October 12, 2007 The sleek, modern capital of the United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi, will be host to what is planned as the world’s first zero carbon, zero waste city. Once known for pearls and oil, the city now boasts impressive sustainability credentials and is pioneering a new attitude towards environmental management in the Middle East.

The project involves a six million square meter sustainable development that will combine traditional planning principals of a walled city with existing technologies. The planned development is a dense, car-free city to be constructed in an energy efficient two-stage phase. A large photovoltaic solar power plant will be constructed to power the city and the location is close to transport infrastructure with links to surrounding communities, as well as the center of Abu Dhabi and the international airport, by a network of existing road and new rail and public transport routes.

The concept, created by Foster + Partners, is the first project as a result of the Masdar Initiative. According to its website, the Masdar Initiative identified an evolution in global technology and a shift to new energy sources. The initiative “aims to play a unique role in that evolution – representing a leading Middle Eastern oil-producing nation that is pro-actively engaging the world’s best minds and organizations to envision a cleaner, more sustainable future.”

Norman Foster from Foster + Partners said the “environmental ambitions of the Masdar Initiative – zero carbon and waste free – are a world first. They have provided us with a challenging design brief that promises to question conventional urban wisdom at a fundamental level. Masdar promises to set new benchmarks for the sustainable city of the future.” It will be a center for the creation of new ideas for energy production and set a precedent for urban development in the Middle East for the future.

This ambitious project is expected to attract the highest levels of international expertise and commerce. The beauty of the concept is that rather than just a focus on sustainable urban design and waste management, the idea encompasses a holistic approach, including transportation, to ensure the city is car free. Residents will only have to walk a maximum distance of 200m to the nearest transport link and amenities. The compact network of streets with shaded walkways will also encourage people to travel by foot.

The idea for Masdar came about in 2006 when Abu Dhabi made a firm decision to embrace renewable and sustainable energy technologies. It is envisaged that Masdar will play a decisive role in Abu Dhabi's transition from technology consumer to technology producer and the city will be completely self-sustaining. The end goal is not only environmental sustainability but the establishment of an entirely-new economic sector based on renewable energies.

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