Pearls of Wisdom

SZ Desert Learning Centre

Currently under construction in Al Ain, the Sheikh Zayed Desert Learning Centre (SZDLC) is the first building to achieve a five pearl rating for the design stage in Estidama. Humaid Al Hammadi, an Estidama Planner at the Abu Dhabi Urban Planning Council (UPC), speaks about his team’s involvement in the flagship cultural project.

Why was it decided to strive for the five pearl rating with this building?

The SZDLC was part of a selected group of buildings that participated in the Estidama PRS pilot programme. The decision for this esteemed development to go for five pearls was made by the client, Al Ain Wildlife Park & Resort.

What are the key criteria for achieving five pearls? In order to achieve a Five Pearl Design rating, a building must meet all the mandatory requirements (One Pearl) plus a minimum of 140 credit points from optional credits. The majority of points are available within the water and energy categories and thus a design team must significantly improve the water and energy efficiency of the building in order to attain those points.

In terms of energy performance, the SZDLC is designed to achieve 40% improvement over ASHRAE 90.1.2007 requirements. Similarly, the building has been designed to achieve a 50% improvement in terms of potable water consumption as compared with the benchmark entry level for this typology.

What was Estidama’s role throughout the process? The UPC Estidama team has been intimately involved with the design of the SZDLC soon after the pilot programme was initiated. We were regularly consulted and held workshop sessions with key members of the design team to ensure a seamless design rating application and assessment process. The involvement of the Estidama team from the conceptual development review process has proven to be invaluable in agreeing sustainable strategic pathways for the development.

How significant is the achievement of five pearls? By achieving the highest pearl rating, the Sheikh Zayed Desert Learning Centre will be the catalyst for all upcoming sustainability-driven projects. It will prove incredibly relevant to our region given that the Estidama Pearl Rating System is a unique four-pillar programme tailor-made to tackle the needs of our region’s distinctive environment from the environmental, economic, cultural and social perspectives.

The project also achieves a first in attaining innovation credits which once completed could influence Emirate-wide construction practices.

What is the points and cost difference between achieving four and five pearls? The points difference between four and five pearls is 25 points, which means that design teams have to work a lot harder and be more innovative in their design. Theoretical pilot cost studies have shown that the difference between four and five pearls for a typical development would be in the region of 7%.

Are there any other five pearl projects soon to be announced? There are no other five  pearl projects under review at present. We recently awarded more than 10 Three Pearl ratings.

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