As I noted in my long article about Masdar, Masdar City is clearly the most well known arm of the company. The ambitiously green city is of course at a very early stage of its development, and I know that many have skeptically postulated that it’s never going to be built (or at least not as the super green city it is supposed to be). After visiting the first phase of the city, talking with key people there, and learning more about Masdar itself (as well as having the city planning background I have), I have to say that I think the skepticism is bunk. I’ll tackle that a bit more below, and also feature a few of the cool components of Masdar City that are already in place.
As noted above, and as is obvious from the pictures in this article, some of the city is already built and in use — it’s far from being the city of 40,000 that is eventually intended, but cities aren’t built in a day.
Some excellent research facilities are already in place and being used by cleantech and health researchers. A Siemens office building is currently being completed. And GE is also supposed to move into offices in the city soon. And residences for Masdar Institute researchers and students are in full use. A 10 MW solar PV farm is also already in place (see the pics below).
Overall, from the talks I had with Masdar City employees, the approach to development seems logical. Counter to what many probably think, the city is to develop somewhat organically over time, using a market-driven approach. It is not being developed in ignorance of the local real estate market, but is to be a natural result of both that market and intelligent planning.
And this is precisely why Masdar City has developed a bit more slowly than was originally anticipated. As everyone knows, there was a large global downturn in the economy 4–5 years ago, which we are still climbing out of. Real estate markets, especially high-end real estate markets (as this is) were particularly hurt. But if there’s one thing about the real estate market that everyone should know, it’s that it goes through hills and valleys of investment and growth. The UAE is a particularly attractive country for investment and growth, and I think it’s beyond skeptical to assume that Masdar City will never be fully developed.
I’ll just touch on one final point about the city (for now, at least). The city is aimed at being a highly pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly city with mixed use development and energy efficient design. Such communities are highly appealing to people. While such planning is the ideal of most city planners these days (certainly the good ones), antiquated zoning laws and other obstacles to smart development mean than a lot of development still goes forward in a less than intelligent way, resulting in less appealing communities. One of the biggest criticisms of communities and cities like Masdar City is that they are too expensive, not accessible to less affluent citizens. But there’s a reason for that — these communities and cities are so well designed and so attractive that they are in high demand. That high demand raises their prices. And that just reiterates my point — residences and commercial properties in this city will be in very high demand… once the market picks up.
Did this article trigger some thoughts? Or have some more info to add? Chime in below.
For another interesting story on Masdar City, I’d recommend an article that one of my colleagues recently published on the German site DW: Masdar eco-city rebounds after setbacks.
For more on Masdar as a whole (which goes way beyond Masdar City), check out: What Is Masdar?
For more content from CleanTechnica’s trip to Abu Dhabi, check out our archive pages for Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, the World Future Energy Summit, and/or the International Renewable Energy Conference.
Full Disclosure: my trip to Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week was funded by Masdar. That said, I was completely free to cover what I wanted throughout the week, and at no point did I feel under pressure to cover any specific events or Masdar in any particular way.
I'm the director of CleanTechnica, the most popular clean energy website in the world, and Planetsave, a leading green and science news site. I've been covering green news of various sorts since 2008, and I've been especially focused on solar energy, electric vehicles, bicycling, and wind energy for the past few years. You can also find my work on Scientific American, Reuters, Think Progress, GE's ecomagination site, several sites in the Important Media network, & many other places. To connect on some of your favorite social networks, go to zacharyshahan.com or click on some of the links below.