Rethinking Dubai's urbanism: Generating sustainable form-based urban design strategies for an integrated neighborhood

Khaled Alawadi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Citations (Scopus)


Dubai needs immediate intervention to retrofit its current development strategies with a new emphasis on sustainability. Dubai's urbanization process compromised the environment to meet economic goals and housing necessities for citizens. This research asks, which form-based urban design strategies can most effectively deliver greater environmental, social, and economic coherence in Dubai's neighborhood development? Two rounds of the Delphi, a structured communication technique utilizing multiple rounds of questioning, were employed to obtain experts’ advice on redefining urbanism in Dubai. Findings stress that for Dubai, the most sustainable neighborhoods will feature compactness, connectivity and multiple transportation options, diversity, culturally relevant urbanism, and climate-sensitive urbanism, all integrated in the urban fabric. Results confirm that sustainability cannot be studied in abstraction from context: experts identified various obstacles that the local context presents to the implementation of these principles. Developing and successfully implementing strategies to promote sustainability in Dubai is therefore a complex process that requires a shift in government priorities and cultural norms. The article argues that planners and officials should balance the claims of social, economic, and environmental sustainability rather than allowing economic strategies and social subsidies to dwarf environmental stewardship; planners must acknowledge all three factors equally and come up with context-relevant solutions and practical compromises. Officials should create a policy environment that supports such balance, and planners and officials should work together to institute a more transparent and inclusive process for making decisions about the built environment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)353-366
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - Feb 1 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Dubai's planning system
  • Dubai's urbanism
  • Geography specific urbanism
  • Neighborhood development
  • Sustainable urbanism
  • Urban form

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Development
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Urban Studies
  • Tourism, Leisure and Hospitality Management


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