Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Oil state backs renewables as vision of the future.

There is an irony in this: it takes an oil state to pledge 15 billion dollars for the world’s first zero-carbon and zero-waste city, designed by our own UK architectural team, Fosters + Partners, to make the rest of the world sit up and take note. This is not a developed nation pushing forward with a bit of innovative zero carbon town planning (Gordon Brown, take note - 2016 is fast drawing near and we still have the building industry lobbying over the implementation of the 10% Merton Rule, never mind building future proofed 100% zero-carbon housing by 2016), nor is this a Clean Development Mechanism project pulling in support under the Kyoto Protocol. No, it is one of the wealthiest oil nations making a grand statement of commitment to push forward with a sustainable town proposal that has taken it's remit extremely seriously.

Located near Abu Dhabi International Airport (which will doubtless be a curious relic of an earlier era by the time this has been built), Masdar City will be the world’s first zero-carbon, zero-waste, car-free city, aiming to exceed the 10 sustainability principles of “One Planet Living”– a global initiative launched by the Worldwide Fund for Nature and environmental consultancy BioRegional. The 6 million square meter walled development to be built at Masdar will include a new university devoted to new ideas for energy production.
To remain zero-carbon within its walls, the city will be entirely car free. Carefully planned public transportation will ensure that none of the city’s inhabitants will have to walk more than 200 meters before meeting some part of the transportation link. Included in the transportation system will be a network of shaded walkways and narrow streets, creating a pedestrian-friendly atmosphere for those who prefer to travel by foot. All of the transportation system is offset with the inclusion of personalized rapid transport, ensuring rapid transit within the city limits. Outside of the walls, the development of the city was strategically sited to link to Abu Dhabi’s principal transport infrastructure, the center hub of Abu Dhabi, and the international airport via the existing road infrastructure and new public rail routes.

Along with the carefully planned intersection of transportation is the conscientious incorporation of wind, photovoltaic farms, research fields, and plantations, allowing for the Masdar to be entirely self-sustaining.

Even the development phase of Masdar has been made sustainable through a two-step phasing process, the first of which is dependent on the development of a large $350 million 100 megawatt solar plant, which will later be boosted to 500 megawatts to help ease peak-time pressure on the national grid.

The One Planet Living programme is based on 10 unique principles of sustainability. These targets are to be achieved by the time the Masdar City is completed and fully functioning in 2015.

One Planet Living principle - Masdar Target:

ZERO CARBON: 100 per cent of energy supplied by renewable energy – Photovoltaics, concentrated solar power, wind, waste to energy and other technologies

ZERO WASTE: 99 per cent diversion of waste from landfill (includes waste reduction measures, re-use of waste wherever possible, recycling, composting, waste to energy)

SUSTAINABLE TRANSPORT: Zero carbon emissions from transport within the city; implementation of measures to reduce the carbon cost of journeys to the city boundaries (through facilitating and encouraging the use of public transport, vehicle sharing, supporting low emissions vehicle initiatives)

SUSTAINABLE MATERIALS: Specifying high recycled materials content within building products; tracking and encouraging the reduction of embodied energy within materials and throughout the construction process; specifying the use of sustainable materials such as Forest Stewardship Council certified timber, bamboo and other products

SUSTAINABLE FOOD: Retail outlets to meet targets for supplying organic food and sustainable and or fair trade products

SUSTAINABLE WATER: Per capita water consumption to be at least 50 per cent less than the national average; all waste water to be re-used

HABITATS AND WILDLIFE: All valuable species to be conserved or relocated with positive mitigation targets

CULTURE AND HERITAGE: Architecture to integrate local values.

EQUITY AND FAIR TRADE: Fair wages and working conditions for all workers (including construction) as defined by international labour standards

HEALTH AND HAPPINESS: Facilities and events for every demographic group

Whilst the aesthetics may not be to the liking to a Scot brought up on a diet of trees rustling, the fresh air biting and the cold still waters of mountain lochs, one cannot fault the One Planet Principles.


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