Expo 2020 Dubai

Expo 2020 Dubai has sustainability at its core, with efforts to deliver one of the most sustainable World Expos in history and present the UAE’s commitment to helping build a cleaner, safer, and healthier environment for everyone.

By Aliaa Elsherbini

While Expo 2020 Dubai’s theme is, Connecting Minds, Creating the Future, its subthemes—which help anchor the big picture—are opportunity, mobility, and sustainability. Expo 2020 has undergone a sustainability strategy structured to integrate, impact and inspire.

Firstly, Expo 2020 Dubai integrates sustainability in its entire framework, thanks to their efforts in making Expo 2020 Dubai as green as possible through sustainable operations, partners, and pledges like Planet Over Plastic that encourage the stakeholders to minimize single-use plastics at their pavilions.

Then, the aim is to create a meaningful impact that exceeds the borders of the Expo 2020 Dubai site and the timeline of the event by aligning its sustainable contribution with the United Nation’s SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals). And in turn, inspire visitors and attendees to become part of the journey towards a better and sustainable future by engaging with the international community.

Terra is the official sustainability pavilion on the Expo 2020 Dubai site with 18 surrounding energy trees. Terra is Platinum LEED-certified, which means it allocated the highest possible rating under the US Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environment Design for its cost-saving sustainable architecture and efficiency. It is one of 120 LEED-certified buildings across the Expo, but only one out of the seven platinum-certified, a well-deserved recognition.Expo 2020 Dubai

Expo 2020 Dubai focuses on ten critical sustainability target areas to be able to achieve its four key sustainability objectives (KPIs), which are:

– Creating a legacy of sustainable infrastructure and future-oriented sustainable practices.

– Catalysing sustainability efforts in Dubai and the UAE toward Vision 2021.

– Increasing public awareness by engaging society about sustainable principles toward living.

– Developing scalable sustainability solutions, extending benefits to the wider economy.

The Key Areas are:


SUSTAINABILITY OBJECTIVES: Encourage the use of sustainable, low-carbon transport by providing alternative transport options, i.e. Dubai Metro and the Expo Rider bus service.

KPIs: Encourage significant shift from private vehicles to alternative transport options.


SUSTAINABILITY OBJECTIVES: Ensure efficient energy use and sustainable energy production across Expo 2020 by applying (1) passive design solutions and appropriate ‘active’ industry-standard solutions and (2) innovative technological solutions and renewable energy systems.

KPIs: Reduce energy demand in buildings by 20% in comparison to international standards.

Public Realm

Expo 2020 DubaiSUSTAINABILITY OBJECTIVES: Create people-centric, comfortable and walkable spaces, supporting Expo 2020’s sustainable legacy.

KPIs: Provide shading for 75% of primary walkways in Thematic Districts at the midday peak.

Provide shading for 60% of hard landscaping areas and public open spaces at the midday peak


SUSTAINABILITY OBJECTIVES: Enhance the ecological value of the site, protecting and promoting biodiversity and local species.

KPIs: Ensure 50% of landscape plants (during Expo 2020) and 95% of landscape plants (post-Expo 2020 Dubai) are native and adaptive species.

Ensure 95% of landscape area is managed without the use of chemical pesticides, herbicides, or fertilizers.


SUSTAINABILITY OBJECTIVES: Reduce the demand of potable water systems by applying a water efficiency hierarchy, followed by the substitution of potable water with non-potable supplies.

KPIs: Reduce water demand in buildings by 40% in comparison to local standards.

Recycled water is used for 100% of non-potable applications (e.g. irrigation, cooling).

Collect and use 95% of condensate water recovered from buildings 


SUSTAINABILITY OBJECTIVES: Minimise depletion of natural resources through design for reuse and legacy. Expo 2020 Dubai’s Sustainable Materials Guidelines and the RISE Guidelines for Sustainable Operations provide guidance on the selection of appropriate materials

KPIs: 90% of materials used in permanent construction to be retained for the legacy phase, District 2020. 90% of selected materials are procured in accordance with Sustainable Materials Guidelines.


Expo 2020 DubaiSUSTAINABILITY OBJECTIVES: Minimise the amount of waste produced throughout all stages of design, construction, and operation; minimise the amount of waste that goes to landfill by incorporating a circular economy approach; reduce the use of single-use products and packaging; and plan for a sustainable legacy transition.

KPIs: A minimum of 85% (by weight) of waste segregated into different waste streams during construction, operation and decommissioning to allow for diversion from landfill. 


SUSTAINABILITY OBJECTIVES: Ensure carbon emissions at Expo 2020 are accurately measured and minimized, with unavoidable emissions managed in responsible manner through appropriate offsetting programs.

KPIs: Fully implement a greenhouse gas (GHG) mitigation and offsetting strategy.

Sustainability Certification

SUSTAINABILITY OBJECTIVES: Demonstrate global leadership, innovation, environmental stewardship, and social responsibility by achieving high levels of third party green building and site certification.

KPIs: Achieve ‘LEED Gold’ certification for all permanent buildings at Expo 2020.

Achieve CEEQUAL ‘Excellent’ certification for permanent Expo infrastructure projects.

Sustainability Operations & Reporting

SUSTAINABILITY OBJECTIVES: Communicate sustainability progress and achievements in a transparent and stakeholder-responsive way.

KPIs: Achieve ISO 20121 Sustainable Event Management certification.

Publish four Sustainability Reports in accordance with the GRI Sustainability Reporting Standards.

Only two months in, and Expo 2020 Dubai is well underway to achieve its sustainability KPIs. It addresses the issues first, then aims to fix them in alliance with a global vision for a better future and abiding by social standards.