Masdar City: Pilot Version of the City of Future Still Proceeding

A 49 page pdf from January 2009 shows the vision of Masdar City. A city that will put together, gather real data on a collection of technologies for a more environmentally friendly and efficient city of the future. It will be more efficient with energy. It will be 100,000 people only using personal rapid transit, light rapid transit, segways, bicycles and walking. It is to be completed in 2016. Follow up cities can learn from Masdar to make other cities even more efficient and cost effective based on the sensors that Masdar will have to record the actual performance of technologies and systems that are used. China, India and other countries will continue to urbanize. China is building new cities or expanding old ones to add 20 to 30 million people per year. China is making its own eco-cities (although some have been put on hold with the recent financial problems). A success at Masdar could be improved and repeated thousands of times from 2015 to 2030+. [click on pictures for larger version]

“If environmental engineers, by gaining experience from building this wild city, become much more productive at building the next city, this starts to move from being science fiction to something Houston would adopt,” says Matthew Kahn, a professor of economics at the University of California, Los Angeles. Gil Friend, CEO of Natural Logic, a sustainable-design company based in Berkeley, CA, agrees. “I see Masdar on the one hand as a playground for the rich,” he says, “and on the other hand as an R&D opportunity to deploy and test out technology that, if things go well, will show up in other cities.”

MIT Technology Review’s look at Masdar City

The construction is the start of a vast experiment, an attempt to create the world’s first car-free, zero-carbon-dioxide-emissions, zero-waste city. Due to be completed in 2016, the city is the centerpiece of the Masdar Initiative, a $15 billion investment by the government of Abu Dhabi, which is part of the United Arab Emirates.

The development of Abu Dhabi over the last few decades has reflected a frenetic effort to catch up with the developed world. Now, because of projects such as Masdar City, the emirate has a chance to race ahead.

If the Masdar project doesn’t justify itself financially, it could indeed be just a green playground for the rich, an environmental theme park that is largely irrelevant for the development of sustainable technology on a broader scale. But if it is profitable, it could be a driving force for sustainable urban design. Then the oil-rich developers in the UAE and elsewhere might have a reason to build more green cities and skip constructing another ski slope in the desert. And developers worldwide will follow.