I like the name. Sounds like a city of the future?
Well, judging by what we've seen and read, Sustainable City does have the makings of a utopia come true; it's set to become Dubai’s greenest and most sustainable area, a place that’s equally healthy for the people who live in it as it is for the environment.
Ok, now you’ve got me interested. Where is it going to be and what’s it going to look like?
It's just beyond Arabian Ranches and Mudon, covering an area of more than five million square feet.
Let’s start from the outside in. Along the perimeter of the city lies a buffer zone made of trees which provides shade and purifies the air within Sustainable City. It's positioned between two main roads but this tree-lined border actually blocks out the rumble of the cars and reduces noise pollution from outside.
Now try to imagine an onion.
I beg your pardon?
We're trying to explain how Sustainable City’s buffer zone works. In the same way as an onion has layer after layer if you peel it, the city’s perimeter has different lanes running side by side all around.
There’s a horse track that’s connected to an equestrian centre with horse-riding lessons, shows and tours. Next to it is a cycling track which will become part of the Dubai cycling network.
Then a ring road lined with palm trees for vehicles, and finally a rubberized walking track (because we all know what jogging on tarmac does to our knees).
I hear you. Seems like they’ve got the health consciousness spirit under control.
There’s much more, believe me. Let's tell you about the Central Green Spine. Sounding a bit like a term you were taught back in biology class at school, it’s actually the central street of Sustainable City, linking up all the neighbourhoods and facilities together.
Joggers have another running path along here to look forward to, partly shaded by the many trees and vegetation along 'the spine'. There are also outdoor gym facilities and a swimming pool to cool down in after a workout.
Perhaps the area’s coolest feature is that it doubles up as a kind of ‘nature’s supermarket’. Residents can help themselves to everything from mangoes to pomegranates, oranges, papayas, figs, all growing on the trees that run around this central belt.
Love it! It’s all very much ‘at one with nature’.
Indeed. Then there are the two lakes of recycled water connected by a stream, which will serve to irrigate all the greenery. They’re using a 15th century method that was popular and effective in the region for years.
A bit more modern are the 11 biodomes across Sustainable City’s farm area that’ll grow cherry tomatoes, rosemary, basil, thyme... you name it.
Hang on! If I move there will I actually need to go food shopping?
Of course, not everything grows on trees and is free but they have come up with cooperative concepts like a weekly food box programme and a weekend outdoor market for surplus produce not to be wasted and other organic and healthy food to be sold.
Okey, I’m sold on that. How about Sustainable City’s homes?
Well there are five residential clusters with 100 units each. Diamond Developers have put a price tag on their three to four-bedroom villas, starting at about Dhs3.4 million, but there will be smaller and cheaper properties up for grabs.
What’s great about the residential area is that it’s fully pedestrianised with narrow and shaded souq-style alleyways. That creates wind tunnels that will keep residents cool if they go on a brisk walk around the neighbourhood or the numerous residential plazas with playgrounds. It’s the same concept as the traditional ‘wind catcher’ tower that you get across the Middle East, an old architectural element that creates natural ventilation in buildings and keeps the air cool in the city.
But you mean to tell me that there won’t be any need to switch on the air conditioning at home?
If there is a place in Dubai that’s making air con-free housing a possibility it’s Sustainable City. The houses are positioned in a way that minimizes solar heat gain without having to cut too much light out indoors. UV reflective paint and highly insulated walls, as well as all appliances being energy friendly, means that keeping a home naturally cool is more of a reality than many of us thought was impossible.
So what else is sustainable about the city?
What isn’t? There are solar panels on the rooftops of every house allowing each property to generate its own electricity.
The shaded parking lots, which double up as solar panels generate enough electricity to power all outdoor LED lighting and charge electric cars.
Even the community mall with restaurants, shops, nursery, offices and a huge plaza in the middle, which will become the main meeting place for the community, will be self sufficient thanks to solar power.
That reminds me of Dubai’s new solar power park, soon to be the biggest in the world.
Both projects have the same important goals: reduce Dubai’s carbon footprint and become an international model of sustainable living.
Everything about Sustainable City is meant to provide people with a healthier, more environmentally conscious lifestyle, from its school and science edutainment centre to the Diamond Innovation Centre, set to become the first negative lifecycle footprint building in the region (it’ll produce enough energy during its first 50 years of existence to cover construction footprint).
How about if I’m contemplating the possibility of moving there but I’m not sure yet whether to take the plunge?
Sustainable City’s Hotel Indigo might be a good bet. It’s the first fully solar-powered hotel in the region and it allows visitors to try out the ‘neighbourhood sustainability experience’ in one of its 143 rooms and bungalows.