Zero carbon, zero waste city being built in Abu Dhabi (w/ Video)

Mar 30, 2010 by Lin Edwards report

(PhysOrg.com) -- A new eco-city being built in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Masdar City, will be the world’s first clean technology city, relying entirely on renewable energy sources, and being free of cars, skyscrapers and waste.

Masdar is being built by the National , Global Energy Company UAE, as a walled “clean technology cluster” on the outskirts of Abu Dhabi, the capital of UAE, and close to the Abu Dhabi airport. The terrain in the region is inhospitable desert, but the six square kilometer city is planned to support a population of 50,000 people sustainably, using the blazing desert sun as its main energy source. The solar farm to power the city is already built, and is the largest in the Middle East. The city will also be home to a university and over 1,000 businesses.

The boundary walls prevent outward sprawl and keep the city compact, and there will be no skyscrapers. The narrow streets will be lined with buildings close enough to shade each other, with the vertical faces fitted with screens to keep out the sun but allow the breezes to flow through. The streets are designed for pedestrians, and no conventional cars will be allowed through the city gates.

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Electric vehicles will be allowed within the walls, and other modes of transport include a Personal Rapid Transit system, or driverless podcars powered by solar-generated electricity. The podcars will be guided by magnetic sensors and go wherever you tell them to, but stop immediately if an obstacle is in the way. With no conventional vehicles, the quality of air in the city will be excellent, and according to the director of the project, Kaled Awad, “that alone will bring you safety, health and happiness.”

Other ideas being tried out in the developing city include a circular array of mirrors on the ground that focuses light on a tower in the center. The tower redirects the one-meter wide concentrated beam of light down to a system that collects the heat to drive generators. Another idea is using thin foil coverings to keep out heat. Gerard Evenden, the chief architect, said this idea originated in a proposal for a moon base. Another innovation is a 45 m wind tower that will draw breezes through the streets without using energy. The tower will bear a beacon to show the city’s energy use: blue for good and red for too much.

The city will be carbon neutral, using electricity only for its desalination plant, some air conditioning, and for gadgets. According to the designers, the city’s mantra in relation to power is: “only use energy when you have exhausted design.”

The city is designed by British architects Foster and Partners, and is largely being funded by Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Abu Dhabi’s ruler. The estimated cost is £10-20bn ($15-30bn). Masdar is expected to be finished within 5-10 years and promises to become the Silicon Valley of , providing a global hub for research and development of sustainable technologies.


Explore further: Is nuclear power the only way to avoid geoengineering?

More information: www.masdarcity.ae/en/index.aspx

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User comments : 39

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antialias
4.8 / 5 (6) Mar 30, 2010
A bold vision. But maybe bold visions is what the world needs once in a while. Will be interesting to see how well the plans translate into reality.
Bojangles
2.2 / 5 (12) Mar 30, 2010
I'm sick of these idiots constantly constructing unnecessary things. What is the carbon foot print of all the construction plant, materials etc. used to build this place? It would take hundreds of years to even achieve the 'zero' claim they talk of. What is the carbon foot print to build the Burj Tower or the World Islands in Dubai...

Another useless waste of money that could be spent on solving famine or disease.
random
4.3 / 5 (3) Mar 30, 2010
It's about time.
Skeptic_Heretic
4.3 / 5 (9) Mar 30, 2010
Another useless waste of money that could be spent on solving famine or disease.

It's far better than using the money to build personal cutomizable islands as they were previously.

I think a multinational research facility is a good thing, especially when it comes to new power technologies.
Sonhouse
3.3 / 5 (6) Mar 30, 2010
Well lets use the financial figures given: 30 billion to make a city of 50,000. 30 trillion to make a city of 50,000,000. What's wrong with this picture?
Skeptic_Heretic
3.4 / 5 (7) Mar 30, 2010
Well lets use the financial figures given: 30 billion to make a city of 50,000. 30 trillion to make a city of 50,000,000. What's wrong with this picture?


Nothing.

The first one always costs the most.
otto1923
3.5 / 5 (6) Mar 30, 2010
I'm sick of these idiots constantly constructing unnecessary things. What is the carbon foot print of all the construction plant, materials etc. used to build this place? It would take hundreds of years to even achieve the 'zero' claim they talk of. What is the carbon foot print to build the Burj Tower or the World Islands in Dubai...

