Building the Sustainable Future - January 2019


The hues of Warner Bros. World Abu Dhabi reflect the sun’s rays, keeping the 1.65 million square feet of the indoor park cooler. (Credit: Scott Fais)

In the new year, attractions of all sizes are reducing their carbon footprint and planning expansions with a nod to sustainability. 

“At an ever-increasing rate, visitors want to see businesses take a proactive effort that’s in favor of being a responsible partner. That expectation is already out there, and it’s only going to increase,” says 2019 IAAPA Chairman of the Board David Rosenberg.

In correlation with Rosenberg’s year as IAAPA chairman (and the first chairman from the zoo and aquarium community, where he’s vice president of the Monterey Bay Aquarium), along with support from the IAAPA Zoo and Aquarium Committee, Funworld will take a monthly look at sustainability efforts across the global attractions industry in the year ahead.

Regionally, several attractions have committed to sustainable methods that continue to yield positive publicity and set an example for others to follow. This issue’s cover story is no exception.

Design and construction of Warner Bros. World Abu Dhabi followed the Estidama principle at work in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

“It’s a lifestyle that has a payback,” explains Mark Gsellman, the vice president of theme parks for Farah Experiences, the operator of Warner Bros. World Abu Dhabi.

Thoughts for Sustainable Construction

The World Green Building Council suggests these ideas when taking a sustainable approach to construction:

  • Plan to minimize energy use, making new and renovated buildings less expensive to run.
  • Harvest rainwater to aid in flushing toilets after storms.
  • Bring fresh air inside, while avoiding materials that create harmful emissions.
  • Incorporate natural light.
  • Consider sound insulation to help in recuperation during a busy day.
  • Design additions to be flexible—where a retail space today can become a food service location in the future, thus avoiding the need to demolish or rebuild.
  • Use local goods that will reduce the distances needed to ship supplies.

Estidama is the Arabic word for sustainability. The program is a collection of ideals incorporated into mandatory building codes. Warner Bros. World Abu Dhabi developer Miral Asset Management instructed the exterior walls of the new indoor theme park maintain a reflective tan and yellow color pattern as not to attract heat (where summer afternoons can reach 115 degrees Fahrenheit). The effort led to a two Pearl Rating (a green building rating system). 

“It’s required for us, but also provides an energy savings,” Gsellman says, adding the use of additional insulation helps seal the massive structure.

Just the opposite is planned in the Asia-Pacific region, where a new water park under construction at Ocean Park Hong Kong will feature an indoor component with massive sliding glass doors. Walter Kerr, executive director of the project development division at Ocean Park, says when opened, the glass panels will allow cool sea breezes inside, reducing the need for air conditioning.

In North America, the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, California, was one of the first aquariums to construct a carbon-neutral building. A renovation of the Pacific Collections Store included using skylights and solar tubes for natural day lighting, along with recycled flooring materials. More than 90 percent of the construction waste was sent to a recycling facility instead of being dumped in a landfill.

For raising awareness of the sustainable movement in Latin America, Xcaret in Mexico won the 2018 Liseberg Applause Award at IAAPA Attractions Expo 2018.

“Xcaret balances world-class experiences based on native culture and natural attractions, with sustainable operations and a strong commitment to the local community,” says Andreas Andersen, president and CEO of Liseberg Group and chairman of IAAPA’s new sustainability task force. Andersen says the efforts outlined here are shining examples of how the global attractions industry can promote productive standards.

“We would like to have a positive influence outside our gates. We can use our platforms to educate our guests and make a positive difference,” he believes.

Making a difference?
Let Funworld Managing Editor Scott Fais know. Contact him at