Smart cities vs. sustainable cities: which is the right answer to a developed economy?
Smart cities and sustainable cities are terms commonly used in the construction industry. It holds a hefty weight, especially today where greener solutions appear in the urbanisation agendas of most developed cities.
Yet, despite the intertwined definitions, both types of cities cannot thrive without the other. In fact, frameworks in smart cities are developing at such a high speed, causing the line between smart and sustainability to blur. The solution? Balance.
In an exclusive interview with Steve Severance, director of growth at Masdar City, it is revealed that sustainable development in cities is now standing at the forefront of Abu Dhabi’s growth, enabling residents to understand why smart solutions and sustainable principles work hand-in-hand.
“It is important to note that smart cities aren’t necessarily sustainable cities,” Severance started. “Not all smart cities are sustainable, but to be sustainable, you need to be smart.”
In giving an example of how sustainable real estate is thriving in the UAE, Severance mentioned the development of Masdar City. He said: “Ten years ago, only Masdar City was talking about sustainable development. Now, you cannot execute a flagship project without attending to sustainability. We’re demonstrated that sustainability is not necessarily a liability, but a business advantage.”
“Every building in Masdar City has a business case that is commercially viable. In the coming years, we expect the trend of sustainable construction to grow dramatically, with a move towards new zero,” he commented.
Additionally, Severance mentioned the reality where sustainable principles and smart technology in cities are already being fully supported by the government and stakeholders. This is done through investments and the provision of incentives to attract the best talent to the UAE.
“I think educating the public on the benefits of sustainable design – for example, lower cooling bills – will help accelerate demand even more,” he concluded.
Incentivising residents to invest in sustainable real estate
The reality about building smarter and more sustainable cities is that without the demand, it is nothing. Hence why incentivising residents and investors is key to accelerating the development of these cities.
Severance explained: “We have to make residents an offer that is attractive. We need to be honest about the fact that in this region, no one will lease office spaces and buy apartments solely because it is environmentally sustainable. People will not compromise on economics or their lifestyle requirements.”
In addition, he mentions that building an “economically viable” community might be the answer to this. He said: “Masdar City has demonstrated that sustainability doesn’t have to cost you more or negatively affect your lifestyle.”
Masdar City’s future projects
After concluding the Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, it has become more apparent than ever that partnerships and collaborations are important to accelerate sustainable development.
Masdar City, for instance, has signed six agreements that will make the community more beneficial and attractive for sustainable businesses. These partnerships include Amazon Web Services, Abu Dhabi Global Market, Hub71, WIO Bank, The Mohammed Bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence, and more.
“We’re also working on a couple of net-zero energy developments this year,” said Severance. “The Masdar City Square headquarters will be an office building built to LEED Platinum standards, and it will be the first net-zero office building in the country.
“The Link, also being built to LEED Platinum standards, will be the first net-zero energy mixed-use building, combining co-working and living spaces in the region.”
Severance concluded: “We’re also preparing for COP28, which is a major highlight for us this year. Everything is leading up to COP, which will showcase what Masdar City has accomplished to the world. We expect to be working with many more partners in the coming months as businesses throughout the region move to be part of the UAE’s sustainability agenda.”
Julianne Tolentino is a reporter at Construction Week Middle East. Having successfully acquired a journalism degree from Middlesex University Dubai, Julianne has spent her post-graduate years dipping her… More by Julianne Tolentino