Another useless waste of money that could be spent on solving famine or disease.
Famine and disease are solutions in themselves when applied in the proper Manner, at the proper Time.
gunslingor1
3.7 / 5 (3) Mar 30, 2010
Hopefully the oil companies won't blow it up before the concept is proven once and for all.
El_Nose
4.8 / 5 (5) Mar 30, 2010
why are people upset -- if you were a billionaire sitting on a couple hundred billion -- would you listen to people who told you how to spend your money ?? or would you do what you wanted to do and what you thought was right ?? A city is a heck of a legacy to leave in the world and the bigger and more ambitious they are the longer they are remembered -- Alexandria - Jamestown, VA - Versailles - St. Petersburg

ealex
2.3 / 5 (4) Mar 30, 2010
This is just another tourism stunt for sure. I havent seen the UAE do anything so far that wasn't aimed to save their asses once the oil stops dripping.

Bold plan maybe, but the zero carbon part is bullshit.

Way too little details released anyway that could stand for a basis to judge this on. Such a huge project has a vast underbelly of theoretical and practical studies, all of which would have to be made available to tell if this is bullshit or not.
Sepp
3.3 / 5 (3) Mar 30, 2010
To me, the project for this city is just a way to lessen the guilt of those who would like us to keep using their resource (oil) for as long as possible.

I am still waiting for someone to discover what Buckminster Fuller projected more than half a century ago ... a city covered by a flat dome constructed using Fuller's geodesic dome (triangular interconnection) design. The dome could be off the ground for some air to be constantly circulating, and it could be shaded by solar cells on its skin that provide needed electricity. Rainclouds could condense inside, which would give off their water as needed; the whole city protected from the desert climate.

Now that would be an innovative design...

Hyperion1110
4.8 / 5 (8) Mar 30, 2010
Wow, man, a lot of people seem really critical of the project. Not sure about all of that. But I think it's really cool! And, as others have noted, it's a much better way to spend billions than building islands.

Also, why the heck is it a problem for them to be thinking of a time when they won't have oil revenue to count on? Is that the very definition of prudence and good governance, to invest your money for a time when your finite resources are gone?
donjoe0
1.5 / 5 (6) Mar 30, 2010
Zero carbon?? You mean there will never be any people or any other form of carbon-based life in that city ever? That is so cool! :P

Isn't modern technology amazing? In fact, the less science you know, the more amazing and believable everything seems (like the anti-carbon propaganda of the climate-catastrophist movement for example - totally believable to the uninformed). ;)
marjon
2.5 / 5 (4) Mar 30, 2010
Good for them. The USA used to be bold and innovative when there were bold and innovative people unconstrained the state.
UAE would not have quite a much money if the USA could drill more of its own resources.
baudrunner
2 / 5 (2) Mar 30, 2010
$30 billion is pretty cheap for a city. If the basic design and structural stylings are in the neo-Arabic, it shoot be a hoot, cheap and tacky. It'll probably turn into a movie set then be abandoned.
ealex
not rated yet Mar 30, 2010
Wow, man, a lot of people seem really critical of the project. But I think it's really cool! And, as others have noted, it's a much better way to spend billions than building islands.


Yes, the problem being that we ARE talking about the same country that wasted billions on building islands. "Cool" just doesn't cut it for me, sorry, I'm aware that they're not going to release detailed plans to the public, but it all seems just a bit too "ideal" at this point.

More so, even if this is a wise economic step, as were the islands everyone seems to hold opposite to this project, it is important that people view it as it is, a purely economic endeavor, without any noble feelings behind it and targeted for the wealthy because if they plug 30 billion into that sucker, you can bet they'll split the cost to each one of those 50000 residents.
ealex
5 / 5 (1) Mar 30, 2010
Not to mention mostly ALL the technologies they mention are high-run-cost technologies (otherwise they could and would be implemented worldwide), which means even more costs for the residents.

It's not a bad thing, don't get me wrong, it's just important that people see it purely as it is, a cash cow, a resort for the eco-wealthy, not a solution to anything.

Also very doubtful about that 30bn estimate, but hey, we'll see if they ever get it up and running.
RTT
3.7 / 5 (6) Mar 30, 2010
If you really think this is a waste of money, then you will not like that fact that it is the money we are paying for their oil that is going to be used to build this city.
purringrumba
5 / 5 (4) Mar 30, 2010
Whether or not the city achieves its stated goal, there will be tremendous learning on what technological and management problems exist in operating a city with high power efficiency. Then this learning can be applied to improving power efficiencies in all other cities; used to make plans for the version 2 of 0-carbon city; and used to guide research and development of future technologies. There are no free lessons - one only learns by trying and paying dues. We (US) shouldn't be critical of others trying to get ahead in the learning curve.
Sanescience
not rated yet Mar 31, 2010
Meh. History predicts social engineering is doomed to failure. F. A. Hayek referred to this position as “constructivist rationalism” He believed that such engineering actually destroyed rather than created society, which was the result of human action but not of human design. Alongside the Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises, Hayek provided what are arguably the best critiques of the “constructivist” theories and policies that have grown in popularity during the twentieth century.

http://www.indepe...p?id=242
Sanescience
1 / 5 (1) Mar 31, 2010

Meh. History predicts social engineering is doomed to failure. F. A. Hayek referred to it as "constructivist rationalism" and studied its manifestation in the 20th century. He believed that such engineering actually destroyed rather than created society, which was the result of human action but not of human design.

