Rebuilding a Green City?

Author:  Rashi Venkataraman
Institution:  Carnegie Mellon University
Date:  February 2008

When speaking of environmentally green cities, a city in the Persian Gulf might not be the first pick. But Masdar City is not any ordinary city.

Groundbreaking for this new city in Abu Dhabi begins this February, and the city's designers are hoping that Masdar City will act as the next model for sustainable architecture. Some of the proposed features of this city include the following:

• A solar-photovoltaic power plant that will deliver energy to buildings

• Photovoltaic panels will act as canopies, providing shade for the streets

• Water will be supplied from a solar-powered seawater-desalination plant (approximately 80% more efficient than existing plants)

• Waste water will be purified and recycled to grow plants that could potentially be used as biofuels in the future

• A perimeter wall around the city will protect buildings from hot desert air and noise from Abu Dhabi airport.

• No cars will be allowed within the city.

• An electric light-rail system will act as the main form of transportation

• The town's produce will come from nearby greenhouses

• Waste will be either composted or recycled

The leading architecture firm, Foster & Partners claim that their efforts to make Masdar City more green will save the country more than two billion dollars in oil over the next twenty-five years. Interestingly, those in charge of the project claim that development of the city is only the first step in a long-term process. The city will act as a home for the Masdar Initiative, which will also establish the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology, the world's first graduate school dedicated to renewable energy.

The designers behind Masdar City have a long way to go. Similar projects in Arizona and China have faced a lot of difficulties (suburban expansion and the country's ravaging growth, respectively). However, Sultan al Jaber, CEO of The Masdar Initiative, remains confident, "Masdar City will question conventional patterns of urban development, and set new benchmarks for sustainability and environmentally friendly design – the students, faculty and businesses located in Masdar City will not only be able to witness innovation first-hand, but they will also participate in its development."

Written by Rashi Venkataraman

Reviewed by Matthew Getz

Published by Pooja Ghatalia.