By Sarah Townsend
Research warns that many emerging communities in the UAE are too 'spread out'
UAE academics have urged real estate developers to pay more attention to sustainable urban design, warning that too often in schemes, public facilities are located inconveniently far away from homes.
A paper produced by a United Arab Emirates University (UAEU) researcher said there had been a shift away from traditional neighbourhood templates recently towards incorporating more open, green space into schemes.
However, this brings about fresh challenges, as building density is then not compact enough and services and facilities are located too far away from homes to be useful.
The upshot of this is that residents in such neighbourhoods are forced to drive their cars, negating some of the positive impact of green spaces, walking and cycling paths.
Examples of spaced-out neighbourhoods where a large proportion of open, green space is an integral part of their appeal, include upmarket Dubai residential neighbourhood Arabian Ranches, and newer communities such as Jumeirah Village Circle and the under construction Mohammed Bin Rashid City.
The paper, ‘Designing Sustainable Urban Social Housing in the United Arab Emirates’, was written by Dr Khaled Galal Ahmed, associate professor of architectural and urban design at UAEU’s College of Engineering.
He warned that “sustainability, connectivity, flexibility, and community participation must go hand-in-hand”, and also advised that communities themselves should be more involved in shaping the design and character of their neighbourhoods and ensuring they reflect the culture of the local area.
His research compares two ‘social housing’ areas in Al Ain, one of which he sees as a “conventional urban form” and the other which he views as epitomosing the “new sustainable design” the UAE is looking to implement.
Among his recommendations are that neighbourhood density could be increased by introducing “multi-storey, medium-rise apartment blocks” to support better public transport, diversified housing types, and “standard catchment areas”, allowing services and facilities to be easily reached through all forms of travel, including walking and cycling. He explained that providing “pleasant and safe” pathways and cycle routes was not enough if these facilities are too far from homes.
Dr Ahmed said: “In the last few years, the UAE has witnessed growing interest in sustainable development, as the country has adopted an agenda calling for achieving sustainability in all its development plans, including social housing.
“This policy of adopting a sustainable future agenda is currently reflected in social housing neighborhood design. Some limited pioneering projects have emerged lately, in which conventional neighborhood planning and urban design principles are being replaced by what are perceived to be more sustainable ones.”For all the latest construction news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.