Expo 2020 Dubai

Expo 2020 Dubai was the world exposition hosted by the United Arab Emirates from 1st October 2021 to 31st March 2022. Initially, due to start in October 2020, the Expo was moved to 2022 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but retained the same name due to branding, ‘Expo 2020 Dubai’. By the close of the event more than 24 million people visited the 200+ pavilions located across a 1,083sqm site between the emirates of Dubai and Abu Dhabi.  [1]

Expo’s goal was to be a “festival of human ingenuity,” displaying the importance of collaboration and partnership as the engines of growth in today’s world. It also focused on generating sustainable solutions to global problems through encouraging collaboration across cultures, nations, and regions.

The masterplan was designed by American firm HOK, to express Expo’s theme of “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future.” The design featured a central plaza called “Al Wasl,” the historic Arabic name of Dubai meaning “the connection,” which is located in the heart of Expo and surrounded by three districts, or subthemes – Sustainability, Mobility, and Opportunity. 

  1. Opportunity – The Mission Possible – The Opportunity Pavilion was designed by AGi Architects, focusing on the need for financial capital to support growth, partnerships and to drive innovation and employment 
  2. MobilityAlif – The Mobility Pavilion designed by Foster and Partners, expressed the need for physical mobility for people, access and distribution for goods and services, and digital connectivity. 
  3. SustainabilityTerra – The Sustainability Pavilion was designed by Grimshaw Architects. Its concentration is on the use of sustainable use of natural resources to support future generations as well as recognition of the role of natural and built environments in promoting human and community well-being. [2]

District 2020 – Expo 2020 Dubai’s Legacy

Expo 2020 Dubai marked several firsts:

  • First inaugural world expo was held in the region – Middle East, Africa, South Asia
  • First time each of the 192 participating nations had its own pavilion
  • First expo to focus on sustainability

From the start, the Expo was designed to function as an exemplar for sustainable liveable design. Many sustainable processes were implemented during the event including wastewater recycling, material re-use and carbon footprint monitoring. In a departure from previous Expos, the Dubai site was designed with the intention that a good part of the exhibition’s structures will remain in some form – as a tangible expression of sustainability. In the past, most expo structures were dismantled at the conclusion of the six-month event. 

Expo 2020 Dubai featured the world’s largest 360-degree projection surface and 200,000 sqm of LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold and Platinum certified structures. 121 permanent buildings constructed for Expo 2020 Dubai were certified by the US Green Building Council under LEED. Out of the 121 LEED-certified buildings, 103 are also LEED Gold, nine are LEED Silver and two are ‘Certified’. [3]

Read more about LEED Certified Interiors in UAE

Terra, the sustainability pavilion, is a breath-taking achievement, featuring a 440ft wide steel canopy with over one thousand solar panels. The structure produces its own energy, cooling, and water. [4] It stands as a liveable representation of what can be achieved using sustainable technology.

As part of its enduring legacy, District 2020 will repurpose 80% of the Expo 2020’s structures. District 2020 will develop into a smart, sustainable mixed-use settlement, including residential areas, green spaces, and business zones. It will ultimately accommodate nearly 150,000 people.

District 2020 will be home to global, government and local businesses, including anchor tenants Siemens, following a 10-year lease agreement, [5] DP World and Terminus Technologies. It will also be supporting entrepreneurs, and start-ups under the District 2020’s global entrepreneurship programme Scale2Dubai which will welcome its first cohort in October 2022. [6]

Video Credit: District 2020

District 2020 will be a community of the future, using state-of-the-art design and technology to provide residents with a cleaner, healthier, and more sustainable environment for living, working, and playing.

