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Masdar City - Eco-city on the Persian Gulf

View through a palisade at Masdar City

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has ambitious aims when it comes to developing technologies for renewable energy and climate protection: Located 17 kilometers from the capital Abu Dhabi, Masdar City will be a showcase for sustainable urban development. The buildings completed so far are already using 100% renewable energy.

Masdar is the Arabic word for “source” or “origin”. The pioneering project Masdar City is in fact a large-scale experiment: It embodies the vision of a city that is nearly carbon neutral and barely produces any waste. Masdar City also serves as a think tank, where new solutions for climate protection and renewable energy can be developed. The project was initiated in 2006 by Masdar, a company from the United Arab Emirates which takes a multifaceted approach to research, development and commercialization of technologies in the renewable energy and cleantech sector. Masdar is a subsidiary of the state-owned joint stock company Mubadala and explores new economic and energy diversification plans for Abu Dhabi.

The developers of Masdar City are employing best-practice benchmarks, sustainable building materials and energy-efficient technologies. As a result, the city’s energy consumption was 55% lower and water consumption was reduced by 54% compared to the 2011 average figures in Abu Dhabi. The energy used in the buildings completed thus far comes entirely from renewable sources. It is generated by a 10 megawatt solar power plant and 1 megawatt of rooftop photovoltaic panels. Masdar City is also implementing environmentally friendly transportation concepts: Cars with combustion engines have to be parked at the edge of town. In their place, electric vehicles ply the city’s streets and there are a well-developed public transport system and shady sidewalks.

The city was designed by the team of legendary British architect Sir Norman Foster and also incorporates traditional Arabic urban construction techniques. The buildings are laid out in such a way that they provide shade for the public roads and other buildings. This reduces the average temperature in Masdar City by up to 20C (68F) compared to outside the city. The coolness of the lower layers of earth is used for air-conditioning in the buildings.

Masdar City not only integrates environmentally friendly technologies, it also wants to promote their development. For example, it is home to Masdar Institute of Science and Technology, a university with a focus on renewable energy research. The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) is also going to set up its headquarters in Masdar City.

In order to live up to its pioneering role, Masdar has partnered with leading names, including BASF. The strategic partnership between BASF and Masdar began in 2009 and has resulted in BASF being named a “preferred supplier.” As a leading supplier of raw materials, formulations and systems for the construction industry, BASF has provided a range of products for the first building phase in Masdar City, including the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology. Some of the products used in its construction were grouts and mortars, joint sealants, coatings, tile adhesives and concrete additives.

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