UC Davis and Dubai: collaborate on sustainability

A view of West Village at UC Davis. (photo: Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis)
A view of West Village at UC Davis. (photo: Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis)

New sustainable city in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, inspired by West Village, UC Davis.

University of California, Davis
July 3, 2014

Diamond Developers, inspired by the energy-efficient West Village at the University of California, Davis, is building its own sustainable city on the outskirts of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. The company is collaborating with UC Davis to expand research and develop curricula related to sustainable communities.

The agreement will benefit interdisciplinary research and study on the UC Davis campus and at the developer’s center in Dubai. Scholars throughout the world will be involved in the project, enabling knowledge and research on sustainable development in a variety of climates and settings worldwide. Under the agreement, Dubai-based Diamond Developers has agreed to disburse to the UC Davis-led project $2.9 million during the next three years. Diamond Developers already has provided the first installment of $200,000 under the agreement.

Under the terms of the grant, Diamond Developers will establish a Center of Excellence, named the “Sustainability Research and Training Center in collaboration with UC Davis.”

The agreement was signed in Dubai by Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi of UC Davis and by Faris Saeed, CEO of Diamond Developers. After the signing ceremony, senior representatives from the two organizations started working together on defining the most impactful research and training initiatives.

“This is an exciting opportunity for UC Davis to promote collaborative research,” said Suad Joseph, co-principal investigator for the project and founding director of the UC Davis Middle East/South Asia Studies (ME/SA) program. UC Davis is the only UC campus with a minor and major in ME/SA Studies.

“This is where we form the relationships that lead to productive research — with this, we get to do research on the ground while the sustainable city is being built,” said Joseph, co-director of the Sustainability Research and Training Program, supporting the Center of Excellence. Joseph is also a distinguished professor of anthropology and women and gender studies.

Also co-directing the training program is Bryan Jenkins, distinguished professor and chair of the Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering at UC Davis.

Among the challenges that Dubai and other countries in dry climates face is lack of rainfall, so solutions for the treatment of wastewater and ensuring adequate water supply are priorities. “These are all the issues we want to look at in this project,” Joseph said.

The sustainable city project in Dubai is under construction. The developers visited UC Davis West Village, the largest planned zero net energy community in the United States, in 2010 when it was being built. It opened in October 2011 and now houses faculty, staff and students.

The agreement follows years of collaboration between UC Davis and Diamond Developers. Saeed, chief executive officer of the company, is a longtime supporter of and donor to the university’s ME/SA program.

UC Davis’ Sustainability Research and Training Program has issued a call for proposals, with concept papers due in June and full proposals due in July. A total of $750,000 is expected to be made available for that program, with individual research projects limited to a maximum of $150,000 each for the first call. Another $500,000 will be available for research in 2014–15 and the following year. Additional funds will go toward development of online curricula, the development of new indices of sustainability, a comparative study of West Village and the Dubai Sustainable City, as well as training programs and future research in development of sustainable communities.

The scope of the research is to investigate fundamental questions and unsolved social and engineering issues linked to energy, water, waste, soil, agriculture and food, mobility, information, behavior, policy, and systems integration for the purposes of designing, implementing and maintaining sustainable communities.

Grant applicants are encouraged to work with at least one partner from a consortium of universities. The consortium includes UC Davis, American University of Beirut, American University in Cairo, Lebanese American University, and Birzeit University in Palestine.

(This article was written by Karen Nikos-Rose, UC Davis News Service, June 18, 2014.)

About UC Davis

UC Davis is a global community of individuals united to better humanity and our natural world while seeking solutions to some of our most pressing challenges. Located near the California state capital, UC Davis has more than 34,000 students, and the full-time equivalent of 4,100 faculty and other academics, and 17,400 staff. The campus has an annual research budget of over $750 million, a comprehensive health system and about two dozen specialized research centers. The university offers interdisciplinary graduate study and 99 undergraduate majors in four colleges and six professional schools.

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Media contact:

Karen Nikos-Rose, UC Davis News Service, (530) 752-6101, kmnikos@ucdavis.edu