Masdar city, in the heart of the Gulf desert, on the outskirts of Abu Dhabi, has no light switches or water taps. In Masdar, movement sensors control lighting and water in order to cut down electricity and water consumption by nearly half. The city is touted by the UAE as possibly “one of the world’s most sustainable eco-cities.”
And now University of Birmingham researchers are presenting it as a model to teach the UK and the world about saving energy and resources, contrasting it with energy systems in Birmingham, United Kingdom.
They analyzed the differences and similarities between Masdar, founded very recently in 2008 against an urban environment, and Birmingham, a well-established post-industrial city that has evolved over 400 years. “Masdar City benefits from starting from a blank slate, whereas Birmingham has existing processes, procedures and an ageing infrastructure to negotiate,” according to the researchers.
Masdar is primarily powered by Shams 1, one of the largest concentrated solar power plants in the Middle East, and it houses the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology, which carries out renewable energy research.
“We compared two very different cities – both aspiring to be ‘low-carbon’. Masdar has started well by building low-rise, energy-efficient buildings with smart metering,” says lead author Susan Lee, from the department of civil engineering. “Data from such buildings can help to change people’s behaviour and help develop more energy-efficient new and retrofitted UK buildings. The UAE is a hot and arid place; experience gained in Masdar will help us plan here in the UK for projected hotter summers, with more frequent heatwaves, particularly in cities, as the climate changes.”
Birmingham, says the researcher, has a few things to teach Masdar as well, including how the city adapted to new energy requirements. Lee believes that Masdar can also benefit from her university’s research into hydrogen fuel-cell cars.