Following the success of its pioneering project in Dubai and a fully-functioning community in Sharjah, Diamond Developers is set to break ground later this year on its first project in the UAE capital when it launches work on a fully sustainable development on Abu Dhabi’s Yas Island in partnership with Aldar Properties.
In an exclusive interview with Gulf Construction’s Bina Goveas, Salah Habib, Chief Executive Officer of Diamond Developers, says: “The Sustainable City – Yas Island (TSC Yas) is set to be our first project in the UAE capital, a fully sustainable live-work-thrive community. The construction is on track to begin in the last quarter of 2022, and we aim to have it completed by mid to end 2025.”
The development, which involves an investment close to AED1.8 billion ($490 million), will complement Diamond Developers’ portfolio of sustainable communities across Dubai, Sharjah and Oman, and in turn contribute to Yas Island’s diverse residential, retail, and entertainment offerings.
“Beyond infrastructure, we see this as an investment in our future through social, environment and economic sustainability – through this upcoming project, we aim to demonstrate how social, environmental and economic sustainability work hand in hand, to bring a joyful lifestyle for over 4,000 residents,” he says.
“We are very excited to have joined forces with such a reputable entity as Aldar Properties, that has made big contributions to the development of Yas Island and the UAE capital in general,” Habib adds.
The Sustainable City – Yas Island community will cover 397,000 sq m of land in North Yas, and will be home to 10 residential clusters made up of around 864 units comprising one-, two- or three-bedroom condos as well as three- and four-bedroom townhouses.
The heart and lungs of The Sustainable City – Yas Island is the “green spine”, which will consist of quiet and active open areas, playgrounds, community facilities such as swimming pool and outdoor gym stations, and bio-domes for food production, to name a few.
Residents of the community will have easy access to a supermarket, pharmacy, beauty salons, F&B outlets, gym, nursery, and a mosque, amongst many other amenities. Similar to Diamond Developers’ other developments in Dubai and Oman, TSC Yas will also feature an autism centre, with experienced rehabilitation professionals. In addition, the community will also offer an equestrian centre housing 30 stables in addition to an arena and a small animal sanctuary.
For the development of The Sustainable City – Yas Island, Diamond Developers is looking to renew partnerships with some of the most established and renowned consultants and contractors it has worked with previously, capitalising on their expertise and the rapport it has already established with them, says Habib.
He continues: “Our development has been designed to showcase a high-quality design approach entailing clean energy production, resource efficiency, low environmental impact, and a strong connection to nature. For example, at The Sustainable City – Yas Island, vehicles will have limited access to the periphery in order to maximise pedestrianised spaces and support the concept of shared parking.
“We will also provide better and more sustainable opportunities for space utilisation, mitigating the urban heat island effect through landscape and light-coloured construction materials, whilst incorporating energy production through solar panels throughout the city.
“We are enabling a habitat that allows people to live well, while also doing their part towards the environment. To make this a reality, we are investing in various systems and technologies across food, energy, water, products, mobility and waste, whilst monitoring consumption and practices across all.
“For example, on the food front, we are investing in Net Zero Carbon (NZC) farming systems, technologies and production to ensure self-sufficiency and promote farm-to-table solutions, which ultimately minimises waste.
“To preserve energy, we’re relying on demand side management and renewable energy to design our community. We’re also deploying energy management solutions to optimise distribution. Additionally, we’re designing the development in a way to reduce per capita water demand and are adopting smart tools as well to optimise irrigation water management.”
Taking the UAE’s year-round sunny climate into consideration, Diamond Developers found that utilising 100 per cent renewable energy systems will be adequate to power the city. It plans to equip all rooftops and car parks with photovoltaic (PV) solar systems to supply residential units and common areas. An estimated 10.57 MWp PV solar capacity will be installed on rooftops and parking to achieve the project’s Net Zero Energy (NZE) goal.
