Home Articles Setting a benchmark

Setting a benchmark

With the principle of sustainability deeply rooted into
each if its aspects, Masdar City in UAE is one of the
world’s finest examples of a smart city.

Situated in the midst of the rising sand dunes of UAE,
Masdar City is one of the world’s finest examples of
a smart city. Built in tune with its surroundings, like
a modern Arabian city, it is an emerging global hub
for renewable energy and clean technologies. It is a community
where cutting-edge cleantech research, pilot projects,
building materials and technology testing, and construction
of some of the world’s most sustainable buildings is currently
going on.

Masdar City is a low-carbon, renewable energy-powered
city where the first phase that has been built is designed to
use half the power of other such buildings, less than half
the water and extensively uses recycled materials. Power for
Masdar City comes through a combination of sources, including
photovoltaics, concentrated solar power and the Abu
Dhabi grid, while geothermal sources are being piloted for
cooling. Energy consumption is reduced through a range of

passive and active technologies, including smart appliances,
metres and grids, building management systems and building
design and orientation. Sophisticated, state-of-the-art
conservation processes and reuse systems will reduce water
consumption, and provide irrigation for landscaping and
crop production in the future. While waste will be processed,
recycled and composted, transportation within the city will
primarily rely on electric buses, electric passenger cars and
other clean-transportation solutions, with the design of the
city allowing individuals to live and work without the need
for a personal vehicle.

Current status
The construction work for the project began in February
2008. Two years later, in October 2010, the Masdar Institute
of Science and Technology moved from temporary facilities
in Abu Dhabi to its permanent campus in Masdar City. To be

completed in stages, Phase 1 will include the Masdar headquarters
building, which also will house the International
Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA); a second delivery of
buildings form the Masdar Institute campus; the 10,000 sqm
Courtyard Building, which will be the city’s first commercial
building, and other infrastructure. The remaining phases will
be completed through 2025. The phasing of construction is
planned on a neighbourhood scale, such that finished sections
will contain all necessary services and amenities, and
will not be impacted by ongoing construction elsewhere.
At full build out, the city will host hundreds of businesses
and will be able to accommodate up to 40,000 residents and
50,000 commuters.

Guiding principles
Inspired by the architecture and urban planning of traditional
Arab cities, Masdar City incorporates narrow streets; the
shading of windows, exterior walls and walkways; courtyards
and wind towers; vegetation, and — fundamentally
— a walkable, pedestrian-focused city. The design provides
the highest quality living and working environment with
the lowest possible carbon footprint and includes a northeast-
southwest orientation of the city. This maximises shade
to city streets and buildings and makes best use of the cooling
night breeze. ‘Green finger’ parks running through the
city not only capture and direct cool breeze into the heart
of the city but also reduce solar heat gain in the middle
of the city and provide cool pleasant oases throughout the
built-up areas.

Carefully planned landscape and water features help in
reducing ambient temperatures while enhancing the quality
of the street. Careful placement of city infrastructure and
utilities means that buildings are much closer together than
in most modern cities, helping to shade the streets, as well
as other buildings — the result is cooler streets and lower
cooling loads for buildings. The placement of residential,
recreational, civic, leisure, retail, commercial and light industrial
areas across the master plan, along with the public
transportation networks, ensures that the city is a pleasant
and convenient place to live and work.

Completed in the first phase, a cluster of six buildings of
the Masdar Institute serve as a model of sustainability, which
are designed to use 54% less potable water and have less
than half the cooling demand of the UAE average. As much
as 30% of its power demand is met by a 1-MW rooftop PV
array that not only shades the buildings, but also overhangs
to provide shading to the streets below. The buildings and
surrounding infrastructure feature grey-water, storm-water
and condensate harvesting; domestic hot water is provided
by roof-mounted evacuated tube solar collectors; fresh air
intakes are located at the shaded street level, and the latest
low-energy lighting specifications are being used.


G-power all the way
Masdar City is a complex system of systems where design,
construction, operation and governance require huge quantities
of diverse data types. A majority of data relates to the
spatial aspects of city assets or describes some characteristic
of an asset. Geospatial technology provides the basis of the
city’s information management infrastructure and is used to
provide data: repository, discovery, integration, analysis and
visualisation services – to colleagues and other information

Starting from the city’s masterplan to design, construction
through to operational stages, geospatial technology is
playing an integral role in facilitating interdisciplinary and
inter-project coordination. Masdar needs to ensure that data
is treated as an asset and geospatial technologies are used to
ensure that maximum ROI is extracted from investment in
data collection/production.

Besides using geospatial technology extensively in the
master-plan stages, the developers also use it to manage the
environment of the site during the construction process. The
technology is used for site logistics and to make sure that
temporary works associated with the construction do not
sprawl unnecessarily into the green spaces.

Vaibhav Arora,
Regional Product Manager,
Middle East & Africa, Geospatial Media & Communications