Dubai Radio Mauls Gulf’s Un-green Malls

united arab emirates mall Emirati malls suffer a blistering review in a 21 minute podcast on green retail.

Radio station Dubai Eye 103.8 FM (which not long ago featured Green Prophet here) recently broadcast an interview with Buro Happold’s expert in sustainability and alternative technologies, Robert Cooke. Cooke, who is also Technical Committee Coordinator of Emirates Green Building Council, begins by saying malls in the United Arab Emirates are getting greener, then serves up a proper tongue-lashing on their environmental shortcomings. Click below to give a listen and to hear some straight talk about un-green retail; and the learn about the newest sustainability rating system coming online.

Joining old school systems such as America’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) and Britain’s BRE Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM) are regional newbies like Abu Dhabi’s Estidama and Qatar’s Sustainability Assessment System (QSAS). Dubai’s got another debuting next year.

Majid Al Futtaim Properties, a leading developer of shopping malls in the Middle East, is rolling out their new Five Star rating system, intended for use by their concessionaires. This developer has filled a shopping cart with sustainability awards, and their newest mall in Fujairah is targeting LEED gold. But are certifications and plaques a true test for “good-for-the-planet” performance? Or are they smart publicity and marketing ploys, aimed at differentiating one bloated UAE mall from another?  Attention shoppers, look at me: I have a ski slope, I have a giant walk-through aquarium, I have LEED Platinum Certification?

The retail sector is one of the largest energy consumers in the Emirates. Intense consumers of conditioned air, water and artificial lighting, malls also occupy huge tracts of land.  They encourage personal car use, generate copious waste, and contribute to urban light and noise pollution. This new rating system skirts those aspects, addressing retail interior fit-out only.

The Five Star system is a recycling of LEED methodology, it checks interior design against five criteria categories including Water Efficiency, Energy & Atmosphere, Materials & Resources, Indoor Environmental Quality, Innovations in Operations and Disabled Access.

Retailers must comply with guidelines designed to maximize sustainable construction and longer term operations and maintenance, earning between one to five stars (five being top performance).

This could be viewed as a shift in developer priorities: less focus on initial capital investment and greater emphasis on lifecycle costs in terms of operations and environmental impacts. It’ll take alot of “retail therapy” to change my perception of what’s really at play.  Anyone else thinking “lipstick on a pig”?

In other related news, the World Wildlife Fund’s Living Planet Record now ranks the UAE as the third biggest consumer of natural resources, right behind Kuwait.  The nation with the biggest carbon footsies is Qatar, the world’s top exporter of liquefied natural gas. Although the UAE’s total environmental footprint is lower than most other nations’, its boasts a per capita footprint of 8.4 global hectares per person: significantly higher than the world average.

The Living Panet Record measures natural resources required to produce those resources we consume such as arable land, fishing grounds, and forests. It compares this demand to nature’s ability to supply. The Emirate’s third place spot is an improvement over past performance. For the past few years, they’ve held the top ranking.  Greening up their malls is a baby step in the right direction.

The podast with Rob Cooke can be heard here.

::Buro Happold

Image of Emirates mall from Shutterstock


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