ABU DHABI // A project to make the Emirate's buildings more environmentally friendly has reached a major milestone.
The Estidama Pearl Rating system, that assesses the sustainability of all new buildings in the capital, now covers an area of 10 million square metres.
More than 400 buildings are now rated under the system, with the 10 million mark being surpassed when the Zayed Higher Organisation for Humanitarian Care and Special Needs Centre in the Western Region signed up.
Completed buildings account for one million square metres, under-construction buildings account for six million and projects yet to start account for three million.
Many of the most iconic buildings in the emirate come under the scheme, including the under-construction Louvre on Saadiyat Island.
There are now 124 buildings with a one-pearl rating, 247 with two pearls, 31 with three and just one, the Sheikh Zayed Desert Learning Centre, with the coveted five-pearl standard.
Estidama now has 50 pearl-rated schools, with 10 completed within the last two weeks and by the end of the year 13,500 children will be learning in school buildings rated under the system.
The system does not apply only to large-scale or commercial developments, but to residential properties as well. About 10,000 villas are rated, about 7,500 of which have at least two pearls.
The largest project to fall under the scheme is the midfield terminal at Abu Dhabi Airport, scheduled for completion in 2017. The terminal is larger than all the Estidama projects in Al Ain together.
"The building will be the highest rated airport in the Gulf region for sustainability," said Edwin Young, Estidama programme manager.
"We worked with the airport to take the job from two to three pearls and we are going to work with the them to put together a sustainable communication programme to show the impact of the work being undertaken to make the Emirate more sustainable."
In 2010, the government ordered all new building projects in the emirate to comply with the rating system, as part of a push for greater sustainability.
The Estidama team get involved at the early stages of planning for all new developments, advising and inspecting the projects on their environmental impact.
"Estidama remains the driving force that will help turn our ambition to create a new generation of sustainable cities into a concrete reality," said Mohammed Al Khadar, the Urban Planning Council's executive director for development review and Estidama.
"Many of the developments that have achieved a pearl rating are now under construction or in use, and are a reflection of the UPC's holistic approach to integrate sustainability concerns within the sphere of urban development right from the state."
The Estidama programme has compiled a list of hundreds of products from a wide range of companies, to enable developers to choose from a large database of approved, sustainable building materials and fixtures for projects.
Already, there are the first signs that the rating system could be extended nationwide, with the American University of Sharjah expressing interest.
"We would be glad to be recognised as a national programme on the federal level," said Mr Al Khadar.
Every new development is inspected by Estidama officials at least four times during its construction to ensure compliance.
"We have conducted several outreach programmes with developers to try to negotiate with them and educate them on applying the Estidama process, and how easily they can apply it."
He said developers were increasingly opting to push for higher ratings as they could increase the value of their projects by marketing them as environmentally friendly.