World's First Zero Carbon City

Just 20 miles from Abu Dhabi in the Arabian Desert a sustainable city has broken ground and gearing up to be an iconic model for the world to marvel at.  Designed by Foster & Partners, the city, called Masdar would be almost a perfect square, nearly a mile on each side, raised on a 23-foot-high base to capture desert breezes.  Beneath the intricate maze of pedestrian streets, a fleet of driverless electric cars would navigate silently through dimly lit tunnels. This sounds kind of like an old Terminator movie from the early 90's.  A city with no human drivers and where streets are not dominated by cars, only in the desert could this develop so quickly.

A blend of high-tech design and ancient construction practices has morphed into an impressive model for a sustainable community.  This is impressive for a region that not too long ago, local tradition compromised the drive toward modernization.

In the design process Mr. Foster began with a careful study of old arab settlements, including ancient citadels and mud-brick apartment towers dating from the 16th century.  This process allowed him to understand the fundamentals and how these communities had been made livable in such a harsh hot climate.  Among the research the office learned that settlements were often built on high ground, not only for defensive reasons, but also to take advantage of the stronger winds.  Tall, hollow wind towers were used to funnel air down to street level cooling people at the surface.  The narrowness of the streets, which were almost always at an angle to the sun's east-west trajectory, to maximize shade, accelerated airflow through the city.  With implementation of these combined approaches, they could make Masdar feel as much as 70 degrees cooler.  This is incredible for a place that can feel as hot as 150 degrees F.  The city is expected to be powered 90 percent by solar, and the rest generated by incinerating waste.  Masdar will definitely be a place for planners, architects, and governments to learn from as we all prepare for population rise, fresh water shortages, greater need for renewable energy, a greater demand on food production, and fluidly sustainable transportation methods.

Check out an extended article at nytimes.com

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