Masdar City has secured the LEED Gold O+M (operations and maintenance) rating for the corporate headquarters buildings of IRENA, Masdar City, and Tabreed, meaning that each building owned by the Masdar Green REIT is now rated LEED Platinum or Gold.

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) ratings, provided by the US Green Building Council, are the international standard for sustainable real estate. Buildings can be LEED Certified, LEED Silver, LEED Gold, or LEED Platinum based on a point scoring system. Ratings may be awarded for sustainable design, sustainable construction, or sustainable operations and maintenance.

While Masdar City is home to dozens of LEED-rated buildings, including one of the largest clusters of LEED Platinum buildings in the world, the new Gold ratings are Masdar City’s first for O+M.

“This incredible accomplishment for Masdar City is not only a formal recognition of our sustainability work, but also demonstrates our vision and leadership within the industry,” said Mohamed Al Breiki, the executive director of sustainable real estate at Masdar City. “Masdar City is always striving to deliver the best experience through improved building performance and occupant health and comfort. A LEED O+M certification affirms the choices we make day in and day out to minimise our carbon footprint and ensure a more sustainable future for everyone.”

The new LEED certifications also have an important impact on the Masdar Green REIT.

“The Masdar Green REIT has always been ahead of most other green REITs internationally in terms of the proportion of LEED-rated buildings in its portfolio,” said Francisco Galan, Masdar City’s director of sustainable development. “These final three LEED ratings, bringing us to 100 percent, are a significant milestone, making it an even more attractive and profitable opportunity for green investors.”

Strong performance

The LEED O+M certifications follow a year-long evaluation of data on water and energy use, air quality, cleaning materials, and pest and waste management. Employees were surveyed to measure both their enjoyment of the building and their day-to-day sustainability practices, including how they commute to and from work.

Following an evaluation of the data gathered from the 12 months of monitoring, as well as the employee surveys, the US Green Building Council acknowledged Masdar City’s strong performance in waste management in particular given its comprehensive recycling programme that encourages building occupants to sort general waste, recyclables, and food waste rather than sending all waste to a landfill.

The IRENA and Tabreed buildings were previously certified by the Estidama Pearl Building Rating System, the UAE’s local green building rating system. At the time of completion in 2014, the IRENA building was the first commercial building to receive four pearls under Estidama. The Tabreed building design received three pearls under the Estidama Pearl Rating System and was praised for its low cost per square foot for a building of that rating. The minimum for most new buildings in Abu Dhabi is one pearl. Government-funded buildings must be designed and built to at least two-pearl specifications.

The oldest of the three certified buildings, Masdar City’s headquarters, also known as the Incubator Building, was completed in 2012, before the Estidama rating system was introduced. Despite its age, the building’s performance surpassed the others.

“Older doesn’t necessarily mean less sustainable,” noted Mohammed Abdelrazik, Masdar City’s director of asset management, who oversaw the certification process. “This achievement goes to show that paying attention to building operations, implementing sustainable management plans, and engaging with building occupants can significantly enhance sustainability even without retrofitting or renovation.”

Dual sustainability ratings

Since 2018, all new buildings developed by Masdar City have dual sustainability ratings – at minimum, LEED Gold and Estidama three pearls.

“This practice is an illustration of our growth trajectory,” said Chris Wan, the associate director of sustainability and corporate social responsibility at Masdar City. “In Masdar City’s earlier days, we were committed to building the Estidama rating system, which was designed to champion the unique sustainability needs of our region, with emphasis on water conservation. LEED is the international standard, with slightly more focus on energy conservation. Achieving both ratings shows we lead in green urban development at an international level, and that we are committed to the highest possible standards of sustainability.”

The LEED Gold O+M ratings will be valid for two years and are eligible for renewal following real-time monitoring of energy and water use, waste management, transportation practices, and human experience, including how employees feel about daylight levels, sound levels, and air quality in the building.

Masdar City holds all its buildings to the same high operational and maintenance standards, regardless of certification, and is planning to roll out a real-time digital monitoring system in the coming months that will demonstrate how building occupants’ day-to-day activities impact sustainability.

Masdar City is a ground-breaking sustainable urban community, a world-class business and technology hub, and a “green-print” for cities that want to be part of the solution to climate change. The Masdar City Free Zone is a diverse, innovative, and ambitious group of over 1,000 organisations that benefit from comprehensive business support as well as the city’s rich ecosystem. Masdar City hosts a growing residential community and two generations of autonomous vehicles.