“This is by no means an easy goal to achieve,” Habib stresses. “However, by using the latest technology of high-efficiency PV modules, and advanced inverter technology with higher production and greater reliability, we are confident that residents of TSC Yas will live comfortably with all-time access to clean energy, with reduced energy bills.”
In addition, Diamond Developers will ensure that the impact of direct solar radiation on residential units is minimised and north-facing condos and townhouses receive adequate daylight.
“Keeping track of the project as whole, as well as individual residents’ energy consumption is a key factor in maintaining TSC Yas’ effectiveness and constant clean power supply. Monitoring and reporting programmes will be put in place for operators and residents to keep energy consumption levels in check. Furthermore, net metering systems will be put in place, giving solar energy credits to residents who have spare energy and add it to the grid. This power can be ‘taken back’ when the solar plants are not functioning, during the night for example,” he explains.
Furthermore, all the condos and townhouses in TSC Yas and will be equipped with home automation systems to control critical energy loads.
“It’s a common misconception that living sustainably relies solely on the power source supplying the community. In reality, it’s a fair split between infrastructure and lifestyle of the community. Within The Sustainable City – Yas Island, we’ve taken vast measures within our infrastructure, residential units, and public spaces, to ensure maximum efficiency in power consumption.
“When it comes to mobility, we’re promoting walkability, use of bikes and scooters, and deploying smart charging to encourage the adoption of electric vehicles (EVs). We’re also facilitating car sharing and supporting zero emission transport.
Diamond Developers is also aiming to produce a percentage of the community’s food requirement within the boundaries of The Sustainable City – Yas Island.
Finally, the developer is also looking at minimising waste, through reduction, reuse, and recovery. “For example, we are reducing construction waste through various design and construction methods. We also aim to encourage our communities to reduce household waste generation which can have a ripple effect. We’re investing as well in the necessary mechanisms to ensure effective waste collection and disposal services, while also monitoring waste management,” Habib says.
In developing TSC Yas, Diamond Developers is looking to draw heavily on its experiences and learnings from previous projects such as The Sustainable City Dubai, and the upcoming Sharjah development.
“Considering The Sustainability City Dubai is our longest standing sustainability project, we use it as a benchmark to improve various environmental factors – such as electricity and water consumption, waste, carbon output, food production, and solar energy output – within TSC Yas,” he says.
Apart from the Sustainable City projects in Dubai, Sharjah and Abu Dhabi, earlier this year Diamond Developers unveiled The Sustainable City Yiti in the sultanate in partnership with Oman Tourism Development Company (Omran Group). Construction has started and the project is expected to be completed in 2025.
In addition, Habib says Diamond Developers has a number of projects at different stages of development worldwide.
“We are also looking at some exciting opportunities further afield in Asia, Africa, and North America. There is keen interest from governments and investors from the region and the world to replicate our sustainable model, and we receive a large number of delegations every month who want to explore these opportunities,” he remarks.
So, to what does Habib attribute the success of the brand?
He elaborates: “The success of TSC lies in the community itself – a cohort of likeminded people who are striving to live better, minimise their impact on the planet, and leave a positive legacy for the generations to come. This sense of community togetherness seeps into everything we do, and our cities are built on a philosophy of social inclusion with an emphasis on wellbeing and a connection with nature. This can be seen through our wide range of services that allow residents to live, work and thrive within the community, such as the green areas and farm, education centers and leisure facilities. In fact, The Sustainable City Dubai was recognised as the ‘happiest community’ in the GCC at the Gulf Real Estate Awards for the fourth year running – this summarizes the beauty of being part of it.
“From a commercial viability point-of-view, our model is proof that sustainability can be achieved at no additional cost to developers and residents, while providing in-country value and sustainable impact to the circular economy. Our quality materials and building processes ensure lower maintenance and running costs, meaning a large reduction for residents and partners that is sustainable.”
Habib adds that Diamond Developers’ mission is to spearhead a way towards net-zero carbon living through inspiring, enabling and empowering its partners all over the world to adopt sustainable solutions and to embrace sustainability knowledge initiatives.