Zero-carbon city by Foster + Partners



Architects Foster + Partners have announced the Masdar Initiative - a giant urban development in Abu Dhabi which they describe as the world's first "zero carbon, zero waste" city.


The six million square metre development is based on the planning principles of an ancient walled city.


Below is the press release from the architects:


Foster + Partners to create the world's first zero carbon, zero waste city in Abu Dhabi

The first project as a result of the Masdar Initiative is a new 6 million square meter sustainable development that uses the traditional planning principals of a walled city, together with existing technologies to achieve a zero carbon and zero waste community.


Masterplanned by Foster + Partners and launched today at Cityscape Abu Dhabi, the initiative has been driven by the Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company, and will be a centre for the development of new ideas for energy production.

Masdar responds to the urban identity of Abu Dhabi while offering a sustainable urban blueprint for the future. It is an ambitious project that will attract the highest levels of international expertise and commerce, providing a mixed-use, high-density city. The exciting programme includes a new university, the Headquarters for Abu Dhabi’s Future Energy Company, special economic zones and an Innovation Center.

Norman Foster said:
“The environmental ambitions of the Masdar Initiative – zero carbon and waste free – are a world first. They have provided us with a challenging design brief that promises to question conventional urban wisdom at a fundamental level. Masdar promises to set new benchmarks for the sustainable city of the future."

The principle of the Masdar development is a dense walled city to be constructed in an energy efficient two-stage phasing that relies on the creation of a large photovoltaic power plant, which later becomes the site for the cities second phase, allowing for urban growth yet avoiding low density sprawl.

Strategically located for Abu Dhabi’s principal transport infrastructure, Masdar will be linked to surrounding communities as well as the centre of Abu Dhabi and the international airport by a network of existing road and new rail and public transport routes.

Rooted in a zero carbon ambition, the city itself is car free. With a maximum distance of 200m to the nearest transport link and amenities, the compact network of streets encourages walking and is complemented by a personalised rapid transport system. The shaded walkways and narrow streets will create a pedestrian friendly environment in the context of Abu Dhabi’s extreme climate.

It also articulates the tightly planned, compact nature of traditional walled cities. With expansion carefully planned, the surrounding land will contain wind, photovoltaic farms, research fields and plantations, so that the city will be entirely self-sustaining.

Posted on Tuesday May 8th 2007 at 11:18 am by . Copyright policy | Comments policy

  • Where is the nature? Can there be nature in our cities of the future? The whole thing looks like a giant computer chip. I like the idea of density, but it shouldn’t be confined by the preconception of what technology should look like (hard edges and metal). It’s not very warm and inviting and it doesn’t make me want to live there.

  • when will this city be completed? did they give a deadline?

  • Sydney

    William McDonough’s model of town planning incorporates a lot of nature which benefits the inhabitants, the structures and the ecological process. Why is nature not a consideration here? A concrete jungle is still a concrete jungle.

  • Lee Yau

    Would a truly traditional walled city be more sustainable than Foster’s proposal?

  • Amit Sisack

    Have you read it?? it`s a walled city? with a giant energy company inside? and an absolutelly controlled transportation sistem (its not were you wanna go but were the sistem will let you go…??) thats freaky! yet in Foster we trust (and the millions of dolars for the arabic extreme make over)

  • …and where are the poor people? oh, I forgot…poor people will not exist in the future…like nature, of course

  • Martijn

    And how much carbon will be used building the six million square metre city? Can we stop with all the bullshit about building sustainable buildings and cities! Building huge concrete things in the desert where millions of people are going to live is not somethig I would call sus…….. I can’t even say it.

  • Andrea

    This city replicates my mental image of Yevgeny Zamyatin’s dystopia novel “We”. I thought we learned from Modernist Architecture disasters in America that closed spaces are terrible for living conditions, regardless of how sleek the architecture looks. Not one tree, tsk tsk- terrible.

  • DM

    Agreeing with many comments above:
    Does anyone stop to think what goes into making a “zero pollution” city? As far as I know steel like that doesn’t occur naturally. This is just more radical chic “environmentally friendly” BS!!! Self reliance is the first step towards anything worth a damn. When will people learn how to garden, build their own houses and quit relying on mass production to tell us what is good… This is just disappointing.

  • riomx

    It seems that architecture and city planning will be progressive and advanced. Too bad that in this vision of the future, a woman can still be bound by the hijab.

  • Patricio

    Pity there is absolutely no engineering input into this scheme. While it does reflect the vernacular architecture of closed courtyards (Andrea, they work very well culturally out here), the idea of relying on PV and wind in this climