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Norman Foster’s City of the Future: Sustainable, zero-waste and car-free

21 March 2011 No Comment

Norman Foster is one of the most respected architectural professionals in the world. With his ambitious goals in high tech architecture, he gave Great Britain and the entire world numerous architectural wonders.

He is mostly renowned for having designed the famous Hearst Tower in New York City, the Gherkin in England and the Hong Kong International Airport in faraway Asia as well as. His portfolio is proof of well over 40 years of experience and high architectural professionalism.

His true passion for sustainable architecture and the “green” field is proven through his next project, which is the creation of the world’s first carbon neutral city, called Masdar City (Abu Dhabi UAE).

The City of the Future. Walled in & zero carbon, zero-waste management rule

500x_masdar4Image source

The city (also called the “walled in city”), will feature and have implemented all the renewable energy and sustainable architecture/technology patterns. It will become a dynamic technology cluster, spanning over 6km2 (or 2.3 sq. miles), and which will house around 40,000 citizens and of course numerous businesses.

This is the city of the future, which will not pollute, will create its own energy, and will stay clean and self-sufficient.

Masdar-City-UAE Image source

Moreover, when this dream project will come true, Abu Dhabi will become a global centre of excellence in regards to sustainability, innovation, and knowledge – the famous Masdar Institute of Science and Technology already operates in the dream city, where programs like Mechanical Engineering, Water and Environmental Engineering or Microsystems are regarded some of the world’s leading academic study programs in sustainable technology and alternative energy.

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Renewable energy and clean technology are the top leading ideas for creating Masdar City. When the project will be finalized, Abu Dhabi will become a landmark every time someone will discuss about renewable energy, or “green architecture”. Of course all these automatically mean a better quality of life in the city for people, more energy on all levels, and continuous research.

The city will most definitely become a model for present architects and future generations who will want a “copy” of Masdar in their neighborhood.

The One Planet Living principle- will that ever be possible?

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Zero-carbon and zero-waste are the prime mottos of the city. Actually, the project builders have come up with the “One Planet Living” study and principle at the same time, which proves that people of the planet are actually polluting the World almost 30% faster than they should. This means that it will shortly take two or three Earth sized planets to deal with all the waste. What still keeps the planet in a so called “balance”, is that underdeveloped countries are not massive consumerist societies like the US, the UAE or Europe, so they pollute very little.

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The one planet living is a principle which is proposed by project builders, and which would like to see the entire planet co-operate and live harmoniously but be environmentally conscious at the same time. The principle is going to be implemented in Masdar City, and hopefully the world will start copying the good habits.

Sustainability objectives: no cars, no papers, less water and food

Some of the main objectives in the sustainability plan of the city include:

  • The use of sustainable materials for construction of all the buildings in the city- (such as recycled steel, certified wood, low VOC producing compounds etc.)
  • Low carbon footprint existence (greenhouse gas reduction to a minimum)
  • Renewable energy for the entire city
  • Reducing construction footprints
  • The documentation processes will take place without “paper” (zero bureaucracy) for a cleaner environment
  • Sustainable transportation within the city – powering all the vehicles circulating within the city using renewable energy methods.

masdar-city5Image source

The plan also foresees a reduction by 95% of the personal car use in ten years after Masdar City completion. Some may see this unrealistic, but after 10 years of living in a 0-carbon and 0-waste city, people learn to become environmentally conscious.

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An alternative suggested PRT system at Götgatan, Stockholm.

PRT-systemImage source: Background picture Minolta Dimage F100. PRT system created in trueSpace.

The community will constantly learn about renewable energy technologies and different eco systems

  • Make a tradition as an urban community to constantly give an example to the entire world; practically, the aim is to make Masdar City a role model in sustainable living
  • Significant reduction of CO2 even in the construction phase
  • Build only efficient structures
  • Reduce resident energy consumption levels through the implementation of wise technologies
  • All the businesses that will operate within the city must comply with the sustainable rules and regulations
  • 35% concentrated solar power energy production, and 42% photovoltaic energy production

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There will be well defined policies and regulations for minimizing waste generation- such a community can only exist if strong policies are being implemented which are respected by all the inhabitants. The waste is collected and sorted into recyclable, non-recyclable and bio-products=> thus, the whole process will rely on 50% recycling, 33% waste to energy and 17% composting=> resulting in 0% waste.

The use of all the natural resources in a highly responsible way. They will start by using 30% less water in the construction phase than a project of such dimensions would normally require. Water, the indispensable natural resource will be treated with responsibility: water leakage and water consumption will be significantly reduced, and the use of recycled water will be maximized.

The list could definitely continue, as there are hundreds of rules trying to regulate the urban cluster of Masdar.

Environmental responsibility

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To some critics, it may seem at first sight that too much control is being implemented over how one uses the water, the food, the environment, etc. It certainly looks so, but in order to maximize the quality of living in an urban environment, some strict regulations must be followed- people even have to comply with the sustainable food regulations which point out that consumption should not exceed 0.6 hectares per person.

Basically, one can clearly admit that for a maximised quality of life, people should eat less, exercise more, avoid pollution, avoid chemicals, etc. This should be a guiding principle in just about any city in the world, only in Masdar City, this will become a sort of “law”.

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Eco friendly urban setting

Masdar City is foreseen as a highly eco friendly urban setting that takes care of all the factors such as social, economic, and environmental. It will become a compact union of people, businesses, and other institutions who will act as proof to the fact that sustainable living can become a reality, and it is not only something one sees in a Hollywood movie.

3-Masdar-City Image source via Foster + Partners

There are many critics who dwell upon the fact whether people will integrate well into such a society. Indeed, switching lifestyle and lifetime habits from one day to the other might not be easy, but with time the new environment will prove to be a healthier and much more economical choice.

Cost. Completion. Skeptics.

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For when is this project seen as a reality?

Given the huge impact the financial crisis had on a Global level quite recently, Masdar City will probably come to full completion only around 2025. The project has been alive since 2006, and the completion (construction proper) phase is estimated at 8 to 10 years. Estimated cost? Around US$20 billion.

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The world is filled with skeptics who are never late to bring their “welcome” comments, mainly that Masdar City will be just yet another luxury fenced community with access for the well-off citizens of the world, and that “sustainability” is only a veil to attract even more $$$ in the already famous and exclusivist traveler’s paradise spots around UAE. We’ll just have to wait and see…

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