Marjan Faraidooni, Chief Experience Officer, Expo 2020 Dubai explains why the event’s sustainability Pavilion is an important moment in the UAE’s journey to becoming a more sustainable destination.
As Chief Experience Officer at Expo 2020 Dubai Marjan Faraidooni, oversees the development and operations of Expo 2020-led Thematic Pavilions and engaging exhibitions that bring to life the Expo 2020 theme of ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the Future’ and the subthemes of Opportunity, Mobility and Sustainability. Earlier this year Expo 2020 showcased a preview of Terra – The Sustainability Pavilion which will showcase the latest innovations and developments in sustainability in the UAE when it formally opens this October. As we near closer to the opening of Expo 2020 Dubai, we discover more about what to expect concerning sustainability at the event and how it will set the bar for a greener planet.
Tell us about Terra – The Sustainability Pavilion at Expo 2020 and what you want to achieve with the project?
Terra – The Sustainability Pavilion will bring to life the UAE and Expo 2020’s commitment to sustainability, acting as a catalyst for change in the UAE, the region and globally, by empowering visitors of all nationalities, ages and interests to make more sustainable choices in their own lives. Expo 2020 Dubai aims to be one of the most sustainable World Expos in history and supports the UAE’s efforts as a champion of sustainable development. Sustainability is also one of Expo 2020’s three key subthemes, and the six months of Expo will serve as a platform to drive change, share solutions and explore new ideas that encourage us to act collectively to save our planet and build a cleaner, safer, healthier world.
What has been the feedback so far?
The three-month preview of Terra earlier this year welcomed more than 100,000 visitors – and 96 per cent of those surveyed said they were inspired to change their behaviour, by avoiding waste, saving water, growing plants and making conscious efforts to use less plastic. Meanwhile, parents also reported a high score for Terra’s positive impact on their children (8.1 to 8.5 on a nine-point scale). This highlights the huge public interest in what Expo 2020 has to offer, and how Expo can support our collective responsibility to look after the planet.
What are some of the points that you think need to be addressed in relation to sustainability in the UAE?
The 2030 Global Agenda for Sustainable Development highlights 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that will drive the transformation to a sustainable future – essential targets for the UAE and the rest of the world to address. The UAE has placed sustainable development at the heart of its national plans and is driving action through the National Committee on Sustainable Development Goals. One of the key ways that the UAE is making a difference is by implementing green building practices that affect how buildings and cities are designed, built and maintained, resulting in a wide range of social, economic and environmental benefits. Additionally, Dubai plans to reduce energy and water consumption by 30 per cent, increase the amount of solar power in the country to 25 per cent by 2030, and achieve 75 per cent clean energy by 2050.
How does Terra – Sustainability Pavilion embody the theme of ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the Future’?
Our theme, ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the Future’, connects innovation and progress and aims to bring together people and ideas in new and unique ways. That is brought to life in Terra – Sustainability Pavilion. An exemplar of contemporary, ultra-sustainable design, the pavilion has more than 4,900 solar panels, which are designed to produce four gigawatt-hours per year of electricity, and is built to the top-level Platinum LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) green building standards. As one of the Expo 2020 Dubai’s signature experiences, it will take millions of visitors on an immersive journey through the wonders of the natural world and inspire them to help create a better, more sustainable future.
How is the pavilion helping to educate the younger generation on sustainability?
Through its interactive experiences, the pavilion is helping the younger generation to understand their impact on the environment, break the cycle of consumerism and empowering them to make a positive impact on the planet. These range from a meeting with ‘Gnasher’, a giant consumption machine that shows how natural resources are being destroyed to make consumer products, to a series of ‘Would you rather?’ scenarios to challenge visitors to consider how individual behaviours directly impact our planet.
Tell us about the plans to transition the pavilion into a permanent structure after Expo 2020?
Terra will continue to inspire sustainable choices in generations to come, becoming a Children’s Science Centre and a permanent part of the future city of District 2020. In legacy, it aspires to be a self-sustaining building, generating 100 per cent of its energy and water supply. Moreover, District 2020 will be a model global community for the future that will use state-of-the-art innovation, science and sustainability to create a cleaner, safer, healthier environment to live and work.
This past year has been an unusual one – how has the pandemic affected your strategy and what are some of the changes you have made to adapt?
Considering the upheaval that the world has gone through during the last year, and the challenges that lie ahead, our theme of ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the Future’ is more relevant now than ever – humanity needs to come together to build bridges, enable action and inspire real-life solutions to real-world challenges.
