It isn’t fog that rolls down the hill these days, but smog. Cars spill noxious fumes out their tailpipes and factories send plumes of smoke into the air. It has come to the point where holding your breath is the only solution when wandering across the street or between shops. These problems won’t exist in Masdar, Abu Dhabi the world’s first carbon neutral city.
Launched in 2007, the completion of this highly ambitious plan will occur around 2020. No cars or any other polluting vehicles are allowed in the city, waste and water are recycled, while recyclable plastics and cement will be used during construction. It is estimated that up to 80% of water used during irrigation will be recycled: water seeps through the earth and while some is absorbed by the plants, the rest will flow into a collection area to be reused again later, while fencing used during construction will eventually be resold and recycled.
Foster and Partners, an architectural company focused on design and function, planned Masdar: “Rooted in a carbon neutral ambition, the city itself is car free. With a maximum distance of 200m to the nearest transport link and amenities, the compact network of streets encourages walking and is complemented by a personalized rapid transport system. The shaded walkways and narrow streets will create a pedestrian-friendly environment in the context of Abu Dhabi’s extreme climate. It also articulates the tightly planned, compact nature of traditional walled cities. With expansion carefully planned, the surrounding land will contain wind, photovoltaic farms, research fields and plantations, so that the city will be entirely self-sustaining.”
The tightly packed city will resemble stereotypical Arabian style fused with modern technology-almost comparable to scenes from the jetsons. Visitors and inhabitants will need to get around on foot, bikes, segways or use the underground personal transit system to get around within Masdar’s walls. This isn’t as restricting as it sounds. For example, the solar powered personal rapid transit system (PRT) doesn’t follow a fixed route, but rather takes its load of passengers (up to 6) to any of the 1500 proposed stations throughout the area.
Trees planted throughout the city will provide the 50,000-100,000 inhabitants relief from the desert’s bright rays while numerous fountains add aesthetic appeal and humidify the dry air.
Building planners are taking task of building a zero-emission city seriously, and it seems feasible with the help of partners such as
- Europlasma-a company that provides a technology that turns toxic ashes to glass and garbage to fuel;
- Solyndra-a company providing one of the world’s most efficient solar panels;
- Segway-company of the famous single passenger standing scooter; and
- Bioregional-an independant environmental organization hired to calculate the carbon footprint left by Masdar’s various stages of development.
Skeptics claim that no city could ever be completely carbon neutral and that an exorbitant amount of energy is wasted making products like solar panels and personal transportation vehicles. This may be the case, but one should look at the bigger picture: Masdar is an experiment and improvements will always be made with technology.
The many years of waste-free living provided by the city will eventually offset the energy consumed during its production, as well. Costa Rica, Norway and Libya have also shown an interest in developing their own zero-carbon cities. It is nice to hear that some people aren’t just wasting their breath when it comes to discussing pollution, but actually trying to do something about it.