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Majid Al Futtaim mall awarded global sustainability rating

By Michael Finnigan

Majid Al Futtaim Group, the family-owned conglomerate that pioneered Dubai's indoor ski slope, has set a new benchmark for sustainability in the region thanks to a prestigious accreditation for its City Centre Mirdif shopping mall.

Despite being located in one of the hottest places on earth, the three million square foot complex was awarded LEED Gold accreditation by Washington-based sustainability advocate US Green Building Council, which said the City Centre Mirdif shopping mall is now the largest building to achieve its rating.

The harsh Middle East climate had previously excluded buildings in the region from making the grade, because of the high amount of energy consumption used for cooling, and the Emirati family business now hopes its rating will inspire others to follow suit and improve performances and efficiencies.

Chris Dixon, technical operations director for shopping malls at Majid Al Futtaim, said: “With malls open for 16 hours a day, and outside temperatures reaching over 50 degrees Celsius, it is far more difficult to acquire LEED certification than other parts of the world, and until now [it] wasn't possible.”

The director said the biggest hurdle was achieving the energy and atmosphere pre-requisite for energy requirement set by the US Green Building Council, as the region's harsh conditions means that buildings often spend 60% of their energy consumption on air conditioning.

The initiative at City Centre Mirdif required co-operation from more than 500 retailers in the mall and had to achieve targets across 110 category areas, including alternative transport, water efficiency, waste management, green cleaning policies and efficient energy management.

The 23-year-old family business is no stranger to sustainable practices and last month was recognised by the Arab Organisation for Social Responsibility for its contribution towards helping Dubai along its path to becoming one of the top 10 sustainable cities in the world by 2020.

Emirati businessman Majid Al Futtaim founded the sustainability-focussed conglomerate in 1992, after he opened his first shopping mall, and has since expanded operations to achieve revenues of AED 25 billion ($6.8 billion) in 2014. According to Forbes, the eponymous entrepreneur has a net worth of $6.1 billion as of February 2015.

Alain Bejjani, CEO of Majid Al Futtaim Holding, summed up the importance of City Centre Mirdif LEED accreditation: "We are witnessing a genuine drive of development projects pursuing increasingly higher levels of sustainability, with more companies seeking to embrace internationally-recognised standards.

“We lead by example by applying international best practices across our entire business operations and portfolio of brands. In doing so we support the economic and social development of Dubai and the wider Middle East region."

Majid Al Futtaim Group manages three major operating subsidiaries: Majid Al Futtaim Properties, Majid Al Futtaim Retail, and Majid Al Futtaim Ventures, which employ 27,000 individuals across 13 countries. In January, the family business announced plans to double the size of its operations in just five years.