We've brought you a lot of rather dubious green building projects in Dubai, but we're hoping that the newest, the Dubai Pearl, is an exception. The $6 billion mixed-use city within a city is being planned for an area near Dubai’s new business centers, and according to the developers, the program will boast energy efficiency, “smart technology”, a column-free design, and a walkable environment that will enable community living. But we really wonder whether Dubai needs and can even support another massive residential, hotel and office complex of the Dubai Pearl’s scale.
Emerging on the site of a project that went bust several years ago, construction has been charging along on what will eventually be 20 million square feet of a “fully integrated” sustainable development. Six luxury hotels, including the MGM and the Bellagio, will anchor a “holistic luxury lifestyle” development that will include residences and offices. According to Dubai Pearl’s press office, the 40 acre (16 hectares) site will include 1 million square feet of open spaces and landscaped areas, with 15,500 parking spaces, 1500 residential units, 1400 offices and a retail zone that will eventually support a population of 30,000 people.
So how will this be a sustainable development? Dubai Pearl’s contractors have designed the master plan to ensure energy efficiency that they hope will score the complex LEED Gold certification. Recycling facilities for paper, glass and food waste will be part of the complex’s guarantee for effective waste diversion. Smart lighting features and water conservation will also supposedly minimize Dubai Pearl’s impact on the local environment.
All of this at first sounds great, but the details are rather thin. Dubai still has a glut of office and residential space despite the city’s recovery from the 2008 financial crisis, due in part to more businesses relocating in the wake of the Arab Spring. And while the local government has implemented pilot recycling programs, “sustainability” in Dubai still has a ways to go.
Like much of the Gulf, Dubai and the rest of the United Arab Emirates still rely on desalination, and it’s pretty clear that massive amounts of water will be required to keep Dubai Pearl thriving. While Dubai’s Metro is an impressive rail system, there are no stops near this complex. And information on what sustainable materials for the buildings’ interiors and exteriors is lacking. For now, Dubai Pearl’s claims to be sustainable are the classic case of a company saying, “We say we are green, therefore we are.” Until we see more details, and view evidence that responsible building practices are core to Dubai Pearl’s construction and after opening, everyday operations, we view this “sustainable development” with suspicion.
Photos courtesy Dubai Pearl and Leon Kaye