Quote: "humility which should guard him against becoming an accomplice in men’s fatal striving to control society—a striving which makes him not only a tyrant over his fellows, but which may well make him the destroyer of a civilization which no brain has designed but which has grown from the free efforts of millions of individuals."
El_Nose
not rated yet Mar 31, 2010
People feel the UAE wasted money building islands -- BUT this was a Trump ( guy with the bad faux hair ) project that was finanaces by the wealthiest people on th eplanet -- the UAE just happens to be the ideal place to build rather large islands that you don't want erosion to destroy

People feel that the UAE is all about Oil -- well they do have the seventh largest oil reserve in the world --BUT they seem to know that this resource is doomed to run out and have been trying to become the commerce center of the region, much like the USA as a service oriented society they plan on continuing their success

at everyone who doesn't know about oil -- while we do buy a lot of oil from the middle east -- over 60% of their oil doesn't leave that hemisphere/continent we,the US, consume most of our oil from this hemisphere.. it costs to much to transport unless you have too... y do you think the gulf of mexico has so many oil rigs and canada exports so much - and y we were mad at chavez
Fekarah
not rated yet Mar 31, 2010
Some interesting opinions here. The fact of the matter is that consumerism has given Middle-Eastern royalty an enormous amount of wealth. I applaud the fact that they don't just sit on it like their Western counterparts.

So much speculation can be made ending war and famine and actually doing things right. View the building of this sustainable city as an expensive test. Our current methods for societal operation will be obsolete in the next half-millenium. Why not start this revolution now?

While I agree it is impossible to have 0 for it's Carbon footprint, it is an applaudable feat to command this forward-thinking model, and actually put dreams into action.
Thadieus
1 / 5 (5) Apr 01, 2010
What are we going to do with the humans!!! Why don't we have all the humans wear masks w/tubes and have there exhale filtered. Better yet lets just get rid of 3-5 billion of us
Skeptic_Heretic
5 / 5 (1) Apr 03, 2010
sarcasm, antialias, sarcasm

It wasn't when you posted it, but if the axe man cometh you shrink down like a dick in cold weather. Just like Malthus himself.
nappy
1 / 5 (1) Apr 03, 2010
This here is ironical!!! A "green, carbon neutral" city paid for completely by oil money! That is rich! And, it will only work if people are paid to live there and the whole thing has a source of money continuing to pour in. The text says that electricity will only be used for desalination and airconditioning. ONLY??? This will entail an extremely high energy useage. No one with the ability to do otherwise will live in the mid east without air conditioning! This is a feel good insanity paid for by your dollars. The very idea strains one's credulity. There is nothing good about htis foolishness. However, if the sheiks have the bucks and want to spend them on insane projects, more paower to them.
Skeptic_Heretic
5 / 5 (2) Apr 03, 2010
Nappy,

Over 90% of the energy expended in Abu Dabi is for desalinization and air conditioning. The next biggest use is construction.
Caliban
1 / 5 (1) Apr 04, 2010
Yes, well- no mention of hydroponic agriculture, or anything as mundane as all that. What are these people going to eat, for instance- and how will it get there?
At best, this will only serve as a partial solution, as they will have to rely on the usual commercial infrastructure for "business as usual- this tidy little town will not exist in a self-contained vacuum. Carbon footprint will still exist for everything that comes to or goes from the joint.
Essentially, this will be an R&D facility. But it will still be very far from Zero Carbon. Even so, we should probably encourage this type of spending by our Brothers of the Sands. Could be spending it on far less benign projects.
Leafie
not rated yet Apr 04, 2010
Yes, the problem being that we ARE talking about the same country that wasted billions on building islands.

It's the same country, not the same emirate. Dubai and Abu Dhabi have exhibited very different attitudes toward the spending of their money (remember who bailed out whom?), and while the city of Abu Dhabi certainly seems very opulent by our standards, its government is being considerably wiser about using its RIDICULOUS amount of money. So no, the people behind Masdar are not the same ones who "wasted billions on building islands."
Paradox
not rated yet Apr 04, 2010
This is just another tourism stunt for sure. I havent seen the UAE do anything so far that wasn't aimed to save their asses once the oil stops dripping.

