21 August 2023, Khaleej Times
In recent years, sustainable solutions are being adopted and implemented in the UAE’s real estate sector at an accelerated pace. To understand why, we can look at the 1800s when scientists studied how different gases and vapours could trap heat in the Earth’s atmosphere, and the 1900s when society was first urged to err on the side of caution.
In 1896, it was predicted that changes in atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) levels could significantly alter the surface temperature through the greenhouse effect; in 1938, it was proposed that CO2 increases in Earth’s atmosphere were linked to global changes in temperature.
In 1958, CO2 concentrations were observed to be steadily rising, and in 1988, it was reported that the human-caused buildup of greenhouse gases was altering the climate and ultimately causing global warming – just two years later , the world began working to achieve several United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs) to create a greener future.
Today, it is evident that much more progress must still be made to combat climate change. Data shows that the world’s surface temperature over the first four months of this year ranks as the fourth warmest period in 174 years. Furthermore, 2023 is expected to rank among the 10 warmest years on record .
With real estate producing roughly 30 per cent of global annual emissions and consuming nearly 40 per cent of the world’s energy, it has one of the highest carbon footprints of any sector . This is why the UAE has emphasised the development of sustainable real estate in recent years.
So, what is being done to accomplish this?
Led by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, the UAE has repeatedly displayed excellence through both its mindset and actions since the country was formed over 50 years ago. Dubai, the nation’s starring emirate, has been the epitome of this visionary thinking to become one of the most attractive destinations in the world for migration.
The UAE’s population has grown from 350,000 people in 1971 to more than 10 million today and Dubai’s reputation as a world-class hub has been a primary catalyst, spurring strong demand for housing to accommodate this growth.
This has supported Dubai’s real estate market boom; according to the Dubai Land Department (DLD), the emirate witnessed 60,927 residential property sales transactions worth Dh179.3 billion through the first half of 2023 . This has placed the city on a trajectory to easily surpass projections that were made earlier this year of reaching Dh300 billion in sales transactions.
The UAE continues to grow as its population is currently projected to rise beyond 13 million by 2050 , and the country has thus placed a strong emphasis on doing so sustainably. After becoming the first country in the Middle East to ratify the Paris Agreement in 2015 , Sheikh Mohammed spearheaded the nation’s sustainable charge with several forward-thinking efforts.
Strategic mandates like Vision 2021 and UAE Net Zero 2050 have positioned the country as a world leader in sustainability . Similarly, key initiatives such as Dubai 2040 have been activated to further enhance the real estate sector. With environmental sustainability being a key pillar of this master plan, developers have been increasingly building with a “green-first” approach.
A recent, notable example of this is the first LEED Gold and Well-Being integrated residential development in Dubai; construction for this project, which is located in Al Furjan, is more than 40 per cent complete and handover is scheduled for April 2024. Upon completion, the annual reduction of 469 metric tonnes of CO2 will be achieved while also providing tenants with a wide variety of energy-efficient savings, as well as other benefits.
Conference of the Parties 28 (COP28) is on the horizon, and with the UAE hosting it for the first time since it started in 1995, the country has already exhibited proactivity in the lead-up to the event by announcing 78 aligning environmental projects in May . This will be key in sparking a necessary dialogue between key stakeholders for the betterment of both regional and global real estate, and governmental figures alongside industry professionals will play a major role.
Raising awareness and educating the likes of homeowners and prospective buyers about the need to purchase and invest in properties which are helping to mitigate climate change is of pressing importance. At the same time, it is imperative to inform these individuals about the benefits that they can receive as a result of investing in “green real estate.”
Sustainable developers are now aiming to build affordable developments with modern finishes that not only provide tenants with first-class amenities and innovative offerings such as Feng Shui but also create significant savings whilst contributing to the well-being of the environment. Benefits can include a reduction in annual electricity costs and water usage, as well as the intake of fresher air than what standard builds would provide.
To achieve such savings and offer such benefits, developers must implement sustainable solutions like efficient water fixtures and solar PV panels. Buyers must also make an active effort to invest in such infrastructure and technology with the environment being at the top of their minds, all while realizing that their lives will be better off for it.
Although the world still has much ground to make up in negating CO2 emissions before the half-century mark of the decade, progress is apparent and we are on pace to achieve this list through collective effort. To achieve the UNSDGs and ensure that future generations inhabit a world that is in a better state, every country must pull up their socks to make more diligent efforts – but thankfully, the UAE is paving the way by creating a blueprint for all to follow.