Al Zahia Phase 4, United Arab Emirates

The first BREEAM Certified Community in the Middle East

Project Details

  • Scheme & Version: BREEAM International New Construction 2016
  • Certification Stage: Interim Design completed, currently pursuing PCR.
  • Rating: Very Good
  • Overall Score: 61.1%

Project Team

  • Developer / Client: Sharjah Holding a partnership between Majid Al Futtaim Properties and Sharjah Asset Management
  • Architect: DSA Architects International
  • Constructor: United Engineering Construction General Contracting & Trading LLC. (UNEC)
  • Assessor Company: Alpin Limited

About the Building

The project is Phase 4, named Al Lilac and is part of the wider Al Zahia master planned community; the first BREEAM Certified Community in the Middle East. Envisioned as Sharjah’s premier lifestyle destination, Al Zahia brings a contemporary community lifestyle and traditional values together throughout every aspect of its development. Spanning a total area of over 1,000,000 sqm. The vision of Al Zahia is to deliver an enriched lifestyle through a bespoke gated community that offers high-standard, modern family homes for generations to come. Al Zahia embodies a vision to create a progressive community that’s ingrained in Sharjah’s traditional values and lifestyle. Its verdant spaces and colourful surroundings come together to deliver a premium private space in an integrated community, with Sustainability principles very much embedded into its design principles.

Owned by Sharjah Holding and managed by Majid Al Futtaim Properties, Al Zahia is a large-scale community that is comprehensively designed with a variety of villas, townhouses and apartments for comfortable living, and neighbourhood parks spread across the development for unmatched recreation. Al Zahia caters to the daily needs of the whole family with specially designed areas for recreation, leisure, worship, and childcare, as well as communal areas and retail facilities. At Majid Al Futtaim, sustainability is at the heart of everything we do.  Al Zahia has adopted the BREEAM Framework to frame the sustainability agenda, having achieved a “Very Good” certification for the Community and a goal to achieve a “Very Good” certification for all the assets that will be built within the community as well.

The Al Zahia community is located at the intersection of Sheikh Mohammad bin Zayed Road, a main highway connecting the community to the rest of the emirate as well as other emirates and University City road, a busy and upscale artery road Lilac Phase 4 of the project consists of 286 nos. of 7 different typologies of low-rise residential units with a total GFA of 67,857 sqm.

In alignment with Majid Al Futtaim’s sustainability goals of achieving a Net Positive business model by 2040 as well as passing on the benefits of savings, the project was designed with a particular emphasis on optimizing energy performance and reducing water use. An LCA conducted for the project also found that these operational parameters of the project where the ones with the largest impact on the environment and so should be followed. In addition to this the Majid Al Futtaim Sustainable Building Policy which also adopts a wide range of other areas of sustainability best practices from its experience with “pioneering sustainability frameworks” such as health and wellbeing related issues, construction related materials, pollution & waste impacts as well as site and community impacts. In Al Zahia, the attainment of these sustainability goals was guided by the relevant issues found in the BREEAM system.

Some of the key features of the project homes therefore demonstrate a strong achievement in regards to BREEAM issues such as acoustic performance, visual comfort, indoor air quality, energy performance, indoor water consumption. In particular the energy savings associated with the project homes are 26% or higher from the ASHRAE 90.1 baseline and over 35% in water savings as compared to the BREEAM baseline. Furthermore, construction stage activities mandated as part of the project such as the monitoring carbon emissions and mitigation of pollution and other construction site impacts was pioneering in Sharjah.

The project scored highest in the following categories by achieving the given percentages of available points in the relevant BREEAM topic areas: pollution (80%), water (71.43%), waste (62.5%), and energy (60.87%).

The project has incorporated alternative energy sources into the development through its provision of solar water heating and solar road and community lighting systems. Some of the key technologies utilized in the design include IES Virtual Environment 2016 for developing the energy modelling and Solar PV Systems for lighting and heating, exclusive use of LED lamps for lighting and the use of VRV Systems for air conditioning.

The weightages for the BREEAM category ratings were adjusted for the region, and hence our experience assessing with BREEAM for this project will inevitably provide evidence for upcoming projects in the region seeking green certifications. Water is the highest scored categories and rightly so as an arid and water-scarce region.

