The Estidama Project: Towards a Sustainable Building Design

Today, more than ever before, sustainability concerns are assuming a central role in any development process in most countries, in part, due to the increased challenges brought forward by a myriad of externalities such as global warming, acid rain and deforestation, among others. As a direct consequence of the germane issues demonstrated by sustainability concerns, governments around the world continue to orchestrate programmes and policy frameworks aimed at improving sustainability.

Estidama, discussed in the two articles, is one such integrated programme that has been carefully designed to renovate Abu Dhabi and make it the sustainability capital of the Middle East by the year 2030 (Estidama 2030 para. 1). It is the purpose of this essay to offer a critical summary of the two articles, in the process bringing into fore issues that are relevant to the Estidama Project.

The Estidama project is all about assuming an integrated and holistic approach to sustainable building design within the emirate of Abu Dhabi. In broad terms, the initiative aims to advance sustainability and improve livability in the emirate under the realm or domain of ‘Abu Dhabi Vision 2030’ (Estidama Advances para. 1).

Apart from devising guidelines that will ensure that any form of development within the emirate adheres to sustainable design, the initiative also aims to be a forerunner in ensuring the objective or unbiased growth of both residential and commercial developments incorporating sufficient greenery and landscaping (Estidama 2030 para. 2).

The Estidama initiative, according to experts in the construction and landscaping industry, is not only good for business, but will make Abu Dhabi a model emirate in terms of incorporating both local and built environment in the regional context. Of importance is the fact that the Estidama project, once complete, is anticipated to conserve energy and water use by up to 30 percent (Estidama 2030 para 6).

The landscaping industry is also set to benefit from the Estidama venture, and analysts predicts that business within the industry will double in volume to surpass Dhs60 bn by 2010 (Estidama 2030 para. 7). In consequence, experts within the landscaping industry agree that such a sustainable project is also beneficial to their own businesses since it will cushion them against extreme competition, dwindling profits and high expenses.

Many sustainability programs around the world have well-designed benchmarks for measuring performance, and Estidama is no exception. Indeed, Estidama is the first sustainability programme in the Arab World to launch a sustainability rating mechanism aimed at evaluating sustainability performance of a multiplicity of developments such as buildings, pavements, communities, city parks, highways, and villas (Estidama Advances para. 1).

The rating mechanism for Estidama development initiatives is known as Pearl Rating System (PRS), and encompass “…a Pearl Building Rating System (PBRS), a Pearl Community Rating System (PCRS) and a Pearl Villa Rating System (PVRS)” (Estidama Advances para. 2).

Of importance is the fact that these rating mechanisms provide a set of quantifiable strategies for rating sustainability performance of buildings, communities and villas using the four variables set out within Estidama Framework, that is, economy, environment, community and culture.

Moving on, it is also worth noting that Estidama rating mechanism addresses seven classes, namely, “Integrated Development Process, Natural Systems, Livable Communities and Buildings, Water, Energy Materials and Innovating Practice” (Estidama Advances para. 3).Credits as well as weights are awarded to each class depending on performance, with 1 credit point representing the lowest while 5 credit points represent the highest.

In measuring the sustainability performance of various types of developments, it serves the purpose of this paper to mention that the PBRS is applied to general buildings, retail outlets, institutions of learning, offices and multi-residential facilities, while PCRS is applied to facilities sustaining up to 1000 permanent residents (Estidama Advances para. 4).

Stakeholders are quick to point out that sustainability is the cornerstone of any new development and that the Estidama project will offer the necessary momentum to achieve Abu Dhabi vision 2030, hence transforming the emirate into a model of an international sustainable capital. It is also felt that the PRS will offer a dependable and consistent sustainability benchmark tool to be used in the region in line with Estidama’s cross-disciplinary strategy (Estidama Advances para. 6).

The PRS cover three stages, namely, the Pearl Design Rating (PDR), Pearl Construction Rating (PCR), and Pearl Operational Rating (POR). As the name suggests, the PDR within the Estidama framework is only engaged at the design phase of any development, not mentioning that it is applied until construction is complete.

The PCR, on its part, is applicable for two years after construction is complete whereas the POR is applied to evaluate the operational performance of an already complete project. In most occasions, POR is applied for a minimum of two years after a particular project has been completed and when such a project reaches a minimum tenancy of 80 percent (Estidama Advances para. 7).

All in all, it can be concluded that these rating mechanisms have not only assisted the Estidama initiative to ensure that sustainability targets are being dealt with through all stages of designing and developing projects, but they also offer a framework for meeting sustainable objectives by underlining water and energy efficiency, reduced use of motor vehicles, maximum selection of building materials, indoor and outdoor environment quality, resource preservation and conservation and, finally, reduction of waste (Estidama Advances para. 9-13).

Works Cited

Estidama 2030 to make Abu Dhabi the Sustainability Capital of Middle East. 2008. Retrieved 9 April 2011 <>

Estidama Advances the Arab’s World First Sustainability Rating System. 2010. Retrieved 9 April 2011 <>