Masdar City (Arabic: مدينة مصدر, Madīnat Maṣdar, literally Source City) is a project in Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates. Its core is aplanned city, which is being built by the Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company, a subsidiary of Mubadala Development Company, with the majority of seed capital provided by the government of Abu Dhabi. Designed by the British architectural firm Foster and Partners and engineering and environmental consultancy Mott MacDonald, the city will rely entirely on solar energy and other renewable energy sources, with a sustainable,zero-carbon, zero-waste ecology and will be a car free city. The city is being constructed 17 kilometres (11 mi) east-south-east of the city of Abu Dhabi, beside Abu Dhabi International Airport.
Masdar City will host the headquarters of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). The city is designed to be a hub for cleantech companies. Its first tenant is the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology, which has been operating in the city since it moved into its campus in September 2010. The city as a whole was originally intended to be completed by 2016 but that date has now been pushed back to between 2020 and 2025.
DESIGN and INTENT
The project is headed by Masdar, a subsidiary of Mubadala Development Company. Initiated in 2006, the project was projected to costUS$22 billion and take some eight years to build, with the first phase scheduled to be completed and habitable in 2009. Construction began on Masdar City in 2008 and the first six buildings of the city were completed and occupied in October 2010. However, due to the impact of the financial crisis, Phase 1 of the city, the initial 1,000,000 square metres (0.39 sq mi), will be completed in 2015. Final completion is scheduled to occur between 2020 and 2025. The estimated cost of the city has also declined by 10 to 15 percent, putting the development betweenUS$18.7 and 19.8 billion. The city is planned to cover 6 square kilometres (2.3 sq mi) and will be home to 45,000 to 50,000 people and 1,500 businesses, primarily commercial and manufacturing facilities specialising in environmentally friendly products, and more than 60,000 workers are expected to commute to the city daily.
The initial design considered that automobiles would be banned within the city as travel will be accomplished via public mass transit and personal rapid transit (PRT) systems, with existing road and railways connecting to other locations outside the city. The absence of motor vehicles coupled with Masdar’s perimeter wall, designed to keep out the hot desert winds, allows for narrow and shaded streets that help funnel cooler breezes across the city. In October 2010 it was announced the PRT would not expand beyond the pilot scheme due the cost of creating the undercroft to segregate the system from pedestrian traffic. Subsequently, a test fleet of 10 Mitsubishi i-MiEV electric cars was deployed in 2011 as part of a one-year pilot to test a point-to-point transportation solution for the city as a complement to the PRT and the freight rapid transit (FRT), both of which consist of automated electric-powered vehicles.
Masdar City will be the latest of a small number of highly planned, specialized, research and technology-intensive municipalities that incorporate a living environment, similar to KAUST, Saudi Arabia or Tsukuba Science City, Japan.
Partners in the project through its Clean Tech Fund are Consensus Business Group, Credit Suisse and Siemens Venture Capital. Construction of the first phase of the project is being managed by CH2M Hill. Infrastructure construction for the city will be handled by the Al Jaber Group and design of the central Masdar headquarters building has been awarded to Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture.
The Masdar Institute of Science and Technology has been behind the engineering plans of Masdar City and is at the center of research and development activities. The institute, developed in cooperation with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, uses 70% less electricity and potable water than normal buildings of similar size and is fitted with a metering system that constantly observes power consumption.
Masdar will employ a variety of renewable power resources. Among the first construction projects will be a 40 to 60 megawatt PV solar power plant, built by the German firm Conergy, which will supply power for all other construction activity. This will later be followed by a larger facility, and additional solar panels will be placed on rooftops to provide supplemental solar energy totalling 130 megawatts. Besides photovoltaics, concentrated solar power (CSP) plants are also being explored. For example, so-called “beam down” CSP plants have been constructed to test the viability of the concept for use in the city. Wind farms will be established outside the city’s perimeter capable of producing up to 20 megawatts, and the city intends to utilise geothermal energy as well. In addition, Masdar plans to host the world’s largest hydrogen power plant.
Water management has been planned in an environmentally sound manner as well. A solar-powered desalination plant will be used to provide the city’s water needs, which is stated to be 60 percent lower than similarly sized communities. Approximately 80 percent of the water used will be recycled and waste water will be reused “as many times as possible,” with this greywater being used for crop irrigation and other purposes.
The city will also attempt to reduce waste to zero. Biological waste will be used to create nutrient-rich soil and fertiliser, and some may also be utilised through waste incineration as an additional power source. Industrial waste, such as plastics and metals, will be recycled or re-purposed for other uses.
The exterior wood used throughout the city is palmwood, a sustainable hardwood-substitute developed by Pacific Green using plantation coconut palms that no longer bear fruit. Palmwood features include the entrance gates, screens and doors.
The project is supported by the global conservation charity World Wide Fund for Nature and the sustainability group BioRegional. In response to the project’s commitment to zero carbon, zero waste and other environmentally friendly goals, WWF and BioRegional have endorsed Masdar City as an official One Planet Living Community.
The project is also supported by Greenpeace, which, however, stresses that there should be more focus on retrofitting existing cities to make them more sustainable rather than constructing new zero-carbon cities from scratch.
The US Government has supported the project. The US Department of Energy have signed a partnership agreement with the Masdar group in a deal that will see the two organisations share expertise to support plans on zero-carbon cities.
The Alliance to Save Energy honored Masdar City with a 2012 EE Visionary Award in recognition of the city’s contributions to the advancement of energy efficiency.
Some skeptics are concerned that the city will be only symbolic for Abu Dhabi, and that it may become just a luxury development for the wealthy. Nicolai Ouroussoff opined in The New York Times that Masdar is the culmination of the gated community concept: “the crystallization of another global phenomenon: the growing division of the world into refined, high-end enclaves and vast formless ghettos where issues like sustainability have little immediate relevance.”