Today, people across the world will observe Earth Hour, a commendable global initiative raising awareness around the importance of reducing our carbon footprint and the devastating effects of climate change around the world. From 8.30pm to 9.30pm (UAE time), people the world over will switch off lights and appliances to reduce our global energy consumption.
The difference made by simply switching off our lights for 60 mins is barely a drop in the ocean compared to the true scale of the challenges we face. What is really required is a fundamental shift in our approach to economics, growth and development, with sustainability as a core objective. Now is the time to begin designing our cities and communities with this mindset, from conception to development, so that sustainability is not a passive choice but an inbuilt part of our daily lives and behaviour.
When we developed Sharjah Sustainable City, we wanted to create a successful prototype for the city of the future that can be replicated all over the world. The city of the future is not the one that has the most technological innovations, highest connectivity or smartest appliances, it is the one that is able to combine all these innovations and apply them intelligently in a way that allows communities to thrive sustainably.
At Sharjah Sustainable City, we have applied passive and active design techniques to the entire project to massively reduce its projected total energy demands. For example, the residential villas are positioned to avoid the sun and maximize shading, and all south-facing facades are closed to reduce heat gains. Plus, highly insulated UV reflective walls, roofs and windows reduce air-conditioning loads and electricity consumption. Energy-efficient HVAC, electrical fittings and appliances 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, reducing carbon emissions and achieving utility savings for residents.
These are only a handful of examples of the multiple ways a shift in thinking can create a huge long-term impact. If we shift our thinking this way on a transnational scale we can truly make an impact on climate change, and ensure the good health and prosperity of our children and all future generation.