Masdar City: A Green Oasis In The Desert

Like a mirage on the horizon of Abu Dhabi, Masdar City shimmers with hope of a different kind of survival; the survival in this instance being a clean, sustainable future for generations to come. Masdar is translated into source from Arabic and is justly named so being a beacon of innovation in renewable energy. Now, there are many sustainable cities testing out various ecological ideals in their different pursuits, however, none compare to the scale of this marvel. Constructed by the government and designed with the help from Fosters + Partners, Masdar City hopes to be the largest self-sustainable city in the world. It’s ironic that Abu Dhabi, being one of the leading suppliers for fossil fuels would also be a leading country to test various viable  alternative energy sources. They are dedicated to these efforts and show strong promise in becoming a benchmark for future cities to build from.


Solar panels in the desert. Image via Masdar.

10 Interesting Facts About Masdar City

1. The city itself is architecturally designed for the climate of this middle eastern desert. It’s truly ingenious the way the buildings and façades help create shaded outdoor spaces which keep the temperature anywhere from 10-20 degrees cooler than outside the city.

2. A big part of this renewable city is the passive solar design, which is using different forms of solar panels. One area of the city, which is roughly 300-football fields large, presently houses the majority of these panels. The energy being produced currently exceeds their needs, which allows them reroute the unused fraction back into the grid system for the country.

3. Ongoing construction and developments use the energy created on site.

4.  The developers have chosen to use as much local materials as possible to cut down on Co2 emissions caused by transportation.

5. Masdar Institute of Science and Technology works with MIT to test scientific experiments in ecological studies.

6. In Abu Dhabi there were no waste disposal laws as far as chemicals go, so when the scientific studies began they had to create a system for proper disposal.

7. There are no cars allowed in Masdar City. Instead there is a underground service for transportation, similar to trains except with the comforts of a car.

8. The city holds the title of  “one of the world’s first integrated CCUS networks for the capture, use, and storage of CO2.”

9. Masdar collects its grey water through a filtration system, which pushes the water through a Membrane Bioreactor (MBR). It then gets recycled as irrigation water.

10. The design, although modern holds old middle eastern aesthetics as well.


Car-like train in Masdar’s underground transportation system. Image via Treehugger.

A New Urban Ideal

This is a new vision in urban sustainability, which further extends our current expectations of “green” cities. Masdar is an exciting progression in construction because it includes technological advances, innovative design principles, and critical analysis of energy consumption on a vast scale. Masdar City will complete phase one in 2015 but the completion of the city itself will not be accomplished until 2025. There’s so much promise behind this project and needless to say it will change the ideals we have about cities and how we build them. The development is a lot of trial and error but the difference compared to other sustainable cities is the governmental support and funding for its growth. Masdar City seems like an illusion in the desert but in reality it’s a very real place doing amazing things for our future.

Feature Image: Rendering of the Masdar City plan. Image via Masdar.

About The Author

is a undergrad student who has been studying architecture for over four years, first at Pratt Institute and now at UCF. Sustainability is important to her as a designer because architects greatly influence the environment through building and construction. It's vital for her to understand what the current issues are and how we can go about improving them. Her motto is "We can't create innovation without knowing what has already been done".