The United Arab Emirates is experiencing a challenging turn towards sustainable social housing. Conventional neighborhood planning and design principles are being replaced by those leading to more sustainable urban forms. To trace this challenging move, the research has investigated the degree of consideration of sustainable urban design principles in two social housing neighborhoods in Al Ain City in Abu Dhabi Emirate, UAE. The first represents a conventional urban form based on the neighborhood theory; the other represents the new sustainable design. The ultimate aim is to define the obstacles hindering the full achievement of a sustainable urban form in this housing type. To undertake research investigations, a matrix of the design principles of sustainable urban forms has been initiated in order to facilitate the assessment of the urban forms of the two selected urban communities. Some qualitatively measurable design elements have been defined for each of these principles. The results of the analysis of the shift from ‘conventional’ to ‘sustainable’ case studies have revealed some aspects that would prevent the attainment of fully sustainable urban forms in newly designed social housing neighborhoods. Finally, the research concludes by recommending some fundamental actions to help meet these challenges in future design.
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