Case of the month - Abu Dhabi


Policy   Pearl Rating System Code for Estidama's sustainability framework
Abu Dhabi 
Abu Dhabi Urban Planning Council 

April 2010
Territorial scope
Abu Dhabi metropolitan area

Target buildings  




Public buildings

 New buildings    

Private buildings
 Existing buildings
 Industrial, services, etc.

Main Targets 

  • Act as a key aspect of the Estidama programme to set new global sustainability benchmarks for sustainable planning and communities;
  • Achieve higher levels of sustainable design and practice by getting the design process right from the beginning;
  • Reduce buildings and developments operational and maintenance costs (such as cooling, lighting, water and energy costs);
  • Achieve higher returns on investments for Pearl Rated Developments.

Estidama is an initiative launched in May 2008 by the Abu Dhabi Urban Planning Council (UPC) to achieve the aspirations of the Plan Abu Dhabi 2030, as one of the most ambitious and innovative 25-year program of urban evolution.

As a program for sustainable development, Estidama is being used as an innovative establishment for the design of every new building and community.

In order to ensure its quickly uptake and government support, a key component of Estidama programme known as the Pearl Rating System (PRS) received government mandate in April 2010. The implementation of the Estidama programme has been essentially free and provided by the Abu Dhabi government to ensure all new projects to be included and supported.

The Pearl Rating System is a flexible tool that ranges all building typologies and scales based in the idead that every new building and community must adhere to the minimum requirements through design, construction and operation stages assessed to ensure developed assets remain sustainable.

Estidama Vision and Design Process

Estidama is an integrated programme to design guidelines and regulations for sustainable green building and green communities, in closely collaboration with some government agencies and developers who share the same vision to make Abu Dhabi a sustainable urbanization model in the region.

Estidama framework is continually being connected into the city regulations, policies and building codes to produce an integrated approach to Abu Dhabi sustainable development. Its vision is based on four pillars of sustainability: environment, economy, society and culture, which together form the basis of Estidama’s multi-dimensional approach towards the implementation of the Plan Abu Dhabi 2030.

In order to achieve the new sustainability levels of the construction industry, the Abu Dhabi Urban Planning Council is developing four essential tools to help the implementation of Estidama programme:

  • Regulatory and code alignment
  • The Pearl Rating System
  • Pilot projects and stakeholder participation
  • Educating and training partners on the Estidama Integrated Design Process
Through an integrated design process based on the basic principles of sustainability into construction laws and regulations, the Estidama programme comprises a training stage to encourage the property developers and designers to think the design process in a integrated perspective based on the three key elements of the programme: new buildings, existing buildings and community designing and the development of the Pearl Rating System.

The Pearl Rating System for Estidama

The Pearl Rating System (PRS) is the first green building rating system in the emirate of Abu Dhabi. It was established by Estidama programme to assess sustainability performance of buildings, communities and villas, and adopted by the Abu Dhabi Executive Council in April 2010. Designed for the development of communities, buildings and villas, it establishes separate ratings across the design, construction and operational phases of development projects, according to Estidama’s four pillars – environment, economy, society and culture.

The PRS applies to seven main categories – integrated development process, natural systems, liveable communities, buildings and villas, precious water, resourceful energy, stewarding materials and innovating practice – for which there are mandatory and optional credits that are weighted to rate a potential project performance in relation to the four pillars of Estidama and the PRS categories.

Within each category there are both required and optional credits and points that are awarded for each optional credit achieved. Pearl ratings range from the minimum one pearl to the exemplar five pearls. While 1 pearl rating achievement must met all required credits, a higher pearl rating level requires compliance with all required credits along with a minimum number of optional credits, and for instance, government funded projects must achieve a minimum of two pearls.

To ensure the technical compliance with the program sustainability levels intent, the PRS also defined a set of Pearl Qualified Professionals (PQP) to incorporate the design teams in order to facilitate the Pearl Rating System for both design and construction phases and guide the required integrated development process.

Pearl Rating System coverage and stages

The PRS is designed to address distinctive buildings, sites and associated facilities categories: offices, retails, multi-residential buildings, schools and mixed-used (applying to combinations of two or more of the above usage categories).

  • Considering the application of the Pearl Rating System, there are three stages of certification procedures:
  • Design rating – granted after the design completion with the recognition of the sustainable measures incorporated during this fase;
  • Construction rating – provision of a two years grant that verifies the achieved construction activities and the incorporated measures awarded in the design rating;
  • Operational rating – last granted that verifies the operational performance of a development to ensure the sustainable design’s intents achieved.

Pearl Rating System achievements

  • 110 projects have received a rating which comprise of 2.7 million m2 of ground floor area of which 50 are currently under construction;
  • 6 community rated projects awarded, covering 1924 villas of which 1844 villas are 2 pearl rated;
  • 16 building rated projects have received a rating, in conjunction with ADEC, of which 10 schools are 3 pearl rated;
  • Design rating of 9 buildings for Abu Dhabi Ports Company;
  • 234 mandated developments equating to 6.630,000 m2 of ground floor area of which 4.200,000 m2 is constructed;
  • 890 Pearl Qualified Professionals;
  • 5800 trained people and 197 construction audits.