• The 'energy tree' at the Dubai Expo is made from 97% recycled steel that supports more than 1,055 solar panels.
  • The structure forms a key part of an overall strategy to create a building that is self-sufficient in both water and electricity.
  • The pavilion was built for Emirati real estate development company Emaar Properties and will contain exhibits focused on sustainability.

UK studio Grimshaw has designed a pavilion topped with a 135-metre-wide, solar-panel-covered canopy to anchor the sustainability district at the Dubai Expo.

Named Terra, the pavilion stands at one of the main entrances to the site and generates all its own water and energy.

The Sustainability Pavilion stands near one of the expo's entrances
The Sustainability Pavilion stands near one of the expo's entrances
Image: Dezeen

Designed as the main permanent building within the sustainability district, the pavilion contains 6,000 square metres of exhibition spaces that are largely embedded in the ground.

These spaces are covered with earth roofs and shaded by a giant tree-like canopy made from 97 per cent recycled steel that supports more than 1,055 solar panels.

It is sheltered by a large tree-like structure
It is sheltered by a large tree-like structure
Image: Dezeen

Informed by the drought-tolerant Ghaf Tree, this angled, oval-shaped canopy is supported on a central column.

The structure forms a key part of the studio's strategy to create a building that is self-sufficient in both water and electricity.

The structure also supports over 1,000 solar panels.
The structure also supports over 1,000 solar panels.
Image: Dezeen

The solar panels on the main canopy, along with eighteen smaller, rotating Energy Trees that surround it, are expected to generate four gigawatt hours of electricity annually.

Grimshaw's Sustainability Pavilion was also designed to reuse 100 per cent of the water it uses.

The canopy provides shade for the buildings containing the exhibitions.
The canopy provides shade for the buildings containing the exhibitions.
Image: Dezeen

The main canopy acts as a collection area for stormwater and dew, while further water is captured in smaller water trees surrounding the main structure.

Also surrounding the main building are a series of gardens planted to create a water-efficient landscape that is used to filter, supply and recycle water.

"Key to our design approach was developing a ranked matrix of project and place-based potential, leading the team to prioritise designs, which will have the greatest potential to yield positive transformational change for our client and the communities in which the project is situated," explained the studio.

"For this project, we can point to both the combination of passive design strategies, energy efficiency optimizations and on-site energy generation, as well as the on-site water reuse as the key prioritizations."

Gardens surrounding the pavilion contain Energy Trees.
Gardens surrounding the pavilion contain Energy Trees.
Image: Dezeen

The pavilion is arranged around the column supporting the tree-like canopy. An open courtyard is wrapped around the column, with the exhibition spaces contained in a series of concrete structures embedded in the ground.

The external walls of the exhibition halls were constructed from gabion walls filled with stone from the Hajar Mountains.

Exhibits show natural environments and demonstrate the impact humans are having
Exhibits show natural environments and demonstrate the impact humans are having
Image: Dezeen

The pavilion's immersive exhibitions were designed by New York-based designers Thinc in collaboration with the Eden Project.

What's the World Economic Forum doing about the transition to clean energy?

Moving to clean energy is key to combating climate change, yet in the past five years, the energy transition has stagnated.

Energy consumption and production contribute to two-thirds of global emissions, and 81% of the global energy system is still based on fossil fuels, the same percentage as 30 years ago. Plus, improvements in the energy intensity of the global economy (the amount of energy used per unit of economic activity) are slowing. In 2018 energy intensity improved by 1.2%, the slowest rate since 2010.

Effective policies, private-sector action and public-private cooperation are needed to create a more inclusive, sustainable, affordable and secure global energy system.

Benchmarking progress is essential to a successful transition. The World Economic Forum’s Energy Transition Index, which ranks 115 economies on how well they balance energy security and access with environmental sustainability and affordability, shows that the biggest challenge facing energy transition is the lack of readiness among the world’s largest emitters, including US, China, India and Russia. The 10 countries that score the highest in terms of readiness account for only 2.6% of global annual emissions.

To future-proof the global energy system, the Forum’s Shaping the Future of Energy and Materials Platform is working on initiatives including, Systemic Efficiency, Innovation and Clean Energy and the Global Battery Alliance to encourage and enable innovative energy investments, technologies and solutions.

Additionally, the Mission Possible Platform (MPP) is working to assemble public and private partners to further the industry transition to set heavy industry and mobility sectors on the pathway towards net-zero emissions. MPP is an initiative created by the World Economic Forum and the Energy Transitions Commission.

Is your organisation interested in working with the World Economic Forum? Find out more here.

In the galleries, visitors will be taken on a journey into the world's forests and sea and be shown the impact humans are having on the world.

The pavilion was built for Emirati real estate development company Emaar Properties and will contain exhibits focused on sustainability throughout the six-month expo.

Following the event, the building will be converted into a permanent museum dedicated to science and sustainability.

The Dubai Expo is the latest World Expo – an international exhibition designed to showcase architecture and innovation.

The six-month event will see contributions from 180 countries, including pavilions from the UK and the Netherlands, as well as the Qatar Pavilion and the UAE Pavilion by Santiago Calatrava.