“The world’s most sustainable eco-city,” Masdar City, is preparing for its next phase of development, as unveiled in the award-winning detailed master plan (DMP) by CBT Architects. As depicted in a comprehensive masterplan by Foster + Partners, Masdar was originally envisioned as a carbon-neutral elevated city without cars, instead featuring pod-based transportation located below the podium. As the first phase was constructed, including the Masdar Institute of Technology, a new vision for the city began to emerge, eventually leading to CBT’s pedestrian-oriented innovation community plan for Phase 2.
Located outside of Abu Dhabi in the desert climate of the UAE, Masdar simultaneously plays the roles of city and technology hub, subdivided into educational and commercial zones that cater to the research and development of sustainable design and energy technologies. The 6,700,000-square-foot Phase 2 masterplan will supplement these existing functions while introducing a wide range of new elements, including a new research and development cluster, shops and restaurants, residential neighborhoods, community centers, mosques and schools.
“The Phase 2 DMP encourages creativity and collaboration in one of the world’s hottest climates, and is a replicable and market-friendly model for sustainable urbanism that is aligned with local regulation guidelines, yet maintains its identity as a truly walkable and comfortable city,” explain CBT.
Rather than relying on high-cost technological investments, the Phase 2 plan seeks to utilize passive design principles to optimize sustainability, employing strategies such as fine grain fabric, environmental optimization and hydro-zoning. Building from earlier ideas, the team reviewed past plans, staying true to the design intentions while reevaluating the scale of blocks and buildings, public and private programming and circulation strategies.
The resulting plan focuses on maintaining four key principles, as described by CBT:
Identity: inspired by the UAE’s local culture and natural environment, the DMP creates spaces that animate and engage the city and community
Walkability: the DMP focuses on outdoor environmental comfort and establishing a walkable cityscape by orienting streets and sikkak (pedestrian pathways) towards prevailing winds to create cool and shaded areas for walking, biking, and commuting to the city’s other neighborhoods
Sustainability: Phase 2 integrates sustainable design practices and encourages eco-friendly lifestyles at all levels, from the building, to the block, to the city landscape. At the building and block levels, the DMP leverages renewable energies and passive urban planning strategies to achieve a 40 percent reduction in energy consumption over conventional standards. At the landscape level, it establishes a set of distinct hydro-zones to strategically allocate precious water resources. The DMP uses 70 percent native plantings to create small green spaces, as well as larger desert landscapes. These impressive initiatives will create one of the UAE’s most sustainable communities, as assessed by the Abu Dhabi Urban Planning Council’s rigorous “Estidama” sustainability program
Replicability: The Phase 2 DMP sets a strong precedent for public realm, pedestrian experience, mobility and sustainability planning that can be carried through to future phases, as well as other developments in arid environments across the region and the world
Construction on Phase 2’s Masdar Institute Neighborhood, which will link the central Podium to the North Car Park, is already underway with expected completion due in 2020. As part of the construction process, the city’s driverless Personal Rapid Transit network will be temporarily closed, with alternative means of transportation to be provided during the closure.
“Autonomous mobility has evolved dramatically in recent years, which means our next phase of emission-free driverless vehicles at Masdar City will be able to operate outdoors, integrating with both pedestrians and other types of vehicles,” explained Yousef Baselaib, Executive Director, Sustainable Real Estate, Masdar. “This is just one of many solutions which we are working on with industry partners as part of our ongoing commitment to drive innovation and support the advancement of intelligent mobility.”
The Middle East has historically been known for many things – sustainability not being one of them. The clash of Western values with the harshness of the local climate can often wedge sustainability between a lot of sand and a hard place.
7 Architects Masdar City – Abu Dhabi – United Arab Emirates Architects Mubadala Development Company Adams Kara Taylor, PHA Consult, Gillespies, Claude Engle Lighting Design, Acentech, Arup, decarbon8, Lerch Bates, Mott MacDonald, RFD, RW Armstrong, RWDI, Sandy Brown, Systematica, WS Atkins Project Year From the architect.
Arguably the biggest buzzword in urbanism right now is the ‘Smart City’. The idea, although certainly inclusive of eco-friendly practices, has even replaced “sustainability” as the major intent of cities planning for positive future development.