Guidelines to be enforced in Abu Dhabi will ensure more efficient water, lighting, cooling and insulation fixtures, among various other elements, so that older buildings and villas also make the best use of the emirate’s resources. Image Credit: Ahmed Kutty/Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: For more than a year, energy and water consumption efficiency have been brought to the fore in the emirate of Abu Dhabi, with new projects awarded building permits only if they prove efficient use of resources, said a senior official.

Urban planning authorities are now drawing up guidelines that will also make existing structures sustainable.

These guidelines will call for more efficient water, lighting, cooling and insulation fixtures, among various other elements, so that older buildings and villas also make the best use of the emirate's scarce water resources and adapt better to the intense summer heat, said Humaid Al Hammadi, associate planner for Estidama at the Urban Planning Council (UPC).

He added that producing desalinated water is extremely cost-and energy-intensive, and we need to make better use of the emirate's limited water resources. "We can also save a lot of energy by simply insulating structures better from the heat and making use of available wind. These are the kinds of measures we want to encourage in order to make community life sustainable in the emirate," he said.


The measures will be part of the UPC's Estidama (sustainability) Pearl Rating System for existing buildings, which are expected to be introduced by the end of the year. The system will mirror the framework used to rate the sustainability of new projects in the emirate.

"It is clearly more difficult to change a building's sustainability rating after it has already been built, but we hope to tackle this by pushing owners to adopt small but effective measures like water-efficient taps and energy-saving lights," he added. Details on how landlords and property management companies would be urged to implement these standards are, however, not yet available.

"We are still discussing the exact requirements for existing buildings and villas. What we do know is that despite the initial investment that will be required, these standards will lead to long-term savings in operation and maintenance costs, and allow the emirate to make better use of its resources," Al Hammadi told Gulf News.

He added that even in new projects rated at one Pearl, water consumption in the long run is reduced by 21 per cent when compared to buildings that are not designed under these standards, and consumption of energy is also 41 per cent lower.

Granted permits

Since September 2010, new construction project designs in the emirate have been required to obtain a minimum rating of one Estidama Pearl before being granted building permits. Government building designs have had to be even more sustainable and acquire at least a two-Pearl rating before getting the go-ahead.

Since then, 64 project designs have been awarded ratings by the UPC. These projects are then audited and rated during their construction as well.

"The rating system for new projects will also be expanded this year. When an Estidama-rated building is completed, we will review how efficiently it is being run for two years," Al Hammadi added.

Pearl Rating System

Abu Dhabi: The Estidama Pearl Rating System measures how sustainable a building is culturally, environmentally, economically and socially, and is tailored to the climatic and cultural needs of Abu Dhabi.

Based on this system, buildings are rated at one-Pearl if they achieve the minimum level of sustainability by using efficient water and lighting systems, minimising waste production and being made of durable, environmentally friendly and locally available materials, among other elements. A building that is more sustainable than the minimum requirements set by the Urban Planning Council (one-Pearl) is given a higher Pearl rating, the highest rating being five Pearls.

In a bid to encourage developers to build more sustainable projects, the Urban Planning Council will soon open up three show villa projects that are rated at 3 Pearls each.

These show projects, which display the benefits of constructing beyond the mandatory one-pearl Estidama rating for villas, will be located in Abu Dhabi's Khalifa City A, as well as in Al Ain and Al Gharbia.