An interview with Yousif Ahmed Al-Mutawa, Chief Executive Officer of Sharjah Sustainable City, gives an insight into this sustainable development.
Sustainability is such a subjective concept. How has this community perceived it? And what measures have you used to achieve a sustainable future?
The city is designed according to the three pillars of sustainability: social, environmental, and economic. It embraces the concept of “living locally” in a fully integrated, net-zero energy (NZE), and vibrant community offering a unique and sustainable lifestyle. The city is 100% solar-powered and features electric mobility solutions, including charging stations for electric vehicles and 2.4km of routes dedicated to electric autonomous vehicles.
Smart home automation and energy-efficient HVAC, electrical fittings, and appliances also reduce energy consumption, and solar PV cells are installed on all villa rooftops and built-up areas to achieve an offset of up to 50% on energy usage, thus reducing carbon emissions. With the addition of efficient water-saving appliances and fittings, the residential properties of SSC are projected to deliver savings of up to 50% on electricity and water bills for residents.
There is 100% recycling of waste and water on-site, with all waste being utilized to create a circular economy. A biogas plant treats organic waste (food waste, green waste, and sludge) and converts a waste problem into a resource (electricity and/or thermal energy), whilst residues from the biogas plant will be dried and used as fertilizer for landscaping and vertical farming on site.
A Sewage Treatment Plant (STP) will treat wastewater to produce Treated Sewage Effluent (TSE) for landscape irrigation, achieving 100% water recycling, and avoiding carbon emissions associated with tankers, as well as the need for increased capacity from local utility providers.
Comment on the evolving nature of the end-user. Their expectations, what do they look for when they adopt these sustainable strategies in their living conditions.
I believe we are reaching a tipping point in the drive to incorporate ESG into the global economy. Governments and industries around the world are starting to realize that the economic harm caused by climate change and pollution far outweighs the costs of shifting to more sustainable practices.
Populations are starting to realize this too, and people are looking for more sustainable answers to their everyday needs. We are seeing more electric and hybrid vehicles on the road, and people are looking to install solar PV in their homes to reduce their energy bills. Like electric cars are going to become the industry standard by the end of this decade, I believe sustainable property development will also become prevalent, and projects like SSC will be ahead of the curve. Rather than having to retrofit properties, houses that come as standard with solar PVC and energysaving technology and design will be the most soughtafter by homebuyers.
As a developer, what are some of the key challenges or aspects to keep in mind while developing a holistic sustainable structure?
Many developments are only concerned with the sustainability elements of the finished project. However, there is a carbon footprint to the actual building process as well, and we are building SSC with the highest standards of sustainable products and materials. For example, our building envelope uses Precast Wall Panels, reducing construction waste volume compared to cast-in-situ and lowering the total Embodied Carbon.
With regards to design and planning, thought should be given to every aspect of the building design and architecture. For example, in SSC the residential villas are positioned to avoid the sun and maximize shading, and south-facing facades are closed to reduce heat gains. Plus, thermal insulating construction materials and UV reflective walls, roofs, and windows reduce airconditioning loads and electricity consumption. Also key is ensuring that we find the right technology partners to ensure that we are providing future-proof solutions to today’s problems of energy and water consumption.
And finally, creating awareness on sustainability, ensuring that potential homebuyers understand that investing in a sustainable community isn’t a compromise, but has tangible benefits in terms of utility savings and an improved lifestyle, as well as long-term benefits for future generations.
What should the role of the service providers/ management sector be in a sustainable environment?
The service providers/management sector needs to ensure that it is investing in the right green technologies and solutions to ensure that it can deliver on the aspirations of sustainable communities. Green-tech, energy-saving appliances, renewables, waste and water recycling, building automation – all of these technologies and systems must be included in any investment strategies going forward to ensure that the right solutions are available to property planners and developers when they are planning communities from the conceptual stage.