Solar trees and reused material in green design of Expo 2020 site

Enough construction waste to fill 1,000 Emirates A380s was diverted from languishing in landfill

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Crushed tyres, reused construction material and solar-panel trees that will capture moisture from the air are among a range of green alternatives across the Expo 2020 site, it has been announced.

Trucks on the large construction site in Dubai South currently transport material on roads that have been paved with concrete from previous projects.

Expo officials say not a grain of sand has been shifted out from the 4.38 square kilometre site with the sand used to prepare building sites.

An expansive car park for 30,000 vehicles will be built by grinding thousands of recycled tyres into the asphalt mixture to prevent the rubber reaching the landfill.

Sustainability has been the focus of Expo organisers from the planning through to the construction phase where work of contractors is being monitored by consultants.

“We hope to encourage a new way of thinking with the design and offer an architectural experience that retains its relevance long past the Expo opening,” said Ahmed Al Khatib, senior vice president of real estate and delivery for Expo 2020 Dubai.

“We have used additives in the concrete mix in order to reduce the consumption of water in the construction. Construction of a normal asphalt surface for the 30,000 car parking spaces would have impacted the environment. Dubai Municipality is helping us source tyres that will be used as a binding component for the asphalt. We moved more than 5 million cubic metres of sand but always reused the sand that was first excavated for levelling the site and then crushed for reuse.”

Expo 2020 Dubai: 3D rendering of how the site will look

Expo 2020 Dubai: 3D rendering of how the site will look

Bordering the Sustainability Pavilion, among three Expo 2020 themes that include opportunity and mobility, architects will create columns called energy or water trees made of solar panels and steel. Drawing inspiration from photosynthesis, the structures will harness sunlight and moisture from the humid air.

“Behind the solar panels there will be layers designed to condense the humidity from the air to generate water that will be used for irrigation for the park around the Sustainability Pavilion. We are building harvests from the humidity from the air, we will also use ground water and are in discussions with authorities to certify that water for drinking,” he said.

“The Sustainability Pavilion will be entirely self-sustaining generating electricity, water and on days when it generates more power, it will feed into the grid.”


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There are plans to create more than 45,000 green spaces to cool the area and canopies to protect visitors from the sun with the shades retracting in the evening.

The corridors and streets will be shaded by the buildings with the design allowing for a constant flow of air through winding paths, said Mr Al Khatib who is responsible for the management of the site masterplan, infrastructure services, transportation and sustainability,

Developers and government entities working on the site such as the Dubai World Trade Centre, Emaar, Meraas and the National Media Council have also been given guidelines to promote the use of recyclable material.

This is part of a broader green message that the Expo wants to spread across the country to encourage residents to be conscious and care for the environment.

The progress and milestones on the Expo site will be highlighted during the Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week.

Expo 2020 Dubai: Update on the construction site

Expo 2020 Dubai: Update on the construction site

“We have tried to push the bar with our designs and one of our legacies is to roll out these sustainable practices across the UAE. We have guidelines on materials that can be used on the Expo site,” Mr Al Khatib said.

“Our target is to minimise depletion of natural resources, promote reuse of materials and encourage sourcing from close by.

"We have constant engagement and monitoring of contractors to make sure our guidelines are met."

Some 80 per cent of investment in infrastructure will be permanent with plans for residential, offices, an exhibition centre so the area will continue to thrive when the Expo ends in April 2021.

“Everything we are building in infrastructure and buildings will be permanent except for the component like the security gates and maybe the parking areas to host the event and the sections where the countries will dismantle their pavilions,” Mr Al Khatib said.

Outside the construction area filled with cranes, interest is being ramped up with plans to recruit 30,000 volunteers.

“We have started registration for the volunteer programme and are targeting people from all walks of life from students to working individuals and people of determination,” said Najeeb Mohammed Al-Ali, executive director of the Expo 2020 Bureau.

“We want UAE nationals and expatriate to participate because it will be an opportunity to learn something new, meet people from all around the world and give something back.”


How construction waste was used 

Some 370,000 tonnes, more than 85 per cent of construction waste, was diverted from the landfill in 2017.

This was equivalent to 950 Emirates A380 jumbo jets.

For the entire Expo site, 50 per cent of energy will come from renewable sources.

A large portion of this will come from the Sheikh Mohammed Solar Park.

Smart building strategies will reduce power consumption by 20 per cent or 150,000 mwh of energy that can power up to 20,000 UAE households a year.

The Sustainability Pavilion will produce much of its energy, water requirements.

The pavilion’s annual production of 4 gwh/year of electricity is sufficient to power a Nissan Leaf electric car to reach half way to Mars _ a distance of 23 million kilometres.

The pavilion will produce 22,000 litres of water per day at peak capacity or enough to fill three Olympic-size pools every year.

The Expo site is located adjacent to the Al Maktoum International Airport in Dubai South.