Construction Week Newsletter 16th October 2004

Just who is responsible for the little tract of land left between buildings? It is a question that bothers me each day as I walk from car to office.

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By  Eudore Chand Published  October 16, 2004

Editorial Leader|~||~||~|

Green as you build

Just who is responsible for the little tract of land left between buildings? It is a question that bothers me each day as I walk from car to office. That the gap is there is a good thing. Ever since car parking charges were introduced for the public car park spaces in front of the building, I have been forced to park around the back in whatever space can be found, and without that little gap between buildings would have a long walk round the block. That the gap is unpaved, littered with the detritus of some old construction project, sandy, rocky, and walking through it dirties my shoes is a bad thing. I suppose that, if the building owner of either side owns the land, the owner is responsible; otherwise I must assume it is the Dubai Municipality’s problem. Clearly, somebody is responsible: so why has nothing been done to turn this small patch of land into something that is usable as a corridor and looks nice. It would not take much. A little bit of grass, a hedge or two and a stone paved path would easily do the job. The UAE’s municipalities have worked hard at greening the desert. The cities of the UAE are dotted with extensive parks and roadside green areas. Green belts stretch along the major highways. According to the Public Parks & Horticulture Department at Dubai Municipality, the ratio of cultivated area per person in the whole of the emirate now stands at 20.2 m2. To put it in the global perspective, the ratio that Dubai has achieved is more than double the 10 m2 that the World Health Organisation recommends and almost three times what the European Union recommends at 7 m2. Dubai, though, has set itself a target of reaching a ratio of 25 m2 of cultivated area per person in conditions that are not exactly conducive. The UAE is characterised by extreme aridity, nutrient poor soil and high summer temperatures. Despite these problems, the cultivate area countrywide extends close to a million acres. This is not just a cosmetic adornment. It actually supports more than 40 million date palm trees and has provided the UAE with self-sufficiency in dates, 30% of its food grain requirements and 58% of its vegetables needs. Government, federal, emirati and civic, has taken much of this strain and these authorities are now very stretched. The frenetic pace of development in the UAE has placed demands on the machinery of government that has never before been seen and put pressure on civic development. Since governemnt resources are often consumed by the major projects, it is perhaps right to excuse them for not taking care of the little patch of earth that I am complaining about. All the other major project developments being undertaken by Nakheel etc. seem to be well greened. Take a walk around Emirates Hills and you will not see much sand that is not in the bunkers on the golf course. There is a major incentive to green the environment of these types of projects: its all part of the sales pitch. A house that is part of a ‘green community’ is much easier to sell than just a house on a road. Take the road by a golf course and watch property values rise. Developers of individual buildings on the other hand are less concerned with what lies outside their walls, and some times even with what lies within. Tenants too do not fix the problem: why should they spend money on something that does not directly benefit them? It makes for a very poor public spirit. All the parties involved should make an effort and contribute to the upkeep of the environment of the building, and all parties should have good reasons for doing it. The primary reason should be based on a communal social responsibility. But if better justification is needed, all the parties have good reasons: the developer and owner because it will make the building easier to sell and rent; the tenant because it will make the building better for his staff to use. So I issue this plea to employers, tenants, owners and developers: get out your watering cans and put your green thumbs to use!||**||

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