The health, safety and well-being of everyone visiting and working at Expo 2020 Dubai has been, and continues to be, our number one priority. We have acted quickly and responsibly to meet the challenges of COVID-19, introducing several precautionary measures across the site, in line with the latest guidance from the UAE Ministry of Health and Prevention and Dubai Health Authority (DHA) and the World Health Organization.
This includes the installation of thermal cameras and sanitisation stations across the site, mandatory face-mask wearing and the implementation of stringent social-distancing regulations, as well as increased deep cleaning and specialised medical facilities, including provisions for rapid COVID testing. We will continue to monitor and adjust these measures as necessary, as our opening date of October 1st approaches and the situation continues to evolve.
Our participants continue to show their support and commitment, as most recently seen at Expo 2020’s final International Participants Meeting (IPM), which took place in May 2021. We welcomed more than 370 delegates from around the world to the UAE – representing 173 participating countries and 24 participating organisations – to witness and discuss everything related to Expo, including health-and-safety measures, ticket details, country announcements and more. This also highlighted their commitment towards Expo 2020’s shared goals.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the UAE – how are you marking this occasion at Expo 2020?
Celebrating this day is important, as it is a testament to the continuous efforts that the leaders of this nation have invested in progressing the role of women and in believing in the power of their contribution to the growth and development of this nation. Emirati women’s involvement in different fields and sectors has been instrumental and has provided a strong foundation that will continue to support the UAE’s ambitions and efforts in its preparations for the next 50 years. This day reminds every Emirati woman that the sky is the limit and that she is supported in her pursuit of whatever she has set her mind to. The impressive number of Emirati women who make up the workforce of the Expo, many of whom hold critical leadership positions across the organisation, highlights Emirati women’s crucial role in delivering one of the most important events of our nation’s history, supported by the leaders of the nation. Emirati women are also vital to the delivery of Expo 2020 and Expo’s aim of building a long-lasting legacy beyond the event.
What should we be most excited about at Expo 2020?
As the first global event to take place since the pandemic began, Expo 2020 will serve as a beacon of hope and inspiration. To see more than 200 organisations, including 190-plus countries, come together for the first World Expo to take place in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia (MEASA) region for six unforgettable months will be truly awe-inspiring, and will offer the perfect opportunity to celebrate and galvanise global collaboration to preserve and protect our planet.
What are your expectations in terms of visitors coming to the mega-event and what has been the feedback from markets so far?
We continue to look forward to welcoming millions of visitors from around the world to visit Expo 2020 Dubai. We are following the current global situation in relation to COVID-19 closely and will update our modelling accordingly as the event approaches. In addition to direct ticket sales, we are working with more than 2,500 online travel agents, tour operators, hotel groups and airlines from more than 100 countries that have signed on as Authorised Ticket Resellers of Expo 2020 Dubai.
Tell us about the recent collaboration you had with Art Dubai?
Expo 2020 worked with Art Dubai to co-commission five artworks by four artists – Zeinab Alhashemi (Takween), Mohammed Ahmed Ibrahim (Hugs), Mohammed Kazem (Directions (Expo 2020) and Measuring) and Ayman Zedani (Terrapolis) to present unique responses to sustainability issues, complementing and adding an extra layer of engagement to the Sustainability Pavilion visitor experience, as well as to support the local arts scene and showcase young, and established, Emirati and regional artists. Indeed, many of our programmes are designed to highlight the UAE as a global centre of the creative and knowledge economy in the region.
Tell us a little about you – what inspired you to take on this role, what is your biggest achievement so far and what would you like to achieve?
I joined Expo in 2014 and was inspired by the grand vision of Expo 2020, and its potential social and economic impact that it would have, not only on the year that it would be hosting the event, but for many years to come. To be able to work for a project that is going to bring the world together in one place, inspiring and connecting people on serious issues that impact humanity, is humbling and rewarding. My hopes once Expo opens its doors to visitors from different walks of life is to enrich their understanding of the world and nudge them to be change-makers for a better future.
What is the professional motto you live by?
Working with the spirit of collaboration based on a strong foundation of respect, integrity and humility is key in the delivery of success in any organisation.
What is a message you would send to our readers on why they should visit `Terra – The Sustainability Pavilion?
Terra offers an extraordinary journey into the wonders of nature and boldly presents how each of our actions have had an impact on the environment. It also offers hope for a better future at balance with nature and will get you to realize that you too can be an agent of change to join the making of a new, healthy world.