University of Dubai
An aerial view of a portion of the Solar Farm Project on the University of Dubai Campus. The university thrives as first LEED-certified net-zero energy building in region

Dubai: The University of Dubai (UD) campus in Dubai International Academic City is thriving as a green and smart building that achieved the title of LEED-certified first net-zero energy building (nZEB) in the region.

An initiative of Dubai Chamber, UD is the second university in the world after University of Hawaii to be certified as a LEED net-zero energy campus that meets all its energy needs from the Solar Farm Project on the campus, said Dr. Eesa Mohammed Bastaki, the president of UD.

Developed by the US Green Building Council (USGBC), Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is a reputed green building certification programme used worldwide. LEED provides a framework for healthy, efficient, carbon and cost-saving green buildings. It certifies buildings as nZEB when a source energy use balance of zero is maintained, with zero carbon footprint. LEED also issues LEED platinum, gold and silver certifications to organisations.

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LEED Platinum, Zero Water

“UD is LEED Platinum certified, but as the LEED net-zero energy campus, it is the only one in the UAE and second worldwide,” Dr Bastaki told Gulf News.

While receiving the official LEED Zero Certificate this year, UD also achieved LEED Zero Water certificate, he said.

“This means we have achieved the net zero goals in water consumption as well. Water is recycled for using in the cooling system, irrigation system and for fountains. Since the building is smart, we consume less water than the regular buildings.”

Dr Eesa Mohammed Bastaki-1661946230600

“The University of Dubai is proud about achieving these great milestones of sustainable environment for society and economy and setting an example of being the pioneer in implementing the sustainable green economy concept. This wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for Dubai Chamber’s support in constructing the UD campus as a green and smart building and achieving the net-zero energy campus through the Solar Farm Project,” he said.

Benefits of the project

The Dh5.4 million Ground Mount Solar Plant with a capacity of 1.7 MWh resulted in savings worth Dh1.2m within the first year of operation with an internal rate of return (the profitability of investment) at 23 per cent.

Offsetting 100 per cent of the electricity at the campus, the project abates 2,040 tonnes of carbon dioxide emission per year. It also uses a robotic dry-cleaning system for the solar panels that saves 34000 litres of water per month.

How it started

Explaining the UD’s journey of becoming self-sustained in terms of powering up all its energy requirements, Dr Bastaki said the university had started the journey to fulfil the clean energy vision of the country way back in 2018.

“His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, had called for solar panels to be installed on every roof in Dubai by 2030, as part of the Emirates’ vision to produce 75 per cent of its energy from clean sources by 2050 and to get there on time, the Dubai Clean Energy Strategy 2050 also calls for targets of 25 per cent of solar power by 2030. The UD started the journey to fulfil this vision in 2018.”

The concept of nZEB was approved and implemented by Shams Dubai Solar Programme of Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA) to support Sheikh Mohammed’s vision, with the goal of having all buildings in Dubai under nZEB standards by 2030.

“Another initiative was Dubai Plan 2021 with the objective of “A Smart & Sustainable City”. Thus, Dubai Chamber stepped up to support both these Dubai initiatives at an early stage leading the way, enabling UD to be the first LEED certified nZEB in Dubai and in the region,” said Dr Bastaki.

Why the Ground Mount system?

However, the roofs of the UD’s campus buildings were not large enough to accommodate an adequate number of solar panels to cater for all the energy requirements, Dr Bastaki recollected.

Dubai Chamber then decided to install the Ground Mount Solar system at the boundary perimeter, he said.

“If we look at the statistics, we can realise that the UD has taken a giant leap towards sustaining the environment, decreasing the carbon footprint to zero and has set an example for others to follow. The numbers and facts for the net-zero energy campus initiative show financial sustainability in addition to environmental sustainability,” he pointed out.