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Mon 6 Oct 2008 04:00 AM

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Community design key to Estidama, says UPC

The release of interim community guidelines by Abu Dhabi's Urban Planning Council (UPC) once again shows how outdoor design is moving to the forefront of development.

Community design key to Estidama, says UPC
Community guidelines latest step in Abu Dhabi’s transformation.

The release of interim community guidelines by Abu Dhabi's Urban Planning Council (UPC) once again shows how outdoor design is moving to the forefront of development.

Many of the recommendations made under the new guidelines, which are expected to become mandatory in early 2009, focus on the open space from the emphasis on minimum open space requirements to the push for revised street design.

The UPC is recommending that street lengths should not exceed 170 metres to encourage more pedestrian use of areas and to reduce the existing dependence on individual transport.

Complementary to this, the UPC is stressing the importance of integrating transit needs within developments and the importance of connecting pedestrian and vehicle connections within new developments to the city's existing fabric.

Water conservation is, unsurprisingly, another key element of the guidelines, which are part of the UPC's Estidama building and communities programme.

"We all know that the major reason for the water loss of Abu Dhabi is through landscaping and through the mass of green fields that we have," said Salem Al Qassimi, associate planner of the UPC, adding that the UPC is looking at conserving landscapes in which no more than 10% of developments can have planted turf.

The importance of using native plants, and using grey water for irrigation were other areas highlighted. A minimum of 50% of water in a community should be used for irrigation by grey water systems, said the UPC.

All numbers given were not final, the UPC stressed, as the guidelines will be under testing through 2008.

Formally launched in May 2008, the aim of the Estidama programme is to ensure that sustainable principles underlie any new development effort in the capital.

The community guidelines cover eight topics, which include development patterns, and alternative energy production and conservation. The recommendations within each division are divided into two tiers, with the top tier being those most likely to become mandatory.

Top tier recommendations - presented as ‘strongly encouraged actions' - include water conserving landscaping and the minimum open space requirements.

Commenting on the guidelines, sustainable real estate expert, Jim Heid, founder of Urban Green, said he believed they had been very effectively handled. There is the necessary focus on water and energy issues, but other issues have not been ignored, he said.

"The emphasis they have put on energy and water is appropriate...but to their credit, they have not left out a lot of other what we call ‘soft' major issues. It is easy to measure energy, it is easy to measure water, it is hard to measure place, it is hard to measure social equity but getting that into the framework so everybody starts thinking about that now is very helpful," he said.

The community guidelines from the UPC are part of series of new guidelines related to sustainable development for the region.

In addition to Estidama, the Emirates Green Building Council is in the process of adapting the US LEED sustainable guidelines for the Middle East. Dubai Municipality also recently announced it is developing a new legislative framework for green design, which is to be implemented from next January.

The Estidama guidelines are similar to LEED, but with modifications to the regional culture and climate.

At present, the Estidama guidelines are only for Abu Dhabi city, although plans are in place to work with other emirates as well as other regional countries in the long-term, the UPC said.

For more information on Estidama, see the Estidama link on the UPC website, www.upc.gov.ae, or visit www.estidama.com

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