Special Reports
Zero Carbon; Zero Waste in Abu Dhabi

By Dianna Dilworth
August 1, 2007

Foster + Partners is building an eco-friendly oasis in the desert

Masdar Development is a 6 million square meter project in the United Arab
Emirates. Its goal: to achieve a zero carbon and zero waste community.

The aim of the walled city is to offer a sustainable urban blueprint for the future.

The city itself will be car free, connected to surrounding communities by a
network of existing road and new rail and public transport routes.

Foster + Partners is designing the world’s first zero-carbon, zero-waste city
in Abu Dhabi. Named Masdar City, which means “the source,” the 1,483-acre
project will include commercial and manufacturing space dedicated to developing
ecofriendly products, housing, a university, and the headquarters for Future
Energy Company, which is spearheading the initiative.

Although the desert might seem an unlikely location for such a large sustainable
undertaking, Masdar will tread lightly on the landscape by harnessing solar
power and relying on construction features that resist high temperatures,
including extra shading and slab cooling. Its design is rooted in the Arabic
tradition of walled cities—but Masdar’s stone-and-mud walls will be covered in
photovoltaic panels capable of generating 130 megawatts. Along the site’s
northern edge, the walls will be more permeable to let in breezes. Electricity
will also come from photovoltaic cells integrated into rooftops and a
20-megawatt wind farm. The city will get its water from a solar-powered
desalination plant.

Since Masdar will be car-free, shaded paths will make walking more bearable in
the region’s extreme climate. Land surrounding the city, which is 20 miles
outside the center of Abu Dhabi, will contain wind and photovoltaic farms, as
well as research fields and plantations that will supply crops for the city’s
biofuel factories. These fields will also help reduce waste by acting as carbon
sinks to offset gases produced in the factories—and they will be irrigated with
gray water drawn from the city’s water treatment plant.

Masdar will be developed in phases centered on two plazas. The first stage
includes construction of a 60-megawatt photovoltaic power plant that will supply
electricity for constructing the rest of the city. This will be followed by a
130-acre main square. Foster finished the initial phase of master planning this
spring. The project’s engineers include E.T.A., which is overseeing the
renewable-energy components; Transsolar; WSP Energy; and Flack + Kurtz.
Designers estimate that it will take 10 years to build out the entire city, with
structures ultimately occupying nearly half of the site. When complete, Masdar
will be home to 45,000 people and attract an additional 60,500 daily commuters,
who will arrive in part via a new rail line.

“The biggest issue of all is to make sure that the city is balanced and will
create as much energy as it uses throughout the time it is being built,” says
Gerard Evanden, senior partner in charge of the project at Foster + Partners.

“The scale of the project will have the density of Venice, so it will grow
gradually. Hopefully the knowledge and the technology of efficient materials
will grow too.”

Some of that future knowledge will be homegrown. Masdar’s university is set to
open by 2009, with 30 percent of the student population housed on site. Its
students will be encouraged to participate in the development of the city while
working on graduate degrees in sustainability.


Promoting Green Building Design, Construction and Operation, Sustainable Living,
Clean Technology, Renewable Energy Resources and Energy Independence