Masdar City: Towards a greener planet

June 8, 2013 2:18 pm0 comments by:
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The Masdar Institute: Centre Courtyard and windtower

Pitched as one of the most sustainable communities on the planet, Masdar City, Abu Dhabi, has taken the overused yet under-enforced principle of sustainable development by storm. By harnessing solar energy, this futuristic city has forged its way towards achieving the status of one of the World’s most sustainable developments, and stands tall as an example to World of the benefits of using renewable energy technology.

With a vision to create the highest quality of life and work environment with the lowest environmental footprint, Masdar City already provides a home to students, retail, services, and food and beverage outlets in the 35,000m2 development that has currently been constructed. The estimated finishing date for the City is 2025, at which point it is anticipated that the City will be home to 40,000 residents and 50,000 commuters. The whole development is estimated to cost between US$18-US$19 billion.

Once completed, the City aims to provide transportation, energy, retail, leisure and educational facilities to rival any other. Amongst others, the following facilities are proposed to be made available to residents and visitors of the City once fully developed:

Transport
– The development plans a transportation network whereby you will never be more than 250m away from public transport when within the City.
– The City will contain the World’s first large-scale zero emission transportation system – consisting of a subway of driverless electric vehicles to carry both people and freight.
– Above ground, a ground-level light rail system and subterranean high speed train will function to link Masdar City with Abu Dhabi.

Energy
– The City will obtain 100% of its energy from renewable sources including solar, geothermal and waste.
– Waste water within the City will be processed and used to enhance the surrounding landscape.
– The sun is harnessed for solar energy; however it is also used to heat water for the City.
– Smart buildings and appliances monitor consumption to reduce energy usage – These monitors analyse every action requiring electricity and allow the power provider to intervene and understand which resident is using the most energy, and how.

Retail
– Existing retail within the City currently includes: various food outlets, a health insurance provider, telecoms provider Etisalat, express delivery company Aramex, Omeir Travel, the National Bank of Abu Dhabi, and Modern National Laundry.
– It is anticipated that significantly more retail outlets will open in Masdar City, as the development continues to grow..

Leisure
– Leisure facilities within the fully completed City will include: recreational fields and sport areas, a swimming pool, a fitness centre and indoor gym.

Education
– The City is home to the Masdar Institute – The World’s first University dedicated to studying sustainability and renewable technologies.
– IRENA (The International Renewable Energy Agency) has chosen to base its Head Quarters in Masdar City – IRENA represents over 100 states and the European Union and aims to help countries achieve their clean energy potential and promotes renewable resources and technologies.
– The construction of the City has led to raised standards of local suppliers, and has resulted in raised awareness of environmental problems within local schools.

Masdar City has been described as being ‘one of a kind.’ However the sustainable city is not a new idea. Masdar claims to have taken inspiration from Shibam in Yemen, Aleppo in Syria and Marrakesh in Morocco. However, the way in which the development has taken an area of formidable desert surroundings and used the natural solar resources in the area to its advantage is truly ground-breaking. This has led the ‘One Planet Living’ initiative from the World Wildlife Foundation and BioRegional to name Masdar City as one of its flagship communities that is built in accordance with its 10 principles.

From the way in which the streets of Masdar are designed so as to create shade and keep the streets cool, to the iconic wind tower that is designed to direct upper-level winds to the street level to ensure the comfort of residents – the designers of Masdar City have not only created a carbon friendly City, they have aimed to create a comfortable living environment in a hostile desert area by using the local weather systems to their advantage.

The lessons that can be learnt from the design and construction of Masdar City are endless. By considering the ways in which planners and developers can use the local climate and weather systems to their advantage, carbon neutral buildings and designs can become a future reality. Developers should heed the example of Masdar City to ensure that the World stays ahead of the race to prevent global climate change.

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The Author

 Catherine Caine is an environmental law expert and the Managing Editor for the inaugural issue of the North East Law Review at Newcastle University. She completed her law degree at Bournemouth University, before joining Newcastle University where she is currently reading LLM Environmental Law and Policy. Her current research interests lie in sustainable development, the construction of renewable energy projects and climate change law. 

 

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