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so far been limited to small to moderate-sized buildings and small
communities, like a series of e cient row houses for 250 people
in Wallington, South London. One of the most ambitious zero-
emissions buildings to date, the Lewis Center at Oberlin College
in Ohio, has 1,263 square meters of floor space. Masdar City will
cover six square kilometers. Its headquarters alone, which will
include o ces as well as retail and cultural space, will occupy an
A detailed master plan for the city is complete, as are plans for
the first buildings: the Masdar Institute and the headquarters.
The city---which will include apartments and laboratories, but
also factories, movie theaters, cafés, schools, fire stations, and so
on---is intended to generate as much electricity as it uses. Its water
will be recycled to save the energy costs of desalination. Vacuum
tubes under the city will transport garbage to a central location,
where it will be sorted, and as much as possible will be recycled.
Trash that can't be recycled will be converted to energy through a
gasification process and the leftovers incorporated into building
materials. Sewage will be treated and some of it processed into a
dry renewable fuel for generating electricity. The transportation
system will include a light-rail line linking the development to
downtown Abu Dhabi and the airport, as well as a personal rapid-
transit (PRT) system with stations throughout the city. The PRT, a
system of automated electric vehicles, will connect people to the
rail line or deliver them to parking garages outside the city.
As is typical for zero-emissions projects to date, the city will
need to rely in part on fossil fuels---both during construction and
for power at night, when its solar panels won't be producing any
electricity. The goal is actually best described as zero net carbon
dioxide emissions: to reach the zero-emissions target, the develop-
ers will turn to a system of carbon credits. As the city is being built,
a 10-megawatt array of solar panels will deliver power to nearby
Abu Dhabi city, reducing demand for electricity from local natural-
gas-fired power plants during the day. The carbon emissions saved
will o set the emissions produced at night, when Masdar draws
power from those same natural-gas plants. This solar array, and
additional panels that will be installed as construction continues
and electricity demand grows, will also o set the carbon emissions
from construction equipment, from the processes used to make
building materials such as concrete, and even from consultants'
flights into Abu Dhabi from cities around the world.
So far, the developers have been accounting for "just about every-
thing," says Pooran Desai, cofounder of BioRegional, a British com-
pany that helped develop the zero-emissions project in London and
has consulted for Masdar. "I don't know of any other project that
has been as thorough in terms of its carbon monitoring," says Desai.
"They're hunting down every molecule of carbon dioxide."
THE MASTER PLAN
Dubai is a sprawling, car-dominated city about an hour's drive
from Abu Dhabi city. Skyscrapers stretch along a 12-lane high-
way, Sheikh Zayed Road. Sunlight heats the unshaded areas to
46 °C in the summer. But there are a few places in Dubai where a
person can walk outdoors in the middle of the day without risk-
ing heatstroke, and all are artifacts of the past. There are the cov-
ered souks, shaded marketplaces. And there is a historic district
called the Bastakiya, which preserves some of the architecture that
protected locals from the heat and humidity before the arrival of
air conditioning. The houses and shops have thick walls made of
dried coral and gypsum that absorb heat during the day, releasing it
slowly at night. Because the buildings are packed closely together,
they shade both each other and the narrow passages between them.
The passages funnel breezes, cooling the buildings further.
When Gerard Evenden, a senior partner at the British firm Foster
and Partners, began to make the master plan for Masdar City, he
"I don't know of any other
project that has been as
thorough in terms of its
carbon monitoring. They're
hunting down every molecule
of carbon dioxide."
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