West Village inspires creation of Dubai’s Sustainable City

After visiting UC Davis West Village during its initial development in 2010, Faris Saeed, a Middle Eastern housing developer, was inspired to create a sustainable city near Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.

Saeed is CEO of a Dubai-based company, Diamond Developers. He visited Davis because he supported and donated to the University’s Middle East/South Asia studies program. That was when he first saw West Village during its initial planning stages.
UC Davis West Village is known as the nation’s largest zero-net energy community. It opened to the public in October 2011.
On Nov. 9, Saeed traveled to Davis again to sign an agreement of cooperation between Diamond Developers and the Regents of the University of California on behalf of UC Davis. The agreement stated that the University and Diamond Developers will collaborate in terms of research and training for the Sustainable City.

“The plan is a collaboration around the establishment of an environmental research institute and a social research center,” said Suad Joseph, UC Davis professor of anthropology and women and gender studies, in an email. “The idea is for that research to be turned back into the development of the Sustainable City. There is also a plan for UC Davis faculty to participate in training professionals and future students in a future college to be built in the Sustainable City.”

During his latest visit to UC Davis, Saeed and his colleagues toured the campus and met faculty and staff, including Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi. They visited innovative, eco-friendly places around campus such as the student farm, the LEED Platinum Brewery, Winery and Food Science facility and West Village.

According to Phil Dunn, design manager for Diamond Developers, West Village served as an inspiration for the Sustainable City because it was one of the first tangible examples of a zero-net energy community they had seen.

“Dubai can be a harsh place to live in. It can get up to 50 degrees Celsius [122 degrees Fahrenheit],” Dunn said in a press release. “If we’re going to continue to develop and populate that part of the world, you have to look at creative solutions to make it more sustainable.”

The Sustainable City is designed to house 2,500 residents on 120 acres, which is similar to West Village’s design. According to Joseph, the city is planned to have 500 homes, a K-12 school, a university, a resort, an equestrian center, gardens attached to each home, a central area with no cars and an alternative transportation system.

“All the world is going to environmental developments,” Saeed said in a press release. “The rulers in Dubai have envisioned green developments for all the city.”

Traditional settlements of the region also served as a model for the Sustainable City. The plans include low-tech, energy-efficient features, such as a passive solar building design, which distributes and diminishes heat based on the season. This design has been used for thousands of years.

The planners aim to have the Sustainable City save 60 percent more energy than other structures in Dubai. Construction will start in late 2013.

“It is one of the most visionary plans for a sustainable city in the Arab world. UC Davis has played a pivotal role in inspiring this vision and informing its development,” Joseph said.

PAAYAL ZAVERI can be reached at city@theaggie.org.

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