Sustainable Cities™

Masdar: 1001 nights sustainable venture

Abu Dhabi, capital of the United Arab Emirates, is currently constructing a carbon neutral, zero waste development, Masdar City. The development planned by British architects Foster + Partners is designed to take into consideration the location of the area, its climate and cultural essence. The town is under construction 17 km east south east of Abu Dhabi with Abu Dhabi International Airport as its closest neighbour. The vision is for Masdar to be 100% carbon free.

Masdar. Foto: Kent Matinussen

he first step in the construction of Masdar is a 40-60 MW solar array located just outside the city walls - in the Arabian desert. The array will initially provide the construction operation with sustainable energy and later the town itself. The town's water resources will come from the water table and will be desalinated using solar-generated electricity. Thermal heating will also be used and all waste will be composted or recycled. Some food will be grown in local greenhouses and vertical gardens. In addition to this, the plan is for Masdar to have the world's largest hydrogen power plant. The combination of all these facilities will make the town 100% carbon and waste free. Masdar is expected to consume 60% less water than ordinary towns and 80% of the water used will be recycled. The planned population of the city will be in the region of 45,000-50,000. Masdar City has high ambitions.

Masdar will be encircled by a wall to shield its inhabitants against the hot desert winds as well as noise from Abu Dhabi Airport. The buildings will be close proximity to each other and population density will be high. Foster Partners' designs have been inspired by traditional Arabian architecture, for example the shape of the so-called wind towers which provide natural, energy-free ventilation. Wind towers draw cold air from the roof into the homes, forcing the warm air upwards and out. Fountains in the backyards of the houses and non-public squares will have a cooling effect by increasing the humidity level to compensate to some extent to the dry heat. The streets will be several metres above ground level to make room for the underground system.

 Masdar is goes green. Photo: Kent Matinussen, Spring 2010

Cars will not be allowed into Masdar, transport being taken care of by a Rapid Transit System. Its solar powered vehicles will be programmable so that passengers can be transported directly to the destination they enter. The coaches will accommodate six people and neither pollute nor make any noise. They will run either under the ground or on rails above street level. This will give the city and incredibly pedestrian-friendly environment at street level and nowhere will be further than 200 m away from public transport stations and other public facilities. The city is expected to have as many as 60,000 commuters who will make use of the existing roads and railways to connect with the surrounding area.

Masdar is being built in seven phases, the first of which is due for completion in 2015. The original plan was for the entire city to be finished by 2016, but the planners have already realised that the development will take at least four to nine more years.

For Masdar, success will not be measured on the speed with which the city is constructed, but the standards it sets in addressing today's energy and sustainability challenges Spokesman for Masdar City

Related cases:

Songdo: Betting on the green instant-city

Dongtan: The wolrd's first large-scale-eco-city

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Thursday, December 02, 2010 / By Signe Cecilie Jochumsen

Last updated Wednesday, June 18, 2014