Yousef Al Mutawa, CEO, Sharjah Sustainable City (SSC): Interview

Yousef Al Mutawa, CEO, Sharjah Sustainable City (SSC)

Interview: Yousef Al Mutawa

What are the main aspects to consider when designing and implementing green mobility solutions, especially in the Gulf region?

YOUSEF AL MUTAWA: Mobility is one of the main components to consider when designing a sustainable community. It is well known that people in the Gulf tend to drive rather than walk or take public transport, even when covering short distances for daily activities like buying groceries and taking children to school. Therefore, our task is to maximise the convenience of alternative means of transport – or simply walking – to discourage the use of private vehicles. To this end, sustainable mobility has to be considered from the inception phase of any largescale project and be reflected in the master plan as a primary component of quality of life. 

SSC has been laid out in a grid to facilitate traversing the city on foot to reach mixed-use spaces. Cycling tracks have also been integrated, while a transport system that comprises electric shuttles and autonomous vehicles is being developed specifically for the city. This will ultimately link with Sharjah’s public transport system to further promote the use of mass transit. To that end, since the planning phase SSC has been actively collaborating with the Sharjah Roads and Transport Authority, which is also exploring green mobility solutions.

What is more, we believe that education plays a key role in maximising infrastructure utilisation, thus awareness is being raised through marketing strategies to ensure that prospective homebuyers are keen to embrace all aspects of an eco-friendly community, including green mobility.

The location of the community itself is also crucial. It should be situated in a way that movement in and out of the area is streamlined. SSC, for example, is well connected to neighbouring residential and commercial areas, the downtown district, Sharjah International Airport and Sharjah University City.

In which ways can sustainability principles be better integrated into the development of residential and mixed-use real estate?

AL MUTAWA: Building an environmentally sustainable community requires the adoption of a demandside approach to energy planning and its application from the micro level upwards: from housing units to the entire urban layout. In this regard, the development of SSC builds upon stakeholder experience gained from the commercialisation of the original Sustainable City in Dubai. 

Technology is continuously evolving, be it for solar power equipment, building materials or energy-efficient house appliances – particularly air conditioning systems. Therefore, continuous adaptation is a must. In addition to enhancing the tangible components underpinning sustainability, since SSC is formed through a joint venture with Shurooq, we are also deepening cooperation with entities relevant to the development of Sharjah, including government and academic institutions. This has led to an agreement with the American University of Sharjah to host seminars and conduct research by leveraging data collected throughout the SSC project, thereby expanding the knowledge base in the emirate.

Beyond environmental considerations, the other two pillars for the development and commercialisation of a healthy community are social and economic sustainability. The real estate sector was impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, and SSC was no exception. We took immediate measures to safeguard the health of our workforce both in the office and at construction sites. SSC also prioritised sourcing from local suppliers, which had the added benefit of limiting the impact of supply chain disruptions. With regards to commercialisation, we introduced flexible payment plans as a response to tighter client budgets. This move further strengthened the economic sustainability pillar of SSC.

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The Report: Sharjah 2021

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