Area / Size
335 200 sm
There will surely come a day when Dubai runs the world’s reserves of hyperbole dry. Dubai represents the will, vision and ambition of our species. Yet many believe it shines an unflattering light on our tendency for folly and hubris, creating a market for exorbitant luxury that leaves the world’s environmentalists with their heads in their hands.
Even without the twin threats of climate change and a global economic recession, Dubai’s grandiose plans might seem shortsighted to some. Is it really wise to be building at all, let alone on this scale, in a place that the United Nations describes as one of the most “water-imperiled” environments on the planet, but where per capita water use is three times the global average?
It is grotesque that while the world’s poorest people face the loss of their homes and livelihoods, as well as disease and starvation, because of climate change, the world’s richest people think it’s acceptable to waste precious energy so pointlessly.
The rapid growth of the rural and urban economy over the last decades has had a profound effect on Dubai’s natural resources. With an ever-increasing population of and ambitious economic developmental projects, the important challenge in the next decade is to balance available resources within sustainable environmental, economic and social frameworks.
Today’s buildings are striving to meet that ‘common sense design’ head-on despite a number of environmental setbacks. Technically speaking, the biggest challenge is the climate. Providing a comfortable indoor area when it is 50 degrees outside is extremely challenging. There is also no abundant natural supply of fresh water in the UAE. Communities generally have to source fresh water from desalination sources, which is a process that requires high-energy consumption.
In the next years it is anticipated that the quality of life and the built environment will attract expatriate immigration and tourists who will in turn, leverage business investment and synergize development of a world-class cultural and commercial center. Not only does this massive growth provide opportunities for innovative town planning and state of the art architecture, it will also demand close attention balance the increasing demand in energy. Promotion of sustainability will be an overriding consideration for economic and social well-being.
This growth of energy demand and consumption has been as result of a number of factors, prime amongst which is economic growth and the demographic pressures of a growing population. Equally important to these factors are the heavy subsidies on the domestic energy market, which encourages overconsumption.
Oil now contributes only 3% to Dubai’s GDP, so a reasonable way would be to sustain Dubai’s environment, ensuring that it is safe and clean. Conservation of energy and reduction of green- house gas emissions and concerns for the climatic impacts of development will probably be among the attractions of living in a modern community.
UAE has amongst the highest Ecological Footprints per capita in the world with 76% of the country’s Ecological Footprint is due to carbon dioxide emissions, resulting largely from consumption of energy and desalinated water. Dubai now considers using nuclear power to desalinate its fresh water.
The UAE is the world’s 5th highest consumer of energy per capita in the world. Much of this water and energy consumption is wasteful and can be easily avoided. This wasteful consumption contributes to two key issues: water and electricity shortages and a rising carbon footprint that contributes to climate change.
Dubai is one of the largest carbon-emitting areas in the world. Burning fossil fuels (primarily gas) to produce electricity and water releases greenhouse gases, mainly CO2. In fact, approximately 90% of the CO2 that the UAE emits is caused by the process of burning fossil fuels to provide energy. As excess CO2 builds up in the atmosphere it traps additional heat, causing temperatures to rise. By 2050, they’re projected to be 2.1ºC to 2.8ºC warmer than the historical average, and from 4.1ºC to 5.3ºC warmer by 2100. An already hot climate is getting even hotter.
Scarcity of resources and the escalating cost of electricity are two of the biggest drivers for improving energy efficiency. Obviously, environmental concerns are also another major incentive for the continuous pursuit of energy savings. There are a number of issues that need to be balanced in sustainable design strategies, which include financial viability, socioeconomics and engineering feasibility.
Imagine a sea-based community that uses seawater as a cooling mechanism in order to minimize the dependence on electricity. Purpose of this project is to significantly improve the energy efficiency through innovative approaches to architecture and engineering. The Oculus Community is designed as a contemporary reinterpretation of traditional elements of Arab vernacular architecture. A sustainable environmental concept determines the orientation, layout and design of the buildings that form a cluster in the Dubai waterfront.
The prevailing wind in Dubai comes from the northwest direction. Volumes rise as walls facing the prevailing wind in the open sea, developed around a circular opening that houses a giant wind turbine. Building’s form directs air through the opening and speeds it up, which increases power production.
The building’s footprint is a shard that is orientated to Mecca. Inside the volume a cavernous space –the “nest”– functions as a prayer hall. A sloping floor defines the prayer area that descends toward the Kaaba direction. Public functions revolve around the “nest” and connect the building’s spaces.
The most famous example of biomimicry when it comes to heating and cooling is ventilation inspired by termites. The underlying principles of biomimicry were investigated, since termite mounds have excellent cooling, even in blisteringly hot conditions. The insects accomplish that feat with a clever system of orientation and natural ventilation. In addition to effective shading and day lighting, the volume’s design encourages natural ventilation of public areas as a cooling mechanism.
Cool water from the seabed is pumped to the top of the building and with the use of gravity it is spread through a network of pipes that are embedded inside the concrete slabs. Since seawater temperature is always lower than the ambient temperature, this network of cool water inside the building creates a system of ambient cooling for the interior spaces, which allows minimizing energy strain on the mechanical systems used for cooling.
The building’s skin develops as a mechanism that controls the amount of light and heat entering the building from the sun. This mechanism creates interior spaces with filtered light – an effect often used in Islamic architecture with its climate-oriented strategies.
The narrow shape of the building maximizes the perimeter space, allowing for the entire interior to be illuminated with diffused natural light, thus reducing the need for artificial light during daytime. The mechanical “mashrabiya” which form the building’s skin, are controlling the exact quantity of natural light and effectively reduce cooling loads.
Photoelectric cells measure the light input according to the sunshine throughout the day. Veil diaphragms expand and contract depending on the orientation and density of exterior light. A combination of photovoltaic glass (PV glass) and electrochromic glass is used for the oculus surface. This arrangement further than enhancing the production of energy, controls solar radiation and glare, allowing daylight and solar heat to be selectively and dynamically modulated. It also balances solar control with high levels of natural light required for the interior public functions.
Photovoltaic arrays used for electricity generation, create an arabesque pattern that also shades the deep windows of the building’s base. Water pipes form a pattern of solar thermal array that absorbs the external heat and shades the interior. Heated water that circulates inside the pipes is used for the building’s domestic needs. Seawater is additionally used for the building needs that don’t require potable water such as toilet flashing and fire sprinkler system, reducing the amounts of energy required for water desalination.
Public areas revolve around the Prayer Hall and connect the different functions of the building. Like the Souk (the traditional marketplace), which was often shaded and passively cooled and ventilated, the circulation throughout the building’s public areas is shaded and passively cooled. Overall arrangement of Interior space leads heated air to the ventilation chimneys located on the building’s roof.