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Enabling mechanisms that support sustainability integration

14 February 2024

AESG has created this article in collaboration with the World Green Building Council (WorldGBC) and our Middle East North Africa Regional Partners and Net Zero Collaborators through interviews and surveys from industry experts. It is the fourth of four articles that highlight the achievements of advancing net zero in the built environment.


The progress

Advanced technologies

As we navigate toward a sustainable future, the United Arab Emirates’s (UAE) strategic focus extends to sustainable infrastructure and smart building technologies that converge to create an ecosystem of innovation that harmonises with net zero objectives.

Innovative digital platforms are being formed and are revolutionising the adoption of circular economy principles in the construction sector. Circular practices are being seamlessly integrated and materials from deconstructed structures are being repurposed in new projects.

Simulations of buildings through digital twins showcase the ability of developers to make informed decisions. The challenge arises when translating real world data into the virtual domain. The precise simulation of factors like occupancy rates, lighting optimisation and crafting intuitive user engagement within the metaverse is essential.

Energy Performance Contracting (EPCs)

Building retrofits are essential to decarbonise the sector. The UAE’s super Emirates Specialised Contracting and Oilfield services (ESCOs) and EPCs are a necessity for allowing the mass retrofit of buildings in the market. This will make buildings more energy efficient and assist with overcoming some of the challenges that independent ESCOs face, such as limited access to capital, lack of experience in public sector projects, and difficulty in obtaining relevant approvals.


Integrated waste management contracting

Numerous private and public sector entities have been embarking on the journey of advancing waste management practices. By developing integrated contracts with waste management companies and setting metrics for recycling, they are achieving 50-90% of waste diversion from landfills.


The learnings

Appetite to understand the technologies

Businesses in the UAE’s private sector are diligently working on developing in house knowledge of sustainability technologies and practices through capacity building and in house incubator development. It is important to involve the people in the team who received sustainability training at the initiation of the project and not at the final stage before operation.

In addition, many challenges with sustainability integration can be avoided by equipping the procurement team and assisting them to understand how to assess suppliers and types of construction materials and include sustainability requirements in construction contracts.


Challenging climate conditions

Due to the specific climate conditions, there is an opportunity for the UAE to take the role of pioneer for future developments in areas where climate is a challenge.

The opportunity

Understanding of the roles and responsibilities

Construction companies are not aware of sustainability certifications and requirements that are pursued by developers while their role is to approve the materials and construction activities during the development process.

When governments and companies are setting guidelines to reduce carbon emissions, the activities of all stakeholders involved are often not well coordinated. To the point that when effective solutions become available, nobody seems to be in charge of deciding to investigate further, or to adopt it.

Understanding the role and responsibilities of each stakeholder involved in the construction process and having a robust governance mechanism to operate can increase the adoption of sustainable practices.

Collaboration between various stakeholders, including government bodies, industry players, researchers, and sustainability advocates, has contributed to the industry’s maturity in implementing deep decarbonisation measures. These collaborations have facilitated knowledge exchange, best practice sharing and the development of innovative solutions that drive the industry forward.

Adopting technologies

Opportunity sits in the adoption of cutting edge technologies, however, the availability and cost of the same can be perceived as a challenge. There is a need in the market for decarbonisation technologies focused on smart systems for efficient asset management, digital monitoring platforms utilising AI, carbon capture and others.

A large amount of demolition waste is disposed of at landfills. The adoption of waste recycling and incineration technologies would be a large benefit to the UAE market.


We’d like to thank our MENA Regional Partners and Net Zero Collaborators for contributing to this collaborative thought leadership series:

Dubai Holding Corporate | Dubai Holding Real Estate | Masdar | Department of Energy, Abu Dhabi | A³&Co | Bee’ah Group | ICD Brookfield Place | Majid Al Futtaim | AD Ports Group | Linxion/Bartec Group | Expo City Dubai | Dar Group | Saint Gobain | Benchmark Gensuite | AESG