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Dubai Expo 2020: How the mammoth trade show is a stunning example of sustainability

Dubai Expo 2020: How the mammoth trade show is a stunning example of sustainability

Dubai Expo 2020: How the mammoth trade show is a stunning example of sustainability
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By Jude Sannith  Mar 4, 2022 6:02:14 PM IST (Published)

"The focus was clearly on building a city that can cope with future needs on demands, but it also had to be sustainable and human-centric," says Ahmed Al Khatib, Chief Development and Delivery Officer at Expo 2020 — better known as the man entrusted with Expo 2020 since bidding began in November 2013.

Expo 2020 may have started a year late — it still has ‘2020’ in its name — but the behemoth of a world fair in Dubai has already made a compelling case for advocating sustainable practices. For a start, one of the event’s main pavilions is christened ‘Sustainability’, while its neighbour, the ‘Opportunity Pavilion’ is replete with new-age interactive technology on the importance of sustainable agriculture and environmental practices. At Expo 2020, however, staying sustainable doesn’t start and end with aesthetic alone.

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Over 50 percent of Expo 2020's power consumption is through renewable sources. (Photo courtesy: Jude Sannith)
According to Expo 2020's chief developer, building the site of the mega event was an exercise in sustainability, in itself.
"The focus was clearly on building a city that can cope with future needs on demands, but it also had to be sustainable and human-centric," says Ahmed Al Khatib, Chief Development and Delivery Officer at Expo 2020 — better known as the man entrusted with Expo 2020 since bidding began in November 2013.
The names of 240,000 construction workers involved in building Expo 2020 are engraved on a workers' monument present on site. (Photo courtesy: Jude Sannith)
Sustainable construction
"Not only did we have to move five billion cubic metres of sand to begin construction, but we also had to ensure that we left no grain behind,” Al Khatib adds, “We were building a city that will be comprehensive in terms of human, technological, corporate and entertainment needs in five years’ time."
According to reports, which developers confirm, Expo 2020 had clear-cut guidelines for contractors and material handlers in keeping with its prioritization of environmentally sustainable practices.
Saudi Arabia's country pavilion at Expo 2020. (Photo courtesy: Jude Sannith)
For instance, transportation and movement of construction material from one site to another was minimized so as to not leave a carbon footprint behind. "We also wanted to recycle 85 percent of construction waste from landfill,” says Al Khatib, “As a result, we also diverted 35,000 tonne of construction waste that would then go on to be utilized in further construction activity on site."
Recycled roads, minimal water use
In fact, the expo’s many roads and paved pathways, according to Al Khatib, were built using recycled asphalt from tyres. The construction also consumed 30 percent lesser water thanks to the usage of halogens to catalyze chemical reactions. Over 50 percent of the site’s power is through renewable sources, each of these processes taking years’ worth of research and approvals.
The Chinese Pavilion at Expo 2020. (Photo courtesy: Jude Sannith)
All of this cost the UAE government north of 25 billion AED. “If you translate that amount into how much was spent per month, not to mention pressures on markets and supply chains (thanks mainly to the COVID-19 pandemic), you can imagine and appreciate how tough the job was," says Al Khatib.
Constructing the 4.38-square-kilometer site that would go on to become Expo 2020 took all of 240,000 construction workers, all of whom have their names engraved on a workers’ monument. Present on site, not far from the ‘Garden in the Sky’ attraction, the monument bears 170,000 names in stone. “We realized that several workers shared the same name, and at times, even the same initials,” Al Khatib explains, “All we had to do was carve out 170,000 names as a result of the repetition."
Roads and paved pathways at Expo 2020 were built using recycled asphalt from automobile tyres. (Photo courtesy: Jude Sannith)
Originally scheduled to begin in late 2020, the Dubai Expo was postponed by six months thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. “We faced issues in March 2020 when we began feeling the pressure of the pandemic," says Al Khatib, "By May we knew that pulling the event off would be difficult since the entire world was paralyzed."
Since starting in 2021, Expo 2020 has carried on sans interruptions, even braving two COVID waves that followed. The mammoth trade expo will come to a close on March 31.​
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