Masdar City: Constructing the world’s most sustainable community

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The creation of a green and sustainable city in a desert landscape is the ambitious goal for Masdar City in Abu Dhabi. The project is founded on a number of urban planning principles, with a focus on optimal utilisation of the region’s resources.    

Masdar City is located in the United Arab Emirates, 17 kilometers south-east of the city of Abu Dhabi.  The city is dedicated to the use of solar energy and other renewable energy sources and is designed to be a hub for cleantech companies. The Masdar Institute of Science and Technology and the headquarters of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) are already established on the site.

In partnership with Masdar City, Ramboll/Atelier Dreiseitl is preparing a Landscape Plan and Conceptual Landscape Design to establish city-wide guidance for design of the public realm of the city.

Increased liveability through urban planning

The goal of Masdar City is to create a walkable, vibrant mixed-use community through creation of interconnected neighbourhoods and public places focused on the human experience and programmed to support multiple activities. The master plan is intended to guide the designers of the public realm of Masdar, and to be an implementation tool for Masdar City.

- The scope of the project includes everything outside the buildings, including  the streets and public plazas, parks and open spaces, says Talitha Fabricius, Associate Director, Master Planning at Ramboll Middle East.

Public spaces, parks and streetscapes will be designed to encourage walking and outdoor activity throughout the day while planting, shading and water strategies will all contribute to reducing the radiant temperature and maximising cooling breezes to extend the time that people can spend outdoors.

The master plan is centred on five guiding themes that support the creation of a fully integrated sustainable community:

1. Liveable Community; prioritising walking and cycling, providing connectivity throughout the city and offering recreational opportunities

2. Outdoor Comfort; shaded and cooled walks and public spaces

3. Environment & Natural Systems; Hydrozoning Planting strategy that conserves water and achieves a balance between dry and lush areas and creation of productive landscapes where food is grown for local markets and for research purposes

4. Precious Water; establishing a water use and reuse system that acknowledges water as a precious resource, for example by using treated sewage for irrigation and recycling waste water

5. Sustainable Urban Systems; creating a suite of urban systems that embody sustainable principles, minimize resource use and contribute to the creation of a liveable mixed-use community

Creating a green city in a desert landscape

One of the challenges of the project has been to create a comfortable public realm in a very warm climate. For instance, the municipal streets of the city have specific requirements which entail elements for storm water, electricity, district cooling and gas to be placed on the side of the streets, which results in wide rights-of-way and require an intensive shading strategy using a combination of buildings, trees and shade structures to provide comfortable conditions for pedestrians.

The Emirate’s sustainability framework Estidama, supports the creation of liveable communities through its requirements for shading, water use and reuse, energy conservation and resource use.

Part of Abu Dhabi’s future sustainability plans

By 2020, Abu Dhabi intends for 7% of its energy to come from sustainable sources, and the Masdar initiative has already come far in terms of introducing solar energy, greenhouse gas reductions, hydrogen power plans and carbon capture.

- The project is very much about future proofing Abu Dhabi by looking for alternative and sustainable energy sources. In this way, the Emirate is taking a leadership role in sustainable urban planning, says Talitha Fabricius.

Through the implementation of the Landscape plan and Conceptual Landscape Design, Masdar City will contribute to Abu Dhabi’s 2030 goals and future economic and societal vision.

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