With over a third of the world's cranes hard at work building artificial islands, an underwater hotel, and the world's tallest building, biggest mall and most expensive airport, the United Arab Emirates has now turned it attention to building the world's most sustainable city. Masdar City, a $22 billion initiative to build a brand new, zero-emissions city for 50,000 from scratch in Abu Dhabi, got underway last month.
The ambitious project, planned by British firm Foster + Partners, was one of the first ecocity projects to receive widespread coverage in the mainstream press (see the Guardian and BusinessWeek's coverage of the initiative), and is supported by, among others, the World Wildlife Fund. Even George W. Bush has expressed interest in the project.
Masdar, overview (artist's conception)
©2007 Foster + Partners
Oil Emirate to Build First New Carfree CityThe UK architecture firm of Foster + Partners has announced that the walled city of Masdar in Abu Dhabi, being designed by the firm, will be the world's first zero-carbon, zero-waste city. Masdar is a 6 sq-km (1500 acre) carfree walled city. Abu Dhabi’s Future Energy Company is the project sponsor and will locate its headquarters in the city, which will also include a new university, special economic zones, and an Innovation Center.
Norman Foster said, "The environmental ambitions of the Masdar Initiative - zero carbon and waste free - are a world first. They have provided us with a challenging design brief that promises to question conventional urban wisdom at a fundamental level. Masdar promises to set new benchmarks for the sustainable city of the future." The plans were unveiled 8 May 2007 at the Cityscape conference in Abu Dhabi. Masdar will be a dense, walled development built in two phases. Wind parks, photovoltaic farms, research fields, and plantations will be sited outside the walls, enabling the city to be fully self-sustaining, according to Foster. The development is set to open in late 2009.
©2007 Foster + Partners
Most interestingly, the project will be based on the traditional planning principles of walled cities, united with new technologies, to achieve the sustainability target. The city will be linked by a network of existing road and new rail and public transport routes to surrounding communities, the center of Abu Dhabi, and the international airport.
The maximum distance to public transport will be 200 meters (about 220 yards), and a compact network of streets will encourages walking. A personal rapid transport system will be constructed. Shaded walkways and narrow streets are expected to create a pedestrian-friendly environment, no mean feat in Abu Dhabi's scorching climate."Images: Foster unveils green utopia in the desert"
8 May 2007
"World's first zero carbon, zero waste city in Abu Dhabi"
Foster + Partners
BBSNews 2008-03-18 -- DUBAI (IRIN) The United Arab Emirates (UAE), which has one of the largest per capita carbon footprints in the world, opened a US$22 billion eco-city project in Abu Dhabi in February 2008.
The project, known as Masdar City, will create the world's first zero-carbon, zero-waste, car-free city, officials say.
"It is a noble project to integrate all the components of a futuristic and eco-friendly city. It hopes to set the trend in property development, renewable energy, sustainable habitat and climate change mitigation all in one project. It is setting the bar high for other initiatives to follow and it will set a benchmark in the fight against further global warming," Habiba al-Marahi, chairperson of Emirates Environmental Group (EEG), a local non-governmental organization, told IRIN.
The UAE is ranked 43rd by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change but its per capita emissions are among the highest in the world.
The World Wildlife Fund (WWF - also known as the World-Wide Fund for Nature) 2006 report said the average person in the UAE puts greater demand on the global ecosystem than in any other country, because of the huge requirement for air-conditioning, the number of vehicles on the road, energy intensive desalination plants, and rapid development. The USA came second.
Masdar City is a One Planet LivingT project -- a global initiative launched by WWF and environmental consultancy BioRegional. "For projects to achieve the standard, they must have a sustainability action plan that addresses the 10 principles of sustainability as defined by One Planet Living, and must meet specific targets for each of those principles," Eduardo Gonçalves, global communications coordinator for One Planet Living at WWF International told IRIN. The 10 principles include zero carbon, zero waste, sustainable transport, sustainable food and water, and use of local and sustainable materials.
Model for other countries?
According to Masdar City officials, the project will use photovoltaic panels to generate electricity. Cooling will be provided via concentrated solar power, while water will be made available through a solar-powered desalination plant. Landscaping within the city and crops grown outside the city will be irrigated with grey (recycled household) water and treated waste water.
"Every One Planet Living [project] is unique and faces different challenges because of soil, precipitation, climate, geology and existing regulations. For example, in this project it may be how to keep people cool without consuming huge amounts of energy, or feeding people sustainably without having to resort to large amounts of imports, Gonçalves said.
When completed, the project will serve as a model for other countries and will prove that the UAE can achieve high levels of economic development without compromising natural resources, according to Habib al-Habr, director of the UN Environmental Program (UNEP) regional office for West Asia.
"There are many cities in the world which have designated a city or part of a city as zero-emission or carbon-free zones, like London. Several cities also adopted the concept of zero-waste. But the most important thing is to apply such concepts on a larger scale and put policies and measures in place to make existing cities more sustainable," he said.
Environment specialists say Masdar City will face some challenges. "The biggest challenge will be to source the expertise required to help Masdar meet all its objectives and in so doing create the market for high quality and measurably effective green developments," said Razan al-Mubarak, managing director of Emirates Wildlife Society - World Wide Fund for Nature (EWS-WWF).
World's first zero carbon, zero waste city in Abu Dhabi
The first project as a result of the Masdar Initiative is a new 6 million square meter sustainable development that uses the traditional planning principals of a walled city, together with existing technologies, to achieve a zero carbon and zero waste community. Masterplanned by Foster + Partners, the initiative has been driven by the Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company, and will be a centre for the development of new ideas for energy production. Masdar responds to the urban identity of Abu Dhabi while offering a sustainable urban blueprint for the future. Due to be launched at Cityscape Abu Dhabi 2007, it is an ambitious project that will attract the highest levels of international expertise and commerce, providing a mixed-use, high-density city. The exciting programme includes a new university, the Headquarters for Abu Dhabi’s Future Energy Company, special economic zones and an Innovation Center.
Norman Foster said:
“The environmental ambitions of the Masdar Initiative – zero carbon and waste free – are a world first. They have provided us with a challenging design brief that promises to question conventional urban wisdom at a fundamental level. Masdar promises to set new benchmarks for the sustainable city of the future.”
The principle of the Masdar development is a dense walled city to be constructed in an energy efficient two-stage phasing that relies on the creation of a large photovoltaic power plant, which later becomes the site for the city’s second phase, allowing for urban growth yet avoiding low density sprawl. Strategically located for Abu Dhabi’s principal transport infrastructure, Masdar will be linked to surrounding communities, as well as the centre of Abu Dhabi and the international airport, by a network of existing road and new rail and public transport routes.
Rooted in a zero carbon ambition, the city itself is car free. With a maximum distance of 200m to the nearest transport link and amenities, the compact network of streets encourages walking and is complemented by a personalised rapid transport system. The shaded walkways and narrow streets will create a pedestrian-friendly environment in the context of Abu Dhabi’s extreme climate. It also articulates the tightly planned, compact nature of traditional walled cities. With expansion carefully planned, the surrounding land will contain wind, photovoltaic farms, research fields and plantations, so that the city will be entirely self-sustaining.