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When Earth Day was first celebrated 42 years ago today, no one expected Abu Dhabi, a city with the world’s largest carbon footprint, to become its biggest proponent. Yet, in 2007, the Emirate announced plans to build Masdar City at a cost of $18 billion. It is envisioned to be a city with the lowest carbon footprint in the world.

The vision… Conceived by Sir Norman Foster, Masdar will be completed in 2025.
It will include revolutionary commercial and residential buildings, a research and conference centre and a retail district.

What you will find so far… Masdar has a commercial street and six buildings belonging to the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology, comprising classrooms, laboratories, dormitory apartments and a library. It is home primarily to students and faculty members of the Institute.

Green design… In the words of a resident, the city looks like “a spaceship in the middle of the desert”. The buildings are constructed with Douglas-fir wood from sustainable forests and use eco-friendly plastics to deflect sunlight and keep the interiors cool enough to limit the use of ACs.

Thinking solar… In addition to photovoltaic cells on the roofs of the buildings, a 10MW solar field on the outskirts of Masdar serves all its energy needs. There are plans to turn it into the world’s largest solar field and supplement it with a wind generating farm as well.

Keeping it cool… Due to airways built into the walls of the buildings, people walking on the tree-lined streets feel as if a breeze is running throughout the city at all times. A 43 metre futuristic, Arabian-inspired wind tower channels even more cool air into the city keeping the temperature 21°C cooler than the rest of Abu Dhabi.

Getting around… Masdar has electric buses and PRT vehicles; the latter are nano-sized electric vehicles driven by computers which are navigated thanks to magnets embedded into the roads!

Organic food and family fun… Most of the restaurants in Masdar City, such as Caribou Coffee and Organic Foods & Café, provide organic food. Each summer, Masdar holds a festival called Market@Masdar. It is attended by an eclectic mix of artists, performers and organic farmers and features raffle draws for a day of all-green family fun.

Setting the bar… Recently, Masdar won the Global Energy Efficiency Visionaries Award for achieving a 50% reduction in electricity and water consumption compared to the rest of the UAE. Although Masdar City is still under development, it is already setting the benchmark for similar projects for the world to follow.

– Shayan Shakeel
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First published in the Real Estate Section of The DAWN National Weekend Advertiser on April 22, 2012.