How to design green buildings or a sustainable city in Dubai?

How to design green buildings or a sustainable city in Dubai?

There are many challenges to designing green buildings or a sustainable city in Dubai.

One of these challenges is Dubai’s extremely hot environment. The key strategy here is using passive design strategies to reduce cooling demands. Through form, orientation and density, we can design green buildings and sustainable cities that help create a cooler environment. We can also use other passive design strategies for buildings, such as using super insulated walls and triple glazed windows and maximising shading areas. Increasing the amount of trees helps to provide much needed shade which combined with water features can help to create a cooler environment.

A sustainable city has to be sustainable socially, economically and environmentally. The key challenge here is to provide solutions that are holistic. The basic idea of a holistic approach to sustainable development is to provide a whole solution which addresses all the three key pillars of sustainability, rather than just dealing with one part.

At Baharash Architecture every project presents an opportunity to do something new. There is a true sense of entrepreneurial spirit in our work and thus innovation is our core strength. Each project in the studio is driven by a process of investigation, experimentation and always asking “what if?” The outcomes of these studies form the basis of the design. The reason we do this, is to move away from thinking about architecture as “buildings”. We believe that great architecture is more than buildings; it’s about creating resilient destinations that make people feel healthy to live in, inspired to work in and want to visit. Phase 2 of Dubai Sustainable City is a good example of our innovative approach.


The Sustainable City in Dubai

Dubai Sustainable City - Baharash Architecture

One of the many buildings which we designed in Dubai’s Sustainable City was the Sustainable hotel. One of the key challenges here was to increase the landscape area in that zone, whilst also integrating the landscape with the building. We proposed a new typology of apartments that have a continuous green landscape roof, which can be accessed from the main building. These fingers were extended to the central spine, to take advantage of the views and bring guests closer to the central heart of the productive landscape.


Dubai Sustainable City Hotel – Key ideas

Dubai Sustainable City Hotel - Baharash Architecture

We created breaks in these green fingers to provide opportunities for permeability, and provide better shared connectivity to the apartment modules. These breaks naturally occur at the ends of each apartment block.

The apartment typologies in the eco resort were also designed to provide passive buffers & boundary to create tranquil & active zones. The tranquil zone will become part of the productive landscape, and by positioning the villas in the heart of this zone, guests will experience what it feels like to live in the productive landscape. Each villa in the eco resort will have its own garden, which will provide daily nutrition to guests, and with the help of a chef, guests will be able to cook their own food produced from this landscape. The active zone is located on the key viewing corridor from the old city, and central landscape. This will animate the views, and will provide outdoor recreational areas adjacent to the facilities in the landscape level of the country club, and adjacent to the restaurant of the resort.

Dubai Sustainable City Hotel - Baharash Architecture

Guests are able to enjoy travelling around the resort and the city, by walking, cycling or using an electric car. Therefore the resort was designed to provide enough buffer space to allow for light electric vehicles to access apartments and villas. Cars are parked in semi basement by valet parking. The ramp is positioned as close to the main building to minimize the presence of cars in the resort.

The active transport strategy also helped in providing great space savings in the city, which meant we could expand the landscape area inside the phase 2 into more varied, vibrant and healthy spaces. The Mix use area for example features a large public shaded plaza which is used for variation of events and activities throughout the year.

The project will also feature a smart water system that will reduce the water demand of buildings. Grey and waste water will be used to irrigate plants across the city, and there will also be a waste recycling system and organic farms.


Green Buildings without the extra costs

One of the key challenges when working on a sustainable project is at the early stages of the project. Basic design decisions such as orientation, density and form provide the biggest environmental gains, yet these require the least financial investment. So at the early stages we are able to reduce a large amount of energy demand with little cost. Another key challenge was working with the client and consultant team from the beginning of the phase 2 project to develop a series of sustainable initiatives and targets. These targets helped guide the design in the pursuit of the sustainability goals. We divided some of these targets into categories such as: Water, Health & Well-being, Energy, Materials, Pollution, Ecology, and Waste.

If a city is to be truly sustainable, citizens have to be on board with the idea of building sustainability into their everyday lives. Sustainability needs to be something that people can see, feel and be inspired by. All too often, sustainability is something that is hidden within buildings or the built environment. We should look towards incorporating sustainability into visible features and make them part of a buildings’ story.


Green Buildings for health benefits

Sustainability should also be a way of life rather than just a process of making buildings more environmentally friendly. This means we need to rethink the way people live or work through new design of building typologies. The typology of a building can improve the quality of life, whilst also helping to maximise the environmental gains through form, orientation and density.

Nature has many benefits for our wellbeing

I also believe that we need to move towards Biophilic design, as this could make sustainability feel more natural to people. Biophilic design is a process of incorporating nature into a building’s architecture, with the objective of making people feel healthier and happier. Nature has many benefits for our wellbeing. Nature has a calming effect, it makes us live in harmony, improves our memory, reduces depression, boosts workplace performance and bonds people together. I believe that for citizens to be on board with the idea of building sustainability into their everyday lives, they must feel good about it, and Biophilic design is a great way to achieve that.

Ultimately, the key goal of any Sustainable City should be to provide residents and workers with the highest quality of life together with the lowest environmental footprint.  A good sustainable city is one where people want to live, work and visit. Dubai Sustainable City will hopefully have all of these qualities once it’s complete. The city will offer something for everyone, from an old-souq styled shopping street to sports fields, productive landscapes, spa, resort, and many more variation of building types and experiences. It’s going to be a very special place!

About the author

Baharash Bagherian

Baharash Bagherian is a Designer working holistically at all scales, designing for a higher quality of life whilst also protecting the environment. He believes that great Architecture is more than buildings: “It’s about creating resilient destinations that make people feel healthy to live in, inspired to work in and want to visit.”

In his work, each project is driven by a process of investigation and experimentation. The outcomes of these studies form the basis of the design. He strives to develop innovative and creative solutions that make a positive contribution to our current and future generations.

His award-winning design studio, Baharash Architecture, have worked on projects in various scales, from urban scale; such as master plans, landscape design and buildings, to smaller scale; such as interiors, furniture and products. Recent projects include the Oasis Eco Resort in Liwa and phase 2 of Dubai Sustainable City.

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