All public realm irrigation is carried out by onsite treated reclaimed water and the storm-water network was addressed in the design driven by Low Impact Development (LID) principles to ensure that all of the storm-water run-off from the rain is being held on site and infiltrated back into the ground.

Why did the building undergo BREEAM certification?

The project’s major goals aligned with Majid Al Futtaim’s mission of the enhancement of people’s lives through sustainable real estate that will contribute social and economic benefits to all its communities and its sustainability goal of achieving a Net Positive business model in energy and water by 2040. There BREEAM was used

The project scored highest in the following categories by achieving the given percentages of available points in the relevant BREEAM topic areas: pollution (80%), water (71.43%), waste (62.5%), and energy (60.87%).

The project was able to achieve this by focusing on the MEP systems, which has the greatest impact energy on the environment as borne out the results of the LCA conducted for this project. In particular the operational impacts of the dwellings are the key environmental impacts The MEP solutions adopted included using solar powered water heating systems to meet the project’s heating requirements, exclusively LED lighting, and the usage of VRV systems for HVAC, significantly increased energy efficiency levels. This was also augmented by passive design features such as insulation U-values, solar glazing shading and materials selection optimized for daylight and heat gain impacts trade-offs.

The achievement of sustainable certification is not standard for the city of Sharjah, and hence, one of Alpin’s major roles was to guide the locally employed contractors and material suppliers throughout the process of achieving Sustainability Certifications in general and BREEAM certification in particular. Achieving a design stage certification in both Phase 2 and 3 provided a solid background on the impacts that are expected such as the careful vetting of procurement of materials and the training of procurement teams about sustainability specifications and requirements and labels in order to meet the project specifications, i.e. certified wood, indoor applied products for VOC, formaldehyde and Carcinogen content, Environmental Product Declaration etc. In order to achieve this, regular BREEAM Coordination meetings are conducted to cover sustainability aspects of the projects across the project stakeholders, tool box talks for operational workers and specialty workshops are conducted for the construction management teams, and both the supervision and the contractor teams are required to on-site presence of Sustainability Consultants to ensure both the adoption and monitoring of the project Sustainability requirements is being met.

During the design stage, the changes BREEAM brought were primarily to management aspects, specifically around the process of stakeholder consultation – having to follow specific BREEAM protocol and content requirements. As all Majid Al Futtaim’s projects are tailored around sustainability, this resulted in tweaks to the system to adapt to BREEAM specific requirements, which primarily resulted in a more integrated design process and significant input to the structure and contents of the home user guide to the business as usual handover process.

Green Strategy

The use of sustainable construction standards in the Sharjah region is mostly uncommon, and this made the experience new for most parties involved in the project. The unavailability of an external storm water network was one of the specific challenges faced, and this created the need to come up with a system, with a low impact design, to deal with rainwater run-off. This was done by setting up an infiltration tank underneath the park, as well as utilizing lots of landscaped areas to catch water and allow it to be absorbed underground and into the tank.

The project is located in an area poorly serviced by public transport connectivity, and hence this issue was addressed by transforming the community into a bicycle and pedestrian friendly one with access to public shuttle buses to enable connectivity.

In order to achieve Majid al Futtaim’s sustainability ambition, the sustainability policy calls for the use of “Pioneering Standards” that aim to transform the market, to define the sustainability criteria and agenda. BREEAM is one of the few systems that provide such a market leading solution that was appropriate for both the region and the asset class. Overall, BREEAM provided a framework to approach and drive conversation about sustainability for the project, and steer us towards standards and best practices.

Benefits of assessing to BREEAM

Our company-wide sustainability strategy ‘Dare Today, Change Tomorrow’ tackles a wide range of sustainability aspects from Transforming Lives in the communities we serve to provide a healthy, fulfilling and sustainable way of life; Empowering our People to unlock their full potential to Rethinking Resources such as Energy, water and waste to make a Net Positive Impact. Considering this, we identified BREEAM as the rating system that was most in line with our strategy touching in each relevant sustainability aspect for this project. By using BREEAM we are able to provide residents with a lower operating costs, environmentally friendly and healthier home. -Flavia Malacarne, Sustainability Manager, Majid Al Futtaim.