Green rules for villas made easier

New requirements on green building guidelines will simplify procedures for builders.

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ABU DHABI // Building an eco-friendly home in the capital has become a little easier.

Estidama, Abu Dhabi's green building guidelines, will be easier to follow and the process for meeting sustainability requirements will be simpler, urban planning and municipal officials said yesterday.

The change comes as the Urban Planning Council (UPC), which oversees the Estidama programme, works to fine-tune the sustainability standards nine months after the project was launched.

"We listened to the suggestions we got from different stakeholders and our main aims are to simplify some of the programme's regulations," said Amer al Hammadi, the director of planning and infrastructure for UPC.

The council yesterday released an Estidama manual specifically for villas, which advises owners, design consultants and contractors on ways to achieve one-pearl status, a requirement for all villas in the emirate.

Fewer credits will be needed to meet the requirements for villas. The credit system has changed for areas including waste reduction and regulating outdoor temperature through features such as shading.

The pearl rating system outlines 13 required and 32 optional credits. Villas that achieve the required credits receive a one-pearl rating. More credits lead to higher ratings. The highest rating is five pearls.

In December, 98 per cent of building permits submitted to the municipality failed to meet sustainability standards. Since then, between 70 and 80 per cent of permits have met requirements for one or two pearls.

"The problem with having a new programme is that not everyone understands it right away," said Salah al Sarraj, the acting executive director of town planning at Abu Dhabi Municipality. "But more people are aware of the regulations now."

Mr al Sarraj said about 60 approved projects were progressing, with 100 more in the pipeline.

Officials credited the improvement to increased education and awareness. A series of nine workshops has recently been completed and more courses are offered on a continuing basis in three main areas - understanding and awareness, application and administration.

In place since September, Estidama requires all new villas be designed to achieve a minimum rating of one pearl, while government-funded projects must rate at least two pearls.

The maximum size for a villa is 2,000 square metres. Larger villas must comply with a different ratings system.

The manual also includes information about local suppliers of Estidama-compliant materials and products.