bathrooms, and relaxation rooms, as well as a roof that will be covered with solar panels. The father-daughter team behind Treeful Treehouse have also been focusing on ways to help the local community, like rebuilding a watermill at the Shizogumui waterfall that had been destroyed over a century ago.
From Capella Hotel Group, Patina Maldives, in the Fari Islands, designed by renowned Brazilian architect Marcio Kogan of Studio MK27, will open with 90 beach and water villas and 20 studios, built using natural and renewable materials. Along with the property being powered by solar energy, used water is preserved, filtered, and recycled as irrigation. As coral reefs play a big role in the local community and ecosystem, the Patina Maldives team is also investing in its younger travelers by offering free diving lessons to kids in order to encourage next-generation respect for the environment.
As a response to a millennial scarcity of water that characterises the new world as impacted by climate change, the author proposes that Blue is the new Green.
With its dominant ochre colour and millennial water scarcity, the water situation in the MENA region would not require specific down-to-earth Blue vs Green solutions for all water, energy, and food security key to MENA stability are getting rarer by the day. Anyway, here is Adam Smith, the managing director at Polypipe Middle East.
Blue is the new green
“We must come together as an industry to actively encourage the design and installation of safe and reliable water management systems”
Sustainable water management is both an art and a science. It is a practice that involves using the Earth’s most precious resource – water – in a way that safely meets current social, economic and environmental needs without compromising the ability to meet those needs in the future. Essentially, it means ensuring that supply of clean water is meeting demand, using a water delivery process that is as efficient as possible.
It allows for a ‘source control’ water strategy – capture, store, treat and re-use – rather than a traditional linear system, in which water is treated as a waste product. This multifunctional approach supports the creation of Green Infrastructure.
The process of sustainable water management can have a deep impact in society on so many levels, helping to address sustainability initiatives on a global scale. For example, the UN has outlined 17 Sustainable Development Goals to be achieved by 2030. Goal 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities, seeks to make cities more inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable through measures that include improving water quality and quantity. Sustainable water management systems can play a key role in this transformation.
In fact, given the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, the role of sustainable water management has become more important than ever before. Perspectives on urban life are shifting from a traditional view towards smarter cities that place wellbeing and sustainability at their core. A more circular economy, that prioritises urban resilience, allows for the creation of safe and reliable public health systems. These systems can actually reduce the indoor transmission risk of diseases and eliminate leaks and toxic odours that can be harmful to human health.
Adam Smith, the managing director at Polypipe Middle East
So, what makes a water management system ‘sustainable’? First and foremost, it’s important to recognise that there is no one-size-fits-all solution. I believe that we must come together as an industry to actively encourage the design and installation of safe and reliable water management systems, based on the specific needs of the project or location. In my experience with Polypipe Middle East, the key is early-stage engagement, working collaboratively along the supply chain from conception to delivery to understand the unique needs of each project.
However, there are some basic principles of sustainable water management that pertain across applications. The basic tenet is using methods to safely capture, store and reuse water. The process of capturing water and then reusing it allows us to save on our usage of potable water, instead of wasting it. This is the sustainable water management cycle – a process that more closely mimics the natural water cycle of the Earth’s ecosystem.
Systems that function based on our natural water cycles are called Sustainable urban Drainage Systems (SuDS). These systems are integrated into our buildings and infrastructure to capture storm, surface or AC condensate water, and use it passively to irrigate surrounding areas. These systems are capable of collecting stormwater runoff at the source for filtration or reuse, removing the need for traditional long drainage networks.
They are also effective at coping with water stress. Many cities in the region do not possess the necessary infrastructure to cope with increased rainfall. Stormwater travels fast, causing high volumes to flow into urban areas in a short space of time, potentially overwhelming drainage systems or collecting in puddles and becoming stagnant, which can create public health issues.
Flooding is not only an inconvenience but a serious danger to human life. For property planners, architects, developers, contractors and local municipalities involved in urban development, it is essential to ensure that infrastructure is becoming better equipped for rainfall.
This is where SuDS come in – they are effective at maximising sustainability and profitability of projects. They play a key role in creating greener infrastructure and supporting a circular economy model by helping to better manage resources, reduce wastewater and offering innovative ways to encourage biodiversity and enhance water management in urban spaces.
Another global trend that enables sustainable water management is the creation of green or blue roofs. Green or blue roofs are starting to be incorporated into the region as not only a sustainable way to manage water, but as positive urban ‘green spaces’ that can offer social and economic benefits.
By adding these to the empty roofs of buildings, we can convert an unused rooftop into a multifunctional space that supports health, wellbeing and sustainability.
First and foremost, they can reduce the risk of flooding by 80%. They also help to combat another challenge in the region which is Urban Heat Island (UHI) effect. This is a phenomenon that causes cities to have warmer temperatures due to dense concentrations of concrete and increased human and industrial activities.
By using green spaces that absorb heat, green roofs can directly reduce cooling loads and costs, potentially reducing AC energy usage by up to 75%.
These spaces can become green sanctuaries in the urban jungle that are our cities. They can be integrated with health and wellness amenities as well as spaces for urban farming to increase biodiversity. All in all, they can impact a building’s carbon footprint, moving us closer towards making our spaces zero net carbon and also helping us to increase LEED ratings and even property value.
For businesses operating in the construction industry in the Middle East today, it is clear that a genuine commitment to sustainability is becoming essential. There is knowledge and intent to increase sustainability, however, often the mechanism to implement it lacks. This, fortunately, is changing, as we see the emergence of more robust legislation and regulation, in line with national and global goals for sustainable development.
The key aspect of supporting sustainability is implementing solutions that safely addresses challenges in the region and help us create resilient cities.
The future of our industry is not just product driven. The barriers we must overcome are not in innovation, technology or product manufacturing. The solution is collaboration.
I believe industry leaders must come together to encourage collaboration in the construction industry by promoting good practices and educating communities on the importance of safe and sustainable systems.
We must look beyond our current economic model to redefine growth. Why is this change necessary?
As societies globally move towards a more circular economy, we too must start to build for the future needs of our planet and our people by helping to close the gap between production processes and the Earth’s natural ecosystems.
By embracing sustainable systems, we can create smarter, greener cities. Implementing sustainable systems, not just for water management, but across our cities is what will enable us to make an impact on our communities, one building at a time.
The United Nations (UN) celebrated on May 10th, 2021, the first edition of the International Day of the Argan Tree, an endemic tree in Morocco.
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