Eco-Cities: Masdar City's New Eco-Model

June 4 , 2008

Masdar will build $22 billion carbon-free city

Masdar makes $250 million clean energy investment

Abu Dhabi’s vision for a zero-carbon, zero-waste and car-free city is an unusual
development for a city that has 10 per cent of the world’s oil reserves and so
is not short of energy. But the Abu Dhabi government has set this goal for
Masdar city, which looks set to win the race to become the world’s first

Masdar has been designed to be powered by wind energy and solar power from
photovoltaic farms. Now that building work is underway, and solar testing
facilities have begun to feed the city’s grid, the developers hope that Masdar’s
example can persuade other parts of the United Arab Emirates to follow suit.

“It’s going to be wider than just Masdar,” promises Masdar city property
development unit director Khaled Awad. He adds: “We’re going to challenge
conventional theories on urban development and we want input from all
stakeholders from day one, regionally and globally.”

Masdar aims to become a centre of excellence for eco-design by investing in
education and research. The government hopes to develop local expertise in clean
technology through the recently established Masdar Institute, an £8 billion
non-profit collaboration with the US-based Massachusetts Institute of
Technology. But while it is one thing to champion electric transport, for
example, only when such innovations are made affordable for the rest of the UAE
will the project truly realise its potential.

With its £12 billion budget, which includes £8 billion invested in the MIT
partnership, Masdar has the potential to develop economies of scale. To prove it
is serious about commercialising sustainable technologies, Masdar has set up a
clean technology fund, a venture capital-oriented fund designed to help
businesses bring sustainable technologies to market. So far the fund has
deployed £130 million of capital, a year ahead of schedule.

The work at Masdar means it has overtaken Dongtan in China in the race to
become the world’s first eco-city. Dongtan, designed by UK engineering firm
Arup, currently has no date for starting building work or any exact plans for
how its estimated £1.5 billion budget will be recouped.

Arup’s urban strategies leader, Gary Lawrence, is in charge of implementing the
project. He says: “The biggest challenge will be to align the owner’s goals with
those of the communities who will ultimately decide whether the project succeeds
or fails.”

Awad hopes that once the wider community has a better understanding of their own
environmental footprint they will change the way they consume, making it
“unnecessary for Masdar to have rules for behaviour that is not sustainable or
even warranted”.

For example, there will be no limits on individual energy consumption and
residents will be able to drive cars, as long as they are parked outside the
city’s boundaries at all times.


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