We have been skeptical of Masdar City and Foster+Partners, the architects responsible for the emergent eco-city’s design, but BBC reporter Tom Reap’s recent article paints a compelling portrait of this dubious venture. Although projected building costs are exorbitant (approximately $22 billion), and the project is being funded by Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan’s vast oil fund, it is worth revisiting the drawing board to determine Masdar City’s merits.
Reap suggests the environment surrounding Masdar City resembles a moonscape. Here, in order to combat average summer temperatures of 35°C, designers are entertaining lunar solutions such as covering building surfaces with foil that would block the sun’s heat. Reap also says the building’s “vertical faces are dressed with screens which look like a terracotta mesh. They keep the sun out but let the breeze in.” Passive and even ancient building techniques are being applied as well, such as narrow streets with low buildings that “shade one another.”
With what Reap calls the “largest solar farm in the Middle East,” Masdar City will harness its most ubiquitous resource. Meanwhile, architects are relying on design to constrain energy use, maximizing the city’s overall efficiency. One such design is not unlike CSP towers being implemented around the world: a circle of mirrors on the ground concentrate sunlight to a tower which then beams a 3ft shaft back down, producing an extraordinary heat that drives generators.
Absent from Masdar will be the sound and smell of cars hootin’ and spewin’. Conventional vehicles will be parked outside of the walled boundary, but people weary of walking this compact and pedestrian-friendly city can use podcars below street level. These are equipped with magnetic sensors that detect potential obstacles and are powered by the sun. Reap quotes Kaled Awad, the project’s director: “the quality of air will be better than any other street in the Gulf and in the world, and that alone will bring you safety, health and happiness.”
The 147 ft wind tower designed to flush an energy-free breeze through the city will double as Masdar’s energy monitor. When the tower’s beacon signals red, anyone within several miles will know that too much energy is being consumed, whereas blue signals satisfactory levels of energy consumption.
Though Masdar City will not be fully realized for up to ten years, we will continue to assess whether or not this ambitious project is a sustainable lighthouse for Middle Eastern development.
More on Middle Eastern Development Projects:
Is Urjuan a Wise Expenditure of Qatar’s Oil and Gas Wealth?
Energy City Qatar on Target for 2012
Qatar’s New Green LEED Convention Center a Mini Masdar City