Estidama Certification: Everything You Need to Know

Are you curious about what an Estidama certification is and why the Abu Dhabi government is placing such a high value on this certification? 

Let’s break down what it means for your project. 

Established in Abu Dhabi, Estidama is a building design methodology for constructing and operating buildings and communities more sustainably. Derived from the Arabic word that means ‘sustainability, it is a certification system developed by Abu Dhabi Urban Planning Council (UPC). It aims to form a framework for measuring sustainability performance beyond the usual planning and construction phases.

Estidama is a key aspect of the “Abu Dhabi Vision 2030” to build the emirate in accordance with innovative green standards. It assures that sustainability is continually addressed through four predefined angles: environmental, economic, social, and cultural.

What is the Pearl Rating System?

Within Estidama, is a green building rating system called the Pearl Building Rating System (PRS) that is utilized to evaluate sustainable building development practices in Abu Dhabi.

Established in 2010 the Pearl Building Rating system is mandatory in Abu Dhabi. It requires all buildings/villas to have a minimum of 1 Pearl Rating, and all government-funded buildings to have a minimum of 2 Pearl Rating. 

The Pearl Rating System compromise of three rating systems, 

  1. Building rating system (PBRS), 
  2. Villa rating system (PVRS), and
  3.  Community rating system (PCRS); 

The PRS covers all aspects of Sustainability which are, Energy use, Water use, Materials use, Indoor & Outdoor environment, and Innovation strategies.

Five certification levels could be pursued to obtain the Estidama certification, the minimum achievement possible is the 1 Pearl which requires to comply with all prerequisite Estidama credits, this rating level is mandatory for all applicable buildings. 

The second level is the 2 Pearls which is mandatory for all applicable government buildings, the two pearls rating necessitates meeting a certain number of credit points in addition to the prerequisite credits in order to achieve the required points; (+60 credit points for Buildings), (+30 credit points for Villas). 

The 3, 4, and 5 Pearls levels will be achieved by obtaining more Estidama credits which will increase the number of points attempted to get your building Estidama certified. 

The Pearl Rating System is organized into eight categories, each featuring a set of required and optional criteria that can be adapted depending on the building’s use:

  1. Integrated Development Process (9 criteria)
  2. Natural systems (7 criteria)
  3. Livable buildings: outdoors (13 criteria)
  4. Livable buildings: indoors (19 criteria)
  5. Precious water (8 criteria)
  6. Resourceful energy (10 criteria)
  7. Stewarding materials (18 criteria)
  8. Innovating practice (2 criteria)

Source: Estidama and the Pearl Rating System: A Comprehensive Review and Alignment with LCA by Ramani A, García de Soto B

Here are the five levels that are developed to reach the above credits:

Energy Use

Reducing the energy demand in your building saves you money, and reduces the pollution that is emitted from non-renewable sources of energy. One of the key points of Estidama standards is to reduce the energy consumption of your building and the greenhouse gas emissions by adopting the energy-efficient systems, such as, the air conditioning system, heating system, ventilation system, lighting control system, water heating, and plumbing systems. Additionally, incorporating the passive design strategies is a priority for Estidama to reduce the building cooling demand, and this would be achieved by choosing the appropriate roofing materials, glazing materials, and envelope materials. 

Water Use 

The lack of fresh water and the massive need for water desalination are the reasons why Estidama focuses on reducing potable water consumption. 

One of the Estidama goals is to reduce the consumption of water by implementing many different solutions, such as but not limited to, selecting fittings and fixtures with low water flow and dual flushing for toilets, choosing taps with infrared sensors or metered controlled, selecting efficient and certified dishwashers and washing machines, and installing efficient irrigation systems that will reduce the water demand for the exterior use. Installing smart water meters for the buildings’ water systems as per the Estidama guideline shall monitor and control the water consumption, this could reduce the buildings’ water demand.

Indoor & Outdoor Environment

Estidama guideline is developed to enhance the indoor air quality which shall maintain the occupant health and comfort. One of the Estidama mandatory credits is established to prohibit smoking inside and around the buildings, this is one of the methods to minimize the exposure of the building occupants to the harmful effects of tobacco smoke. 

The indoor materials emissions such as VOC, Asbestos, and Formaldehyde must not exceed the maximum allowable limit listed in the Estidama manual, therefore, the selection of the indoor materials such as the adhesives, sealants, paints, coating, flooring, ceiling, and furniture is being monitored to maintain the occupant health.

Estidama does not focus on the indoors only, the outdoor comfort is also essential in the Estidama guideline. In order to provide outdoor thermal comfort, a minimum shading percentage shall be achieved for all applicable exterior surface car parking, public open spaces, pedestrian walkways, cycle tracks and playgrounds. The intent of the shading strategy is to reduce the discomfort during transitions on sunny days and times.

Materials Use & Generation of Waste 

The reduction of materials used in construction is very important to control the consumption of raw materials and to reduce the waste quantities generated from the fabrication process. The building will obtain credit points under Estidama when using regional materials, recycled materials, and non-polluting materials. Estidama encourages the selection of reused materials that can conserve the environment raw materials, reduce the project materials cost, and reduce the waste generated from industries.

Waste of all types recyclable and non-recyclable will be generated as by-products of construction activities. Developing a construction waste management plan that will be implemented during the project is to indicate the materials to be diverted from landfills and satisfy the minimum diversion rate required by Estidama. Achieving the minimum recycling rate can reduce the need for extracting, refining and processing raw materials, and reduces greenhouse gas emissions which helps to tackle climate change. 

How to get certified?

Are you wondering how to become an Estidama certified engineer? The team members involved in the pearl rating assessment include the Pearl Assessor and Pearl Qualified Professional (PQP). The Pearl Assessor is in charge of the submission of the required documents. The PQP oversees the pearl rating process during the various project stages. The PQP is required to know the demands of the PRSs, assist the rating process, and ensure the quality and authenticity of documents before submission to the authority for the assessment. 

To be a PQP, the individual must pass an exam that will test their administrative and technical knowledge of the Pearl Rating Systems.

 The PQP’s role will be as follows: 

  • Understand the requirements of the Pearl Rating Systems and associated Guides;  
  • Facilitate the rating process; 
  • and  Provide quality assurance to documents prior to submission to Estidama. 

If you are interested in getting your project Estidama certified, Alpin has experienced consultants who can help you. Contact us.