It sits in the middle of a harsh, barren desert, sweltering in searing heat.
It has no clean water, its sea is polluted and there is no topsoil, just a covering of sand.
It is also the biggest per capita consumer of fuel, massively reliant on cars, power-hungry desalination and air-conditioning.
And with all this, can the United Arab Emirate state of Abu Dhabireally succeed in building a new “green city” in the Middle East?
If you can believe visionary people like architect Gerard Evenden (his words above), from the British architectural firm Foster & Partners, yes it can. Billions of dollars are riding on the assumption
Masdar City is the project Evenden is referring to. Masdar City is a $22 billion USD project being financed by the Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company and is largely designed and planned by Foster & Partners.
So how is this so-called totally green city going to work in one ofthe hottest and driest regions on earth? According to Evenden, thisfuturistic project of 6 million square meters will eventually housearound 50,000 people and will be completely environmentally sustainable– in every possible way.
As he noted in a recent Financial Times article The Greening of Arabia, by Edwin Heathcote : “if you can make it work here, you can make it work anywhere.”
In one of Green Prophet’s previous articles on Masdar Cityit was noted that: “the project will be one in which commercial andresidential entities will blend with each other to create a totallyharmonious and ‘zero carbon’ environment, where all lighting and airconditioning systems will be powered by a 40 to 60 megawatt solar powerplant, a 20 megawatt wind farm, and geo-thermal and hydrogen basedpower.”
The construction itself will be such as to shelter the inhabitantsfrom the blistering Arabian sun and will include specially constructedwalls, screens and meshes to allow breezes to enter and keep sunlightout as much as possible.
All this sounds absolutely wonderful and almost too good to be true. But as we pointed out earlier, Masdar City could either be a practical community innovation or expensive showcase.
The project has one big drawback – the construction itself. Anytrue environmentalist knows that a significant construction project,such as the many that have been going on in various locations of theUAE, can in themselves be very damaging to an environment that is veryfragile, to say the least.
Anyone visiting these locations must sometimes wonder at whatexpense to the environment these projects will cause, including islandprojects like Abu Dhabi’s planned $27 billion USD Saadiyat Island commercial, residential and leisure time project currently underconstruction, and mooted to become Abu Dhabi’s cultural center.
But once completed, Masdar Citywill hopefully prove to be as green and sustainable as its planners anddevelopers say it will; and will not be just a “showcase” project asSaadiyat Island looks to be by many.