What is Estidama?

Estidama means 'sustainability' in Arabic and is the sustainability initiative of the emirate of Abu Dhabi.

By definition, Estidama means working to assure living and human systems can continue to thrive in Abu Dhabi for generations to come, by addressing the unique environmental, cultural, social and economic needs of the Middle East today.

The foundation for Estidama was created in 2007 in the form of Plan Abu Dhabi 2030 which aimed to define how a contemporary, sustainable Arab Capital should look and how it could live. Since then two other significant areas have been applied in the form of Plan Al Ain 2030 and Plan Al Gharbia 2030.

Now, the principles of Estidama can be found or referenced in many government initiatives such as :

  • Urban Streets Design Manual (Abu Dhabi Urban Planning Council)
  • Coastal Development Guidelines (Abu Dhabi Urban Planning Council)
  • Abu Dhabi Development Code (Abu Dhabi Urban Planning Council)
  • Community Facility Guidelines (Abu Dhabi Urban Planning Council)
  • Sustainable Urban Design Principles (Abu Dhabi Urban Planning Council)
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What is the difference between Estidama and the Pearl Rating System?

The Pearl Rating System is a key component of Estidama that deals specifically with the built environment and its performance in relation to economic, environmental, cultural and social aspects.

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What is an Estidama Pearl?

A Pearl represents the Pearl Rating System levels. So 1 Pearl is the entry level and 5 Pearls is the highest level of achievement.

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What are the mandatory requirements?

In May 2010, announcement was made of the Executive Council's approval of the Pearl Rating System for Estidama.

New Communities As of June 2010, all new development applications for communities are mandated to satisfy all required credits to achieve a minimum 1 Pearl level of compliance.

New Buildings Starting September 2010, all new privately initiated applications for new buildings will be required to achieve a minimum of 1 Pearl compliance. Government-led projects (including schools, mosques and government buildings) will be required to achieve a minimum of 2 Pearls.

New Villas Starting September 2010, new villas will also be required to achieve a minimum of 1 Pearl compliance.

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Why has the Pearl Rating System been introduced?

The Pearl Rating System has been introduced to address the need for a regionally relevant system to drive sustainable development that is economically, environmentally, culturally and socially relevant and to align with other important government initiatives in Abu Dhabi Emirate.

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Why would I want my building to be Pearl Rated or why should I go for more than 1 Pearl?

  • Lower operating costs.
  • Make healthier places to live, work, study and play.
  • Improved productivity, retail sales and student performance;
  • Marketability and higher reputation of building.
  • Development differentiation in the marketplace.
  • Recognition from Leadership of Abu Dhabi.


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What do I get at the end of it?

You will receive a plaque at the end of construction. Recognition will also be gained through the Pearl development list on the UPC website.

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What's the difference between the Pearl Rating System (PRS) and other sustainability rating tools?

  • The PRS is the only system specifically developed for Abu Dhabi's unique economy, environment, culture and society.
  • The PRS requires an Integrated Development Process to demonstrate collaborative decision making is undertaken at key project stages.
  • The Pearl Operational Rating is based on performance accountability. This certifies and rewards projects that operate optimally and efficiently.
  • The PRS is the only sustainability rating system in the world that is a government initiative which will streamline sustainability efforts.
  • The PRS integrates with other Abu Dhabi regulatory codes and initiatives, for example the building and development codes.


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I have achieved a certification from another Rating System. Can this transfer to the Pearl Rating System?

No. Projects will be required to undertake a Pearl Rating System application.

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How many Pearl rated buildings are there?

The UPC has awarded design ratings to over 40 developments ranging from 1 to 5 Pearls.

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Do I need solar PV to get Pearls?

No. However, renewable technologies will 'contribute' towards optional credit points in the energy section of the Pearl Rating System.

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Will there be a list of Pearl rated buildings online?

Yes, for those projects that wish to publicize their pearl achievements, a list will be generated online along with a summary of how the project achieved its sustainable goals.

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How can we contribute?

Feedback is welcomed in order to assist the future development of the Pearl Rating System. Comments, suggestions and queries should be sent via the Contact Us section of the Estidama website.

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How can I apply for a job or are there any available jobs for sustainability professionals?

Any available Positions are listed on the UPC website.

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Do I need a specialist consultant?

You will need to ensure that, at design stage submission for communities and building projects, a Pearl Qualified Professional (PQP) is a member of the team specifically responsible for guiding the project in relation to the Pearl Rating System. A specialist consultant is not needed if one of the team members is a PQP and acts as such. This individual could be a member of the development team (for example your engineer, architect, project manager etc).

Candidates who have obtained PQP PBRS certification are automatically eligible to work on PVRS projects.

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What do PRS, PCRS, PBRS, PVRS and PQP stand for?

PRS = Pearl Rating System (encompassing each of the three items below)
PCRS = Pearl Community Rating System
PBRS = Pearl Building Rating System
PVRS = Pearl Villa Rating System
PQP = Pearl Qualified Professional

Estidama Initiatives