I saw a show on this. That is exactly why they are doing this. They intend tourism to replace the oil industry.
Naesim
not rated yet Apr 04, 2010
As much as I dislike the UAE as a country/society/religion, I find the comments pretty bigotted and discouraging for such a project. Would you like them to spend their money rather on their urban phantasms or to finance the next human TNT instead?
To those who whine about the UAE building what they want (like the rest of the world, maybe?) with their resources' revenues (like the rest of the world, perhaps?) : boycott their oil, or boycott oil all together.
And I have some news for you: the US are, in term of pollution and infinity-emission footprint and waste winning the gold medal for a while now. Maybe it's time to rethink the urbanization of American cities to prepare them for no-oil age...
MorituriMax
1 / 5 (1) Apr 04, 2010
$30 billion is pretty cheap for a city. If the basic design and structural stylings are in the neo-Arabic, it shoot be a hoot, cheap and tacky. It'll probably turn into a movie set then be abandoned.


50,000 is not a city, it's a large town.
MorituriMax
3 / 5 (2) Apr 04, 2010
I watched the video through and thought, "Masdar" must be islamic for "Raccoon." They cut the video before you saw all the zombies emerging from underground.
Schnarr
not rated yet Apr 04, 2010
30 billion dollars for a city isn't that bad. That works out to about six hundred thousand per person. That's about what it cost for a house where I live. If this could be scaled and made cheaper, I'm sure most industrialized nations could afford it.
Poisonvodka
5 / 5 (3) Apr 05, 2010
30 billion dollars for a city isn't that bad. That works out to about six hundred thousand per person. That's about what it cost for a house where I live. If this could be scaled and made cheaper, I'm sure most industrialized nations could afford it.


People keep saying 30 billion is ridiculously expensive, but like you said that's 600,000 per person. At first this might sound a bit expensive, but factor in that includes schools, hospitals/doctors, infrastructure, all upfront.

And at that, it says 15-30 billion estimated cost, meaning 30 billion is the MOST it will cost. If it costs 15 billion, that's 300,000 per person for housing, school, utilities, and infrastructure. Very cheap for a city.
damnfuct
5 / 5 (2) Apr 05, 2010
I'm sick of these idiots constantly constructing unnecessary things.


You can spin theories of how to do something all you want, but it's not until someone tries to build it that true problems and solutions get discovered. The best part of this would be finding out what works and what doesn't work. Maybe it'll be a huge failure, but that in itself is a valuable discovery.
psommerfeld
3 / 5 (2) Apr 05, 2010
And at that, it says 15-30 billion estimated cost, meaning 30 billion is the MOST it will cost.


Are you saying that estimated construction costs is closely tracked by actual cost?

Project Est cost Actual Cost (overrun)
------- -------- -----------
Burj Khalifa $400m $1.5b (3.75x)
Palm Jumeirah $3b $12.3b (4x)

Poisonvodka
not rated yet Apr 05, 2010

Are you saying that estimated construction costs is closely tracked by actual cost?


Have it your way, lets make a wild assumption and say it's 4x the estimated cost, 120 billion.
This makes it 2.4 Million per person. This includes: Housing, K-12 and University education, Businesses, Jobs, Infrastructure + transporation, and very advanced technology not yet implemented in 99.9% of the world.

Because this society thought ahead, they never have to buy energy upfront again, besides maybe replacing panels. Most money they make can go towards that figure, and within 10-20 years they would likely make it back. This is not including patent money they'll likely become more rich than the oil tycoons with as well.

And at that, not EVERY construction project costs 4x what the estimated cost is. I'd also imagine when someone whom has enough money to fund 15-30 billion estimated cost decides to build something of this magnitude, he most likely got the most accurate estimate possible.
MorituriMax
1 / 5 (1) Apr 05, 2010
"This makes it 2.4 Million per person."

Have we even factored in crime? How many cities that have lots of money or the expensive systems we see in the demo are going to be 100% crime free? And to make it 100% crime free you have to have 100% control by the government and police.

Show me one city in the region that is all pretty like they show and doesn't have "slums" or areas where there are people a lot poorer than other parts of the city. Good lord, I saw the underground transport system and saw tons of potential for a criminal underground.

I'm all for cities everywhere to be like they show, but I can't think of a SINGLE city ANYWHERE that's a garden of eden as portrayed in the video. Really, think of other utopian ideals and think what they all turned out like.

More power to them if they can do it, but I doubt it, corruption is just too common in the world.

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