UC Davis and a Dubai, United Arab Emirates-based developer building a community inspired by West Village have entered into a three-year, $2.9 million research agreement.
Diamond Developers will fund research both at UCD and in Dubai and the creation of online classes with the goal of furthering sustainable development in a variety of climates and settings worldwide.
“This is an exciting opportunity for UC Davis to promote collaborative research,” said Suad Joseph, co-principal investigator for the project and founding director of UCD’s Middle East/South Asia Studies program, in a news release.
“This is where we form the relationships that lead to productive research — with this, we get to do research on the ground while the sustainable city is being built.”
The research will explore a wide variety of issues around building and maintaining sustainable communities, among them: energy, water, waste, soil, agriculture, mobility, information, behavior, policy and systems integration.
Chancellor Linda Katehi and Diamond CEO Faris Saeed recently signed the agreement in Dubai. Saeed has previously donated funding to support the university’s Middle East/South Asia Studies program, the only one of its kind in the University of California system.
Diamond has contributed $200,000 to the research project, so far.
UCD’s Sustainability Research and Training Program has issued a call for proposals due this month. Individual research projects can receive up to $150,000 of the $750,000 expected to be made available to that program. Another $500,000 will be available in 2014-15 and 2015-16, according to UCD.
Researchers will be encouraged to work with partners from American University of Beirut, American University in Cairo, Lebanese American University and Birzeit University in the West Bank.
Other funding will go toward creating online classes, developing new ways to measure sustainability, training programs and a comparative study of West Village and Dubai Sustainable City: a community and eco resort on the outskirts of Dubai inspired by a 2010 trip by developers to see UCD’s project.
The 114,000-acre, $300 million Dubai project, due to open next year, eventually will include 500 townhouses and villas, the sustainable engineering and research institute, an organic farm and greenhouses, wetlands and neighborhood facilities like a mosque, bank, clinics, country club and equestrian and community center.
It also will be home to tourist attractions: a planetarium, amphitheater, and a hotel and spa with 143 bungalows, according to Diamond’s website. About 2,700 people eventually will call the community home and an estimated 6,000 will stay and work there daily.
Plans call for its community to produce 10 megawatts of peak solar production, recycle all of its water and be home to 10,000 trees of 50 varieties.
Planned as the nation’s largest net-zero energy community and living laboratory, West Village, which opened in 2011, also remains a work in progress. It produced 2,981 megawatt hours of electricity — 87 percent of the power its residents and researchers consumed — from March 2012 to February 2013, according to a report released last fall.
The 200-acre neighborhood has since grown to a capacity of 1,980 beds for students, faculty and staff. It is also home to centers focusing on transportation, heating and cooling and other areas of sustainability research, cafe, community center, community college facility.
In March, Honda debuted an ultra-efficient, live-in research house at West Village designed by partners UCD and PG&E. Its solar array is intended to produce more energy than the house and the electric car its occupant will need annually.
Plans call for 343 single-family houses to eventually be built on the 200-acre West Village site, bringing the neighborhood’s population to an estimated 3,500.
In addition to the solar production capacity of West Village, UCD once planned to open a biodigester there. It opted instead to construct it on the site of the campus’ now-closed landfill, north of Putah Creek and west of County Road 98.
The biodigester will be able to produce 5.6 million kilowatt-hours of energy from the campus’ food waste, manure and green waste, or 4 percent of the campus’ total energy needs. At the time of the West Village energy usage report’s release, researchers had not decided how much energy from the biodigester that they would count toward the neighborhood’s net-zero goal.