Masdar, the Green City

What should the city of the future be like? Should the focus be on technology? Catering to everyone’s needs? To answer that we would probably need to know what the future is going to be like. Either way, Abu Dhabi went ahead and designed their version of a city made for the future and they have already started building it. It is called Masdar City and it aims to be a sustainable place that relies solely on renewable energy sources. Six square kilometres of environmentally sustainable architecture, with a capacity to house up to 50,000 people, 1,500 businesses and an extra 60,000 daily commuters.

The city will be powered by a mix of renewable energy sources the main one being solar energy. Two gigantic solar power plants will be built on the outskirts of the city and solar panels will be placed on most roofs, with the total production amounting to 130 megawatts. Wind and geothermal energy will also be used to power the city but on a much smaller scale. In addition to these energy sources, Masdar City will have the world’s largest hydrogen reactor.

The aim of the city is not only to produce clean energy but to maximize its use. Thus, the city has been designed to minimize the use of air conditioning. Buildings will be build close together, making sure they shade each other, and carefully positioned as to maximize the cooling powers of wind currents. Most materials, such as the tiles on the floor, will have cooling properties, and the city will have a perimeter wall designed to keep out the hot desert winds.

Masdar City
Masdar City’s architecture and materials reduce the need for air conditioning

As for transportation, the motorized vehicles are banned from the city, to reduced carbon dioxide emissions. The original project intended for people to move around using public mass transit and personal rapid transit (PRT) systems. The idea was abandoned to reduce costs but only electric vehicles will be allowed to circulate inside the city. A minor setback in a project that seems to be worth the wait and that, besides its environmental motivation, has an economic one.

Masdar means ‘source’ in Arabic, and the thought behind this project is also to make sure Abu Dhabi is ready when fossil fuels become obsolete or the country’s reserves run out. In a way, it is a way to diversify the country’s income and energy source. The emirate’s economy is dependent on oil exports so why not diversify? The aim is to spend less on energy production to maximize oil profits, while they last. At the same time, the country’s government, which is main stakeholder of the entire project, is investing in the development of new technology that one day might be sold to every corner of the planet, as the world turns green.

The entire project is expected to cost between 13,4 and 15,8 billion euros and has been delayed due to the global impact of the financial crisis. It was supposed to be completed by 2015, a deadline that has been pushed to 2025. However, despite the delays, some of the city’s facilities are already functional, such as the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology, a research facility developed in partnership with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and that has been helping with the engineering plans for the city.

Masdar Institute of Science and Technology
The Masdar Institute of Science and Technology

What at first looks like one of the many megalomaniac projects we are used to see in Gulf countries, is actually an interesting endeavour to create a sustainable, efficient and, ultimately, marketable concept of a city that can become essential in years to come. Men’s impact on the planet is less and less up to debate and Masdar City explores solutions to some of the issues posed by our actions on Earth. The idea can inspire others to follow the same path and, hopefully, lead humankind towards a more clean and sustainable way of life.

I recommend watching the following report from Bloomberg Brink for additional information:

Watch the full report here.

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