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Sat 21 Jun 2008 04:00 AM

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Only the first step

There's a new movie out that offers a spooky tale, suggesting that plants are tired of being trampled under the feet of human beings.

There's a new movie out this week that offers a spooky supernatural tale, which suggests that plants are sick and tired of being trampled under the feet of human beings and in turn take revenge by killing people in very creative ways.

The movie isn't great by any stretch of imagination, but it certainly furthers the debate - albeit in a disturbing manner - of man's relationship with nature. And maybe it's not such a stretch to think that Mother Nature has had just about enough with humans.

Consider melting ice caps, rising sea levels and some of the wacky weather we've witnessed over the past decade.

So it makes me feel good and it eases my guilt that developers are almost fanatical over planning commercial and residential communities that, as Plan Abu Dhabi 2030 puts it, are "shaped by its natural environment of sensitive coastal and desert ecologies."

I don't think there was a developer at Cityscape Abu Dhabi last month that failed to mention its environmentally-sensitive plans to build the world's tallest skyscraper or its billion-square-metre residential community off the UAE coast or in the desert.

That's a good thing because back in my day developers never thought of such things. A park with a couple of trees and a patch of green taking up less than a city block was all that was required.

So any discussion of green design or building sustainability is a step forward in giving us a couple of extra years on this planet before things go seriously wonky.

Let's be intellectually honest about this. There's something fashionable about identifying one's business as "environmentally friendly" or building "zero carbon" communities.

Yet we recognise that building anything, even if it's a grass hut, has negative consequences. Building on "greenfield" sites still means paving over some furry critter's home and damaging its food source. It means concrete and asphalt, not plants and dirt.

There are some excellent projects now underway in the UAE. Al Reem Island, Hydra Village, Masdar and Al Barari are all exciting projects that promise to adhere to a promise of being sensitive to upsetting the balance of nature.

But let's not get carried away here. We are upsetting the balance of nature. And what we are doing now is only the first of many steps needed to continue our quest to minimise the damage.

Developers and builders are to be applauded for their hard work to protect the environment. But we shouldn't be patting ourselves on the back just yet.

Rob Wagner is the editor of Construction Week.


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