Sunday, 10 December 2017

City of the Future

by Isabelle Sambles

solar panels in Masdar, UAE
For this article, I decided to look at development projects which were currently going on that had links to environmental sustainability and demonstrated interesting ways that structures can be used to harness renewable energy. The city that really caught my eye was Masdar, located south-east of Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates. The UAE is considered a developing country by the United Nations, which means that, although it doesn’t classify as having a developed economy, the country is growing and going through industrialization.

The city was initiated in 2006 with construction starting in 2010. The project was predominantly paid for by the Abu Dhabi government and is predicted to cost around US$19bn. It is set to cover 640 hectares and it is set to become the world’s most sustainable city with the city plans including a low carbon footprint during and after construction. The city planners hope that it will become a centre for innovation in new energy production and with its proximity to the international airport and neighboring communities the city aims to attract experts in renewable energy fields.

One of the key plans within Masdar City is the concept that there will be no fossil-fueled vehicles at street level. Therefore, above the ground, the city is designed to be fully pedestrianized and so the planners can design narrower streets which will generate cooler breezes through trapping the wind, and so there will be less need for air-conditioning in the heat, resulting in less energy being needed. This ground-up approach puts the majority of the transport network below the ground.

However, the developers have placed a personal rapid transit system above ground which has two stations and can carry passengers back and forth. The personal rapid transport system will be operational 18 hours a day with the vehicles operating on-demand. This not only means that all transport energy consumption can be monitored above the city but is also an opportunity for engineers to develop an above-ground transport system which has almost zero emissions and is unlike anything else found in the world.

Another purpose of the city is that it will only use renewable energy. Being located near the Equator the city gets a lot of sun, and so the city planners have implemented solar technology on top of all rooftops. The city also has one of the largest photovoltaic installations in the Middle East that can generate 10-megawatts of solar power.

Photovoltaic systems use cells to convert sunlight into electricity; they are able to do this because the photovoltaic cell consists of one or two layers of a semi conducting material, usually silicon. This means that when light shines on the cell it creates an electric field across the layers causing electricity to flow. The greater the intensity of the light, the greater the flow of electricity, so that the electricity usage is meant to be 75% less than an average cities consumption.

Focusing on the infrastructure in Masdar, the buildings are designed so that its residents can live and work in the same location, thus creating a densely populated environment, which means that there will be a reduction in heat, cooling and transportation demands. This means that there is less energy usage as a whole.
The city is intended to host around 45,000 people with an additional 60, 500 daily commuters. Out of those living in the city there are plans to educate three-quarters of the population each year with 5 hours of sustainability training. Which in turn will mean that people will have better understanding about how to be environmentally friendly and so individually can make their mark on the sustainable city.
The city also looks at water conservation and has implemented high-efficiency appliances, low-flow showers, water tariffs and smart water meters. On top of this they will treat the waste water which will be recycled for plant irrigation. The surrounding landscape of the city is to be developed into wind and photovoltaic farms for generation of additional energy. On top of this there are plans to construct research fields and plantations to provide for the city and make it self-sufficient.
The city is designed to be completed by 2030 with the development of the city being divided into two parts, separated by a linear part. Constructing it this way makes room for new technologies and gives it extra flexibility. This also comes from the planners anticipating expansion of the city in the plans and so it will reduce the abstract urban sprawl which occurs in most of the large cities in developing countries.

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