My Dubai Diary


The Tower at the Centre of the City of God

Ticket price on Dubai Metro to Downtown? AED 2.00. Me, accidentally posting a selfie with the embarrassing caption: “I can see the Burj from my hotel window” to the entire tour’s WhatsApp group? Priceless.

An excellent icebreaker for meeting our SCA International tour delegates before crossing the street to where the mother of all mixed-use mega structures beckoned skywards.

Briefed in the stylish Armani lobby by an equally stylish Jeevan D’Mello, the godfather of Dubai strata, we were granted the royal treatment by Emaar’s building management team.

There was an immense sense of pride in the voices of the Emaar building managers who run the entire building from a single facilities management control room. Their continual focus on critical assets, real-time sensor data to smartphone and predictive maintenance strategies has reduced operational costs by more than 30 percent.

The intelligence behind the sectional design poses a host of engineering challenges, not the least of which is maintaining water pressure at all levels. With 57 high speed elevators, the Armani Hotel occupies 11 floors, 900 residences and 37 corporate suites and, like any self-respecting super tower, it comes complete with the world’s highest jacuzzi.

More than a tower built purely for the right  to claim the title of tallest skyscraper, the spider lily-inspired Burj Khalifa and its supporting management systems are something to behold.

One of the exterior residential pool facilities of the Burj Khalif looking out on the Dubai skyline

Seismic Shift in Governance of Jointly Owned Properties

Arriving by tour bus in front of the Customer Happiness Centre, I wondered what brave new world we were entering.

We entered the Dubai Land Department building, the home of RERA (Real Estate Regulatory Authority), the agency responsible for overseeing a massive overhaul of the Dubai strata laws. Dubai’s 10-year experiment with the Australian inspired Old Law had been torn up and here we were with the new Jointly Owned Property Law No.6 of 2019 just kicking in.

We were greeted by Malmoud AlBurai, senior advisor at RERA and global goodwill ambassador. His has a huge task ahead reigning in a strata industry and, essentially, wresting back control over buildings across the Emirate right down to the budget approval level.

One of the key problems in the old Australian-inspired legislation was its lack of teeth, particularly when it came to arrears. But Mahmoud explained that the rate of non-payment of levies or service charges across Owners Associations in Dubai under the old system was hovering at around 40 percent.

Our 2020 Tour group

This is due to the absentee ownership and transient nature of the Dubai investor market, but the bad debts on each building was an issue that, in RERA’S view, posed a danger to the system as a whole.

The remedy under the new JOPL No.6? Within one month of non-payment, a legal notice can be issued to the owner, then the Owners Association can go to the Rental Dispute Committee (under Dubai Land Department) to get the unit blocked and listed for auction.

The Sustainable City

One word that didn’t come to mind when I thought of Dubai was “sustainability”. But this tour had already challenged many personal misconceptions so a visit to a community named Sustainable City was not going to disappoint.

This Utopian urban energy neutral community just south of downtown Dubai is something else. Here the Emirate is looking to a future beyond oil in the most ecologically hostile of environments.

Visiting Sustainability City and getting an overview from the community project managers was like walking into a huge living experiment of sorts.

The managers looked to the best sustainable practices globally and implemented these into their own. The process of continual improvement and the drive for zero net energy consumption are fundamental to this community approach.

The beauty of the community’s three-tiered approach centred around social, environmental and economic is that the feel good and socially beneficial aspects of reducing the carbon footprint and giving back to the community is equally supported by the economic gains obtained through operational efficiencies – to the point where this community operates with a zero service charge (zero levies) model.

The surrounding greenery borders of the City act as a buffer zone with over 2,500 trees being the lungs of the community. We are in the middle of an oasis as we cross the bridge of the river of recycled water flourishing with reeds and bird life.

(Left to right) Andrew Chambers, Mahmoud AlBurai, Alisha Fisher and Jeevan D’Mello at RERA presentation

The spine of the community is linked by a series of biodomes. Entering one, we witness ongoing urban farming experiments growing a wide variety of herbs, vegetables and fruits using aeroponics, aquaponics, basically every kind of “ponic”. The modern food bowl of the community looks like a food bowl turned upside down.

Another exciting innovation here is the Autism Village, an acknowledgement to the increasing number of children on the spectrum. It recreates real-life situations a child will encounter and learn to navigate.

One of the things that hit home as we toured the residential cluster was the CSIRO-inspired tech on the villa rooftops literally drawing moisture from the air, supplying around 7-litres of drinking water per day to each home. And they are achieving this in an environment with minimal humidity.

The SCA Educational Tour to Dubai was a resounding success. A big thank you to CEO Alisha Fisher, wonderfully supported by SCA’s Anuja Prasad and National President Andrew Chambers for leading such a well organised tour loaded with educational value for our delegation. A special thank you to Jeevan D’Mello and RERA’s Mahmoud AlBurai for being such fantastic hosts.

Exclusive presentation inside the Burj Khalifa from the expert Emaar team led by Mohammad Kaiser Azad

Interior of Biodome Greenhouse in Sustainable City

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