x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

At the heart of Estidama’s framework is a series of pearl rating systems for the design, construction and operation of buildings, villas and communities along sustainable lines.

Artists impressions of Abu Dhabi's new Midfield Terminal. Courtesy of Abu Dhabi Airports Company.
Artists impressions of Abu Dhabi's new Midfield Terminal. Courtesy of Abu Dhabi Airports Company.

Estidama, which takes its name from the Arabic word for sustainability, is the sustainable building framework of Abu Dhabi’s Urban Planning Council (UPC). Launched in 2010, Estidama is widely perceived as one of the most sophisticated frameworks of its kind in the Middle East.

The programme is a key component of the Abu Dhabi Vision 2030. To this end, the programme incorporates a fourth pillar of cultural development alongside the traditional three pillars of social, economic and environmental development espoused by other international sustainability initiatives.

At the heart of Estidama’s framework is a series of pearl rating systems for the design, construction and operation of buildings, villas and communities along sustainable lines.

The ratings – separate versions of which are available for villas, communities and other buildings – provide guidelines across categories including the use of natural systems, an integrated development process, conservation of water, energy and materials, the incorporation of innovative practices and the creation of liveable communities. The criteria are assessed across the design, construction and operation of the building’s life cycle.

The programme was officially given teeth in April 2010, when a mandate from the Executive Council decreed that all new buildings, including residential communities and villas must obtain at least a one-pearl rating, while all government buildings and villas must obtain at least a two-pearl rating.

As of the beginning of last month, Estidama had rated buildings with a total gross floor area of 10.5 million square metres. Of this, 54 per cent is taken up by multi-residence communities and villas. Schools account for the largest proportion of non-residential rated buildings, followed by airport buildings.

Some 86 per cent of Estidama rated projects fall within the one and two-pearl rating. However, in September the UPC announced it had awarded a three-pearl design rating to Abu Dhabi Airports Company’s Midfield Terminal Building project, one of the emirate’s flagship construction developments.

The rating was awarded due to the specification of an appropriate and climate-responsive building form and façade, featuring high-performance double glazing to reduce solar glare, and special walls and roof construction to minimise heat gain.

The terminal building, slated for completion in 2017, will also achieve substantial energy demand reductions via the use of a highly efficient lighting system and an adaptive and effectively controlled heating, ventilation and air conditioning system.

More recently, UPC and Estidama last week awarded a three-pearl rating to 10 newly constructed Abu Dhabi Education Council (Adec) school facilities, at a ceremony in Al Ezzah school in the Baniyas area.

The 10 school facilities – five in the capital and five in Al Ain – were constructed using sustainable building materials and became available for use last month. The new facilities are designed to significantly reduce energy and water consumption, improve indoor air-quality conditions for students and incorporate better waste management practices.

The newly accredited school facilities are the first part of a project that will see a total of 61 school facilities built to the three-pearl standard, with a view to admitting students by September next year, says Edwin Young, Estidama’s programme manager.

Estidama is also advising Adec on a number of school refurbishment projects to introduce greater sustainability practices.

Educating the construction industry about Estidama’s ratings, and sustainability in general, is perhaps the greatest challenge facing the programme, says Mr Young, acknowledging it has taken some time to be fully understood and taken on board by the construction industry.

“Estidama is a very complex third-generation rating scheme that moves beyond other global rating systems. However, this is a first generation green society that is just beginning to learn about sustainable practices,” he says.

In addition to its rating system, training is one of the most important of Estidama’s activity strands, Mr Young adds.

“We’ve trained over 8,000 people in the construction sector. We do training programmes for contractors, consultants and operational training,” he says.

“Trying to spread the word is sometimes very difficult but we’ve moved on a lot in the past three years.”

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