Smart Cities can significantly shape the sustainability objectives of projects – Part 2

Continued from our earlier post: Interaction with Baharash Bagherian, Director & Founder of Baharash Architecture, an award-winning studio in London, which has been the lead designer for phase 2 of Dubai’s first Sustainable City.


OPR: Besides this project, you’ve been involved in a number of Sustainability focused projects. Can you outline some details around these and the impact you aspired to?

Baharash: We have been involved in several sustainable projects. Most recently, we were tasked to design the world’s greenest eco resort in UAE by Eco Resort Group. Some of the project’s environmental benefits include recycling waste water on site for irrigation, onsite waste management, the enforcement of a zero emission zone and 157,000 square feet of solar panels. We also worked for one of Dubai’s highest profile individuals, to design an off-grid home. This private home is completely energy self-sufficient, using solar panels, it generates and stores clean power in several battery units. The retreat was designed to be in harmony with the pristine and untouched desert scape.

In addition to these, we are also working at the early stages of truly unique projects that are yet to be revealed to the public. Ultimately, every project presents an opportunity for us to do something new related to sustainability. There is a true sense of entrepreneurial spirit in our work and thus innovation is our core strength. Each project in the studio is driven by a process of investigation, experimentation and always asking “what if?” The outcomes of these studies form the basis of the design. The reason we do this, is to move away from thinking about architecture as “buildings”. We believe that great architecture is more than buildings; it’s about creating resilient destinations that make people feel healthy to live in, inspired to work in and want to visit.

OPR: Are you seeing a demand, as the one being witnessed in the Emirates, in other parts of the world, particularly some of the developing regions?

Baharash: We have already been approached by public and private entities from various countries to help them with sustainable projects. Whilst some of these projects are at the very early stages, the demand is certainly evident. This growing demand towards sustainable development is not one of choice. It has become one of necessity. Over the next decade, there will be a significant increase in population & urbanisation, which will have severe impacts on our cities’ infrastructures and resources, as well as the health and wellbeing of its inhabitants. To mitigate these effects and provide a higher quality of life, we have no choice but to design with sustainability.

OPR: How critical is it that sustainability forms a central theme to ‘Smart City’ projects being undertaken globally?

Baharash: Smart Cities can significantly shape the sustainability objectives of projects. The integration of sensors is a good example of this. For example, indoor lighting and temperature can automatically be adjusted based on various variables. These variables include the number of occupants in a room, the time of day as well as exterior weather and light conditions. Embedding sensors in buildings to detect motion, temperature, noise, moisture, fire, smoke, etc. will provide real-time data and help improve operational efficiency, safety and security.

Once these sensors are connected to the IoTs [Internet Of Things], buildings can communicate real-time data to various departments within the city. For example, waste should only be collected upon receiving automatic notification that they are full. Real-time user data should be analysed to provide an estimate of the day and time for waste to be collected. This will maximise efficiency and ensure that services are available exactly when they are needed.

The possibilities of integrating sensors into many other “things” are endless. This information can be used by city officials or by applications to provide more efficient and improved services. Thus the IoTs will help reduce errors, increase efficiency, improve sustainability, and ensure that services are delivered in real-time.

OPR: Which cities globally, excluding the ones in the Middle East, are ideal ‘role models’ for this theme?

Baharash: At a neighbourhood scale, Hammarby  Sjöstad in Stockholm has been widely studied as a good ‘role model’ for sustainable development. At the very early stages of the project, a ‘closed loop’ infrastructure strategy was drawn up for the project, including new public transport routes, district heating and cooling and an underground waste collection system for the development as a whole. Although the project adopted various passive and active strategies, I believe that the best models of sustainable cities should focus more on passive solutions, since these provide the biggest environmental gains with the least financial investment for the project.

One of the key successes of the Hammarby Sjöstad project was the collaborative process between municipal authorities, urban planners, developers, architects, landscape architects, engineers, and energy & water companies. This holistic approach to master planning created a special place for Stockholm, a place that is vibrant, healthy and sustainable. The other key success was the participation and education model created for the district’s residents. It is believed that water consumption can be reduced by 50% by increasing environmental awareness amongst residents and workers. Pollutants can also be reduced by 50% by raising awareness of the impact of detergents and other household activities.

OPR: Lastly, what is your favourite destination and why? Is there something sustainability related that stands out there?

Baharash: My favourite destination is Italy because of its beautiful scenery. I also love Italian food and eating in locally-owned places that rely on tourism as a green economy.

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