The Failure of Masdar City

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Flying over the vast desert in Abu Dhabi, suddenly there appears Masdar City, a huge, geometrical complex with many glass buildings, as unreal as a Fata Morgana.

It was designed to be the most sustainable community on earth. Not only that: The city should provide more than 70 % of the entire country’s energy, using solar power. Automobiles would be banned because of  the personal rapid transit (PRT) which fully relies on driverless railway cabins.

Masdar City as it should look like after completion.

Forgemind Archimedia/flickr

Masdar City as it should look like after completion.

But the project has encountered many challenges. Masdar City, which is not yet completed, is already 15 years behind schedule. The financial means are unsure and the project management team has already announced that they will not aim any more for a zero-carbon community but rather for a carbon-neutral project.

City planners had hoped for a bustling city full of people by now. But currently, the city’s only residents are scholarship students, whose research is related to sustainability and Abu Dhabi, attending the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology.

One of these residents is Sanaa Iqbal Pirani, who is pursuing a PhD about food waste in the hospitality industry. She has lived in the experimental city for three years, yet remains positive about the project, which was supposed to be finished in one piece. “We are now concentrating on different phases to complete the project,” she said. “It is very important to learn from mistakes so we should not rush in terms of timing.”

The Masdar Institute of Science and Technology is currently the only completed building. Siemens is meant to open soon his Middle Eastern headquarters at the end of this year.

In order to meet sustainability goals, residents are not allowed to bring outside devices into their flats because the energy consumption will be monitored and other results would not show the ideal model of energy consumption.

During various sessions on sustainable cities and infrastructure at this year’s World Resources Forum, many speakers argued that maybe we should concentrate more on the people who live in a city. They are the decisive factor if a city will become successful and the change of their behaviour can have the biggest impact.

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