It’s an ambitious vision, but one its planners believe is achievable: a six-square-kilometre planned development in the United Arab Emirates that will be built with regionally appropriate architecture, feature sustainable materials, be powered by renewable energy, feature a low carbon footprint, use water sustainably and produce zero waste.
Dubbed Masdar City, the development is also intended to be a global hub for clean technology research through its Masdar Institute for Science and Technology (the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is a partner). In addition to the institute, the company behind the project — the Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company, which is a subsidiary of the Mubadala Development Company — aims to attract a wide variety of other cleantech companies, universities, research organisations and other businesses to plant their own facilities in the community.
Furthermore, planned as a real-life working city, Masdar is eventually expected to be home to between 45,000 and 50,000 residents.
The guiding principle behind Masdar City’s development: “One Planet Living,” which is the goal of achieving a lifestyle that doesn’t use any more resources than the Earth can naturally replenish in the same period of time.
For now, Masdar City exists virtually more than literally. Launched in 2006 and originally set to be completed by 2016, the project saw its progress slow with the onset of the global financial crisis in 2008. The construction deadline is now somewhere between 2020 and 2025.
Struggling economy and technological challenges aplenty notwithstanding, Masdar City has — like another ambitious green initiative, Desertec — attracted participation from an all-star list of financial firms, technology companies, research institutions and other big-name multinationals. So far, they include MIT, GE, Siemens, BASF and Bayer Material Science, to name a few. The city is also to become the eventual home of IRENA, the International Renewable Energy Agency, an organisation formed in 2009 to give renewables “an international voice and political impetus.”