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21 April 2024

Dubai's successful green building strategy reinforces its global leadership in sustainable urban development

By E247

Dubai's emergence over the last few decades as a city that has revolutionised the way urban centres are designed, built and operated has been driven by its commitment to excellence and innovation in the construction sector. With visionary projects pushing the boundaries of possibility, the emirate has not only created architectural marvels but also set new global benchmarks for responsible urban development. 

At the heart of this journey is the concept of green buildings, a construction practice that prioritises resource efficiency, environmental protection and human well-being. Green buildings promote minimal resource usage, waste reduction, and comprehensive waste recycling across all construction phases, from initial design to eventual demolition. With its comprehensive green building strategy aimed at ensuring the highest standards of sustainability, Dubai has set a remarkable example for cities around the globe.

His Excellency Dawood Al Hajri, Director General of Dubai Municipality, highlighted Dubai’s pioneering initiatives to adopt the concept of green buildings as a part of a comprehensive plan to implement world-class sustainability benchmarks across all vital sectors. These initiatives were carried out under the directives of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, and the guidance of His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of The Executive Council. Green building standards and requirements were first introduced in Dubai in 2011 under a decision issued by The Executive Council of Dubai approving the Green Building Policy. 

Highlighting the significance of progressive regulatory frameworks established by Dubai to streamline green building processes in the emirate, Al Hajri stated: "Over the past years, Dubai Municipality has issued numerous decisions to advance its green building policy. This includes Al Sa'fat, a green building rating system, which classifies buildings under three categories: 'Silver Sa’fa’ (mandatory for all buildings),' 'Gold Sa’fa’ (optional),' and 'Platinum Sa’fa’ (optional).' Further, The Executive Council of Dubai approved the 'Dubai Building Code,' which incorporates the design prerequisites of the obligatory 'Silver Sa'fa' into the code's mandatory requirements.

"In 2023, Dubai Municipality also issued a circular to all entities introducing the second updated version of the Al Sa'fat system, which aligned green building regulatory requirements with the 'Dubai Building Code' stipulations. These initiatives reflect Dubai’s commitment to promoting green construction in Dubai, ensuring sustainability across all its buildings."

In an effort to establish a comprehensive green building system in Dubai, Dubai Municipality has developed a strategic plan to integrate global environmental standards into all construction in the emirate. The organisation has also provided a range of incentives for developers who adhere to green building standards, such as obtaining the ‘Al Sa’fat’ certification, which attests to the added value, efficiency and suitability of these buildings for users' needs, thus increasing their value. 

Al Hajri explained: "All the criteria and prerequisites outlined in the Silver Sa'fa are obligatory for new constructions in Dubai, as they have been integrated into the Dubai Building Code. However, the higher Sa'fat levels such as Gold and Platinum remain as optional requirements."

"The majority of green building standards, especially those outlined in the Silver Sa'fa, have been made mandatory to ensure that all new buildings in Dubai adhere to the minimum green building requirements, effectively making them exemplary models in the global context. This marks a pioneering global initiative in the realm of sustainable construction," he added. 
According to Dubai Municipality statistics, the number of buildings that meet green building specifications in Dubai reached 72,000 by the second quarter of 2023, representing 58% of all buildings. Al Hajri pointed out that "meeting Al Sa’fat requirements ensures 19% savings in energy consumption for the Silver Sa’fa, 32% for the Gold Sa’fa, and 35% for the Platinum Sa’fa. Notably, the Dubai Green Building System has achieved a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions of approximately 2.28 million metric tonnes so far."

Dubai Municipality is actively advancing its efforts to make existing buildings more environmentally friendly by developing requirements for retrofitting and enhancing energy efficiency. This initiative aligns with their strategic goal of achieving Net Zero Energy Buildings (NZEB) by the year 2035. While all new constructions adhere to the current green building laws, existing buildings constructed prior to these regulations are subject to the Sa'fat system when undergoing reconstruction. This comprehensive approach reflects Dubai's commitment to sustainable urban development and a greener future.

Furthermore, Dubai Municipality is studying mechanisms to ensure higher use of recycled material in green building standards, as part of its circular economy initiatives, making existing buildings a source of building materials in the future.

"Such efforts are vital to reinforcing Dubai’s stature as a global destination of choice and vibrant economic hub, powered by innovation and investment in technologies of the future," His Excellency said.