Highlights include:

  • Retaining many Expo attractions including 
    • Al Wasl Plaza Rove hotel
    • Terra and Alif (the sustainability and mobility pavilions)
    • UAE, KSA and India pavilions
    • Dubai Exhibition Centre 
    • Gravity-defying water feature
    • The Observation Tower
  • Dedicated Dubai Metro stop
  • Three 132 KV substations – and integrated solar panels throughout site
  • Human focus so that all amenities are easily accessible in 15 minutes or less with Pedestrian walkways and bike paths 
  • 10 km cycling, jogging or autonomous vehicle track
  • 800 residential units
  • Scale2Dubai, a global entrepreneurship programme to support start-ups and small business
  • Business complex

District 2020 is described as “a blueprint for a human-centric sustainable smart city”. As such, it is the region’s very first registered community development that is seeking certification through the WELL Community Standard pilot. [7]

The district scale program sets a benchmark for healthy communities and builds on the WELL building standard expanding to all the public spaces where people spend their days. “A WELL community functions to protect health and well-being across all aspects of community life.” [8]

Fit Out and Construction Industry Opportunities after Expo 2020 Dubai

Expo 2020 Dubai serves as an inspiration for integrating sustainable practices in the way we live, work and travel. More than 100,000 visitors were asked about their experience after visiting Terra, the sustainability pavilion. 96% stated that they were inspired to change their behaviours by reducing waste, conserving water, growing plants, and using less plastic. For designers and contractors specialising in sustainability – Expo 2020 Dubai has demonstrated that the wider public is willing to adopt sustainability as part of their lives – if the solutions offered are convenient and workable. 

The continuing legacy of Expo 2020 Dubai will provide further opportunities for the region’s fit out and construction industry. The Expo refocused attention on the importance of creating sustainable living spaces and on repurposing sustainable buildings and interiors. The Expo demonstrated a wealth of best-in-class sustainability designs and solutions. [9] In years to come, Expo 2020 Dubai and the District 2020 will serve as an inspiration and benchmark for new projects in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and the wider region. The LEED certified buildings in Expo 2020 Dubai are being repurposed – beginning new lives in a human-centred mixed-use community.

In 2021, the UAE commercial fit out sector was valued at USD 1,486 million with a forecast of continuing solid growth. Expo 2020 has raised awareness among developers and other clients of the possibilities of reinventing and refurbishing existing spaces rather than constructing new buildings from scratch. [10]

Benefits of Sustainable Buildings & Interior Fit Outs

Sustainable construction and fit out delivers numerous benefits to individuals, businesses and the wider community including:

Read more on our blog “Environmentally Sustainable Workplace Fit Out Saves Money: How to Stay Cool & Cut Costs

Future of the Fit Out and Construction Industry

The Covid-19 pandemic had a devastating impact on the global economy. Finally, after the last two difficult years, and easing of restrictions the economy is starting to rebuild. Expo 2020 Dubai ushered in a new era of optimism and helped boost demand in many industries. Expo 2020 Dubai’s sustainable construction and fit outs will serve as a model for many new developments and projects in the UAE – displaying state of the art use of energy saving and resource saving practices, sustainable design, and structure repurposing.Summertown Interiors is the UAE’s leading commercial fit out and design and build contractor specialising in sustainable interiors. For over 20 years, we have been committed to creating commercial interiors spaces in an environmentally friendly and sustainability way. For us, it is more than just our business, it is our mission. Get in touch today to discuss how you can use what has been learned in Expo 2020 Dubai to enhance your project.


Cover image – The National

[1] https://www.thenationalnews.com/uae/expo-2020/2022/04/02/expo-2020-dubai-records-more-than-24-million-visits-after-late-surge-in-numbers/

[2] https://www.Expo2020dubai.com/en/understanding-expo

[3] https://www.commercialinteriordesign.com/expo-2020-dubai/expo-2020-dubai-now-home-to-121-leed-certified-buildings

[4] https://edition.cnn.com/travel/article/sustainability-pavilion-expo-2020-water-energy-dubai-spc-intl/index.html

[5] https://www.district2020.ae/en/news/siemens-signs-10-year-lease-agreement-at-district-2020#:~:text=As%20Expo%202020%20Dubai’s%20Official,%2C%20energy%2C%20and%20future%20technologies

[6] https://www.khaleejtimes.com/business/district-2020-to-host-85-start-ups-as-part-of-its-scale2dubai-initiative

[7] https://resources.wellcertified.com/press-releases/well-movement-takes-off-in-the-middle-east/

[8] https://www.wellcertified.com/certification/community/

[9] https://www.summertown.ae/insight-into-how-expo-2020-dubai-is-shaping-sustainable-future/

[10] https://www.zawya.com/en/business/uae-fit-out-sector-one-of-fastest-growing-industries-in-the-gcc-i04wrv6d