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Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Thursday 13 Jul 2006

The Dubai dilemma

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Heads in the sand? 

Architects throughout the world are striving to produce ever more sustainable buildings, but in the Middle East, an entire city is being created in what environmental groups are labelling as the most unsustainable development in living memory. The irony of the Dubai question is beyond question. The oil state, having already drained its own vast resources has turned towards tourism as an alternative revenue stream. However the city’s location requires an almost total dependency on medium-haul air travel to survive, most visitors coming from Europe and India. The carbon consequences over time are unimaginable. Dubai is flying in the face of current sustainability trends. Critics have said that architects working in Dubai have to leave their normal standards and morals in the arrivals hall. Justin Francis, co-founder of responsibletravel.com said today, “The watchword for architects must be sustainability, not build it big and build it fast”. The commercial opportunities for an architect working in this region are obvious but increasingly they will be asked to justify their position in the balance of work versus sustainability. A bigger question may be whether participants in the Dubai adventure can come up with ideas to help mitigate the overall carbon impact?

Michael Hammond

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