Most residents of the Middle East, North Africa and the Arabian Gulf believe that in order to live an eco-friendly life, it is necessary to move to some shack out in the desert with no running water or electricity. But what actually passes for a sustainable dwelling in the region has changed in the last few years. And much of that is thanks to a new green rating system called Estidama (read more here) – one that makes sense in the Middle East where LEED standards can’t always work.
For a perfect example, check out our photos of the Estidama-compliant eco-home that was displayed during Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week where Green Prophet was part of the VIP media tour. Roughly equivalent to the government “eco villas” being installed in Al Ain and Al Silaa, this prototype home has all the trappings of a modern Arab home (including a falcon, of course) but consumes 20-30 percent less energy and water.
The Estidama-compliant eco home is fitted with energy efficient appliances and water saving devices that slash its energy and water consumption by up to 30 percent, said Hassan Yasser Ebrahim, Senior Manager of Planning & Design Sustainability at Sorouh Real Estate.
No volatile organic compounds (VOCs) were used in the finishings and the house is oriented to deflect most of the harshest solar gain. Water is heated using solar energy, windows prevent thermal loss and superior insulation also ensures that no energy seeps out of the home.
Whilst the prototype signals an important step in the right direction, the German-trained sustainability expert, Ebrahim concedes that the project is not as “green” as it could be.
In Abu Dhabi, where almost 100 percent of residential energy is subsidized for local Emiratis, it behooves the government to ensure that its own projects, like the 400 unit project in Al Ain and a 448 unit project in Al Silaa, utilize even more solar energy and greater water conservation techniques to ensure an even smaller carbon footprint.
At the inaugural International Water Summit (IWS) held in Abu Dhabi last week in conjunction with the World Future Energy Summit (WFES) and Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, leaders from around the world gathered to highlight the threat of diminishing water resources.
Speaking at IWS, her Excellency Razan Khalifa Al Mubarak, Secretary General of Environment Agency Abu Dhabi (EAD), warned that the emirate has reached a “tipping point” in its groundwater usage, adding that by 2030, the government plans to extend the life of existing groundwater resources to create some semblance of water security.
Within this context, it is critical that the government demand more rigorous efficiencies for their so-called eco-homes. Thanks in part to Masdar, there is a growing supply chain of eco-friendly appliances and materials in the United Arab Emirates, which means it is not nearly as hard to construct a smart, efficient home today as it was even three years ago.
Large and sprawling, the Estidama-compliant home is quintessentially Arab in its organization as it ensures a great deal of privacy for both residents and guests, and there are plenty of open spaces designed for socializing.