Gulf futuristic cities beyond the headlines: Understanding the planned cities megatrend

Cities of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region have harboured  impressive architecture conveying modernity and affluence. GCC countries are increasingly reshaping the face of their urban areas through the development of futuristic planned cities. These cities are competing for labels that show design innovations and energy-efficient technologies. This paper goes behind the headlines and self-labelling, and compares the region’s major planned cities in terms of the nature of the urban development models. It proposes a techno-social framework to characterize the cities based on the criteria of access and innovation. The assessment shows that most  developments resemble infrastructure upgrade via digital and smart cities. While ecological innovations are incorporated in urban design, they are limited to few livable cities. Most representative cities for sustainability are either small theme cities or yet to be completed. Economization and mega-events are largely fuelling urban development, with open outcomes on the success to attract long-term residents, and the level of contribution to the region’s low-carbon future.

Mohammad Al-Saidi  , Esmat Zaidan
Center for Sustainable Development, College of Arts and Sciences, Qatar University, Doha 2713, Qatar
Department of International Affairs, College of Arts and Sciences, Qatar University, Doha 2713, Qatar

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Master Planning and the Evolving Urban Model in the Gulf Cities: Principles, Policies, and Practices for the Transition to Sustainable Urbanism

The significant predicament of sustainable urbanism in contempor­ary cities of the Gulf region is being addressed by developing policies designed to make cities safe, inclusive, resilient and sustainable. By examining the accessible planning documents, and based on the analysis of the ongoing world-class developments and megaprojects within the Gulf cities, particularly in Doha and Dubai, we argue that there is an inconsistency between the master-planning phase, usually conducted by western consultants, and the economic, political, socio-cultural, and environmental dynamics of the Gulf. Our analysis revealed insensitivity to the local, economic and socio-cultural pat­terns of the Arab Gulf countries and a governmental lack of capacity of national planners that may erode the opportunities to implement sustainable urbanism. It is suggested that, although globalization and modernization may have brought some benefits to the Gulf cities such as improvement in living standards and changes in society and lifestyles, yet an innovative master planning that merges land use and strategic planning based on building national capacities, and a holistic understanding of the social, cultural and oil-dominated economies and community engagement, is essential to deliver sus­tainable urbanism in the region. Recommendations for moving towards more capable, participatory and sustainable planning sys­tem are suggested in the paper.

Esmat Zaidan (2019) Cultural-based challenges of the westernised approach
to development in newly developed societies, Development in Practice, 29:5, 570-581, DOI:

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Managing the water-energy-food nexus on an integrated geographical scale

The water-energy-food (WEF) nexus is the subject of much research focusing on different aspects, a wide range of issues, and development of a variety of models and tools. This study takes a different approach by developing a holistic framework that concentrates on the spatial elements of continuity and change associated with WEF transition on national, regional, and international scale. The study also investigates the interconnected challenges that could affect these resources and the actions and polices that should be taken on different geographical scales to address these challenges. The results can help practitioners and policy makers gain a clearer understanding of the state of the knowledge when performing WEF nexus assessments at different geographical scales.

Ammar Abulibdeha , Esmat Zaidan

Department of Humanities, College of Arts and Sciences, Qatar University, Qatar
Department of International Affairs, College of Arts and Sciences, Qatar University, Qatar

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Improving Building Energy Footprint and Asset Performance Using Digital Twin Technology

This article presents a novel architecture by integrating the existing asset management theory with building simulation technology for effective maintenance strategies and operational control schemes. Building performance, value and energy usage collectively define the criteria for optimization. Building assets are partially or fully connected with building IoT and their real time conditions are accessible at all times. An asset’s value is derived from the functional contributions of that asset to the overall business objective of the system that it is part of. The architecture consists of digital twin, analytics and Business Value Model engines and in-between gateways for data exchange. The paper provides illustrative examples, some based on real data, how the platform can serve operations and maintenance objectives of existing and new buildings.

Mohsen A.Jafari , Esmat Zaidan, Ali Ghofrani ,

Khashayar Mahani , Farbod Farzan

Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering, Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey USA
Department of International Affairs, College of Arts and Sciences, Qatar University Doha, Qatar

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Sustainable development in the Arab world – is the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region fit for the challenge?

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region and the wider Arab world are faced with multiple interconnected dilemmas embedded in the social, economic, and environmental pillars of sustainable development. The question of how to design effective sustainability strategies that are aligned with the context of the GCC region is a relevant one. In this special issue, contributors have investigated the obstacles to sustainable development in the GCC region, the impact of current development patterns on the sustainability agenda, and the way in which countries react to local, regional, and global sustainability pressures and debates. The issue aimed to provide a platform for academics to present policy-relevant research and practical steps being taken towards realising genuine sustainable development within the GCC region, while teasing out the major obstacles to this process. This regional focus is motivated by the shared challenge of GCC countries of reforming carbon-based economies as well as their systems of high subsidisation and universal benefits in order to incorporate sustainable concerns, merit based rules, and more targeted policies. While these challenges are shared with other Arab countries, as well as other countries exporting oil and gas, the origins, current patterns, and future directions of sustainability reforms in the GCC region reveal interesting lessons to be learnt.

Esmat Zaidan , Mohammad Al-Saidi and Suzanne H. Hammad

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