A lot has happened at Masdar City since our first visit two years ago. Back then the “zero carbon, zero waste” development received a pile of bad press for falling short of its ambitions. The New York Times criticized the facility’s compound aesthetic and critics around the world predicted that the government-backed initiative would fail.
But… we were all wrong. In the seven short years since its launch in 2006, the many branches of Masdar – Masdar Institute, Masdar Capital, Masdar Clean Energy and Masdar City – have grown from a seedling of an idea into a full fledged engine of economic, social and technological progress. And we’ve been fortunate to see sections of the city never before unveiled to the press. Hit the jump for details.
As part of the tour, we visited the 100MW Shams 1 CSP plant outside of Abu Dhabi that is now very close to completion, met with several senior managers to discuss the intention behind numerous local and international initiatives and attended the Zayed Future Energy Prize award ceremony at the Emirates Palace Hotel.
Additionally, we attended several panel discussions that have given us a new, in depth understanding of the direction towards which the North African, Middle Eastern and Gulf region is headed in order to combat the challenges of energy and water scarcity in the context of escalating climate change.
But far and away the highlight of the tour has been an escorted trip to Masdar City, where sections were unveiled to the press (that’s us) for the very first time.
When we were last there for the first organic market and street fair, the fledgling development was comprised of just a couple of futuristic-looking buildings that made it difficult to comprehend the master plan.
Now the special economic zone that will act as a hub for 100 clean tech companies, a la Silicon Valley, is nearing completion. So is Siemens’ regional headquarters, which aims to achieve a LEED Platinum rating from the US Green Building Council and three Pearls from Estidama.
The rooftop panels crowning the Masdar Institute provide 30 percent of the current 2-3 MW energy demand, while the rest is covered by the 10MW PV plant situated nearby, Head of Facilities Management Naser Marzooqi told us in an interview.
Everything else is fed into the national grid, which means that for now, Masdar City is a plus energy development.
The special facade, passive design and multifaceted energy and water conservation systems have reduced the existing buildings’ energy consumption by 50 percent, its cooling load by 40 percent and its water consumption by 54 percent, Marzooqi added.
In keeping with the sustainability ethos, the Siemens building by Sheppard Robson will also feature a host of energy and water conservation strategies, in addition to a cutting edge material palette that slashes the embodied carbon footprint.
All along confronted by a non-existent sustainable supply chain, Masdar has led the charge to create one.
As a result of their efforts, a wellspring of companies have revamped their business model. And to make it easy for contractors and designers to source more environmentally-sensible building materials, the firm started thefuturebuild.com – a carefully vetted portal of local businesses that have met Masdar’s 15 sustainability criteria.
On its own grounds, Masdar has recycled 96 percent of its construction waste, Marzooqi explained. Concrete is crushed and used for roads, wood is shredded and aluminum and steel are recycled too.
All grey water is filtered through a Membrane Bioreactor (MBR) before it is recycled as irrigation water; unfortunately current health regulations prohibit this water from being used in plumbing systems, although we suspect that in the future, once the filtration system is more secure, the government will re-examine this policy.
Albeit just one small part of a massive organization that has spread its influence from London to the Seychelles, Masdar City is an exceptionally well-oiled machine that gives equal opportunity to both men and women to further Abu Dhabi’s mandate to ensure that at least 7 percent of the emirate’s energy requirement will be provided with renewables by 2020.
Stay tuned for more details about Shams 1, Masdar’s international projects, and more.
All photos by Tafline Laylin; please contact us if you would like permission to use them!