We write a lot about electric vehicles here on CleanTechnica, because we’re a tech site. But some of the best ways to cut emissions involve no tech at all. One of the best things you can do to cut your carbon footprint and pollution output is live in a walkable, mixed-use location where much of your recreation and relaxation can be done right there in the neighborhood or community where you live. That eliminates the need to drive, traffic on the road, the stimulus to build more roads, and extra parking lot asphalt.
If much of your food can be grown within the community, your home is super efficient and includes rooftop solar panels, and you’ve ditched a personal car to join a community-based electric carsharing program, even better!
There are places with varying degrees of the description above, but one place that offers it all is “The Sustainable City” in Dubai. Of the many wonderful cleantech tours I took and projects I learned about in 2017, I would say that touring this community and talking to the key man behind it, Faris Saeed*, was probably my cleantech highlight of 2017. This is the full monty. The sustainability focus goes much deeper and is much more analytical than I expected. Faris Saeed’s vision and leadership are superb. I haven’t been many places that compare on the coolness scale, and I actually can’t think of a place that tops it.
With his comprehensive, in-depth, futuristic vision (and success), it was not super surprising the developer was also an early adopter of the Tesla Model S, Tesla Model X, and Fisker Karma. (And it was cool to drive a Karma for the first time, but left me appreciating Tesla that much more.)
Before diving further into The Sustainable City, which is aptly going to be the ending point of the coming Middle East EVRT Road Trip, I just want to highlight again that even if you can’t find yourself settling into an idyllic community like this, there are locations around the world that offer walkability, an effective mixture of uses, and green housing. The thing is, you have to really understand the value they provide and search out such places instead of searching out max square footage per dollar (or max square meters per euro).
Also, yes, you can find a nice place in such a neighborhood on a tight budget — I did as a grad student and as a young professional. Additionally, you can find a place like this that fits life with a family. In city after city and country after country, you can find a variety of homes in walkable, mixed-use, human-focused neighborhoods.
The benefits are a bit hard to explain. You can run basic calculations to determine lower emissions from less driving and less money spent on transport, but that doesn’t capture the bulk of the story. The convenience and pleasant atmosphere from having grocery stores, restaurants, coffee shops, pharmacies, dentists, hairdressers, parks, playgrounds, and friends a short walk away are just a gigantic boost to quality of life. It beats having a Tesla Model X to drive through LA traffic in.
In the end, though, many of us will have to use a car from time to time, or even daily for commuting purposes. So, it’s still critical that complementary long-distance transport is electric. That’s why it was cool to see that The Sustainable City had already taken up a leadership role by installing EV charging stations in the parking facilities on the edge of the community, and extra cool to hear of a planned Tesla Model 3 carsharing program for residents.
Using that as a segue, I’ll jump back into more of the specifics of The Sustainable City, via its website:
◊ “A flourishing park runs through the entire length of The Sustainable City, forming the community’s Central Green Spine. There are 11 biodome greenhouses running the length of the Central Green Spine, with a total capacity of over 3,000 square metres for urban farming. The Sustainable City has begun cultivation and the plan is to diversify and grow as many fruits and vegetables as possible in these domes and throughout the green spine.”
◊ “The Sustainable City houses 500 villas grouped into five residential clusters, connected to an urban farm that runs the length of the City, each cluster is comprised of 90 Courtyard Villas, 8 Garden, and 2 Signature Villas. Each cluster is eloquently named after a different type of date palm tree – Lulu, Berhi, Hilali, Jabri, and Khalas.”
◊ “The borders of The Sustainable City will act as the first line of defence against pollutants. With a remarkable 10-meter-high buffer zone running along the periphery of the development consisting of 2,500 trees scattered in multiple layers, purifying the air coming into the city will be a breeze.”
◊ “The Plaza is a 15,000-square meter mixed-use area located near the entrance of The Sustainable City. It’s comprised of five low-rise (ground plus three floors) blocs with shops, restaurants, cafes, offices and apartments available for lease ranging from studios to one- and two-bedrooms. The aim of the retail area is to provide sufficient services to the community to sustain their families whilst providing destination facilities to encourage other residents in the Dubailand area to utilize and thereby secure an additional income for the community that covers maintenance and operations.”
◊ “The Sustainable City provides shaded car parks throughout the city. Each villa has two parking spaces shaded with solar panels plus additional spaces for communal electric buggies. The distance from the car parks to the villas ranges from 10 metres to 85 metres.”
◊ “With The Sustainable City Junior Innovation Center, Diamond Developers aims to create an informal educational environment that allows for schools in the UAE to take a different approach when educating students about the environmental issues that the world is facing. The Junior Innovation Center will be a unique and innovative experience centre with an intensive focus on sustainability and an exciting and diverse combination of indoor and outdoor hands-on activities and missions. This is all about getting children, young people, and adults to learn about new options and opportunities for the future.”
◊ “Referred to as the brain of The Sustainable City, the Diamond Innovation Centre is the first Positive Energy Building in the region. This means that over an anticipated 50-year lifespan, the building itself will produce 140 percent of its energy requirement, thus offsetting emissions during construction, operation, and decommissioning. This iconic building will be off-grid and provide a state-of-the-art amphitheatre for 700 people, as well as a spacious atrium for exhibitions.”
◊ “The school will set a standard for world-class education that integrates sustainability in all its forms (environmental, social, and economic) through high academic standards and innovative teaching practices. The school will follow a curriculum that will complement the progressive-minded sustainable model of The Sustainable City. The school will provide an education that instils a love of learning, an appreciation of ‘green living’, and at the same time develops well-rounded, globally-minded, creative problem solvers.”
◊ “The Hotel Indigo in The Sustainable City will be a Net ZERO Energy building, powered 100% by solar energy. The hotel architecture provides a low rise, unobtrusive design which nestles exquisitely within The Sustainable City’s lavish foliage. All waste water produced by the hotel will be recycled, and all material waste will be sorted at the source and recycled to meet the highest environmental, social, and commercial sustainability standards.”
◊ “The Sustainable City Equestrian Centre offers residents quality riding classes from three-years of age to adults up to the intermediate level. The centre will offer 30-minute lessons for beginners and 45-minute for intermediates, with 32 well-schooled Arabian, thoroughbred, and mix-breed horses.”
◊ “At The Sustainable City, health is not just the absence of disease but a holistic state of being with complete physical, mental, and social wellbeing. The rehabilitation facility will use this holistic approach for treatment. The Sustainable City Country Club will be a world-class wellness destination. It will serve residents and visitors and will be comprised of two main facilities: a 1,500-square meter Rehabilitation Centre and a 1,430-square meter Sports Complex.”
◊ “The Sustainable City Mosque is accommodating up to 700 worshippers and integrates innovative design technologies to minimise energy and water consumption. This state-of-the-art mosque is well insulated to prevent thermal heat gain, fitted with LED lighting, and is cooled using high-efficiency AC systems.
“The mosque is fitted with solar water heating systems and uses water-efficient fittings and fixtures. All water from the mosque’s ablution area is collected and treated using the city’s grey water treatment facility.”
◊ Up to 2700 residents.
◊ 10 MW of solar power capacity.
Pretty wicked, yeah?
Attend the World Future Energy Summit’s first annual The Mobility Conference, and then join the 2018 Middle East EVRT Road Trip and enjoy the final arrival at The Sustainable City to check it out for yourself.
*A big and pleasant surprise to me, Faris is a longtime CleanTechnica reader and enthusiast. That was a humbling honor to discover.