Technologies are revolutionising the real estate sector globally, and the UAE has been making strides in adopting innovations. Many developers have boasted 3D virtual property tours and blockchain deployment for property contracts. “There is a huge emphasis on going increasingly paperless, and it is evident that proptech has gone beyond the cool factor to disrupt the status quo,” says John Stevens, managing director of Asteco. “It will ultimately result in positive gains regarding time, efficiencies, environmental impact and cost savings.” There are also initiatives to transform Dubai into one of the cities with the lowest carbon footprints in line with the Dubai Clean Energy Strategy 2050, Stevens adds.
And as developers work on building smart homes that are fully automated, allowing properties to be managed remotely, Stevens says there should be more focus on the systems that operate the buildings and communities of which these properties are a part of.
Paul Christodoulou, managing director of Gulf Sotheby’s International Realty, says many homes that use smart locks, smart doorbells, security systems and cleaning solutions have gone further with the use of such systems. He cites projects such as Al Fattan Crystal Towers in JBR, which uses optimised heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) to continuously read internal and external heat signatures while maintaining set temperatures.
“The HVAC optimisation system uses advanced software to control factors such as water flows, pump speeds and fan speeds,” says Christodoulou. “Then many of the luxury residential and commercial buildings use wireless intrusion detection systems using mobile transmitters and motion sensors making security a lot more seamless. Developers like Al Barari, Northacre and Sobha are merging sustainability and luxury when it comes to smart home systems, including lighting controls, motorised window shades, sensors, digital ballasts and LED drivers, all under a single pre-programmed software umbrella that can optimise a home’s power and heating efficiency by up to 25 per cent.”
Christodoulou believes these features used are only scratching the surface, as smart technologies can provide lower operating costs such as lower energy bills, improves health and productivity benefits for occupiers, assists with real-time surveillance and faster emergency response systems.
The technology will only help to pave more innovation opportunities with improved space design and tenant experience, Christodoulou says. This is achieved by using insights captured through smart devices and sensors on personal habits such as consumption, health stats, movement, etc.
Amine Housni, regional manager, Middle East, at Blueground, a hospitality-tech company, says the real estate industry has to adapt to the needs of a “new breed of consumer”.
“Not just in real estate but in other aspects of their lives, people expect products and services that are mobile-first,” says Housni. “This new breed of consumer has increased needs and interests and is highly interested in living an experience instead of only receiving a service. With this, there is a need to have the ability to come up with products and solutions that address customer pain points. [Technologies such as] a home assistant or an online handbook to always have access to more services are now key deliverables.”
Innovative features in UAE real estate
Here are three projects with key innovative features that are transforming the UAE’s real estate landscape.
Sobha Hartland’s dense landscape design uses primarily low-water consumption planting.
Francis Alfred, managing director and CEO of Sobha Realty, says this feature enhances the microclimate of the development as it lowers the relative temperature through the shading of walkways and building a perimeter.
“All public areas in the master plan have been designed as intensely lush and verdant parkland,” explains Alfred. “The cooling of all units is achieved by using variable refrigerant flow, connected to multiple hidden fan coil units. The system increases the energy efficiency of the building and also keeps the spaces flowing without the interruption of the AC units. A fresh air unit is integrated with the system to increase efficiency and improves the fresh air quality in villas. Gases used in the AC are one of the most environmentally friendly in the market. The AC system is fitted with climate control features, which create a constant environment throughout the building.”
Aljada is building on a greenfield site, infusing smart technology and components right into the design of the city. Ahmed Alkhoshaibi, CEO of Arada, says, “We are implementing next-generation and ultra-secure 5G digital infrastructure. The four key areas at Aljada are mobility, utilities, the circular economy and waste management. In each of these areas, technology will be implemented throughout the project, making life more convenient for residents, while saving time and supporting the environment.”
Under the mobility segment, Aljada’s smart traffic management system will ease the flow of vehicles throughout the city. Alkhoshaibi says it will employ centrally controlled signals and sensors to make residents’ journeys easier. The other feature includes sustainability lanes for electric vehicles, a free environmentally friendly internal bus network, and a smart parking system, which will allow residents to book spaces in advance, cutting down travel time and improving convenience. Arada Smart Home technology is implemented free of charge in Misk Apartments to allow residents to remotely perform many functions within their home. There is also free Wi-Fi in certain public spaces such as cafes, shared workspaces within buildings and other social areas.
Meydan One is a next-generation lifestyle destination with bespoke entertainment, leisure and retail attractions. Unique features include an imposing retractable skylight spanning over 100m, offering a vibrant approach to al fresco dining. “The concept of malls as places for retailers to push out product offerings is outmoded,” says Fahad Kazim, vice-president of Meydan Malls, Meydan Group. “The need of the hour is for projects that integrate modern design and cutting-edge technological features with a diverse lifestyle as well as new-age retail offerings.”
The mall’s omnichannel smart app will provide virtual access to the destination, enabling visitors to start their Meydan One experience at home or the airport. The project has an incubation district — a fully equipped plug-and-play facility for up-and-coming entrepreneurs in fashion, beauty, food and beverage and other sectors. The dedicated start-up space offers leasing incentives, mentorship and support to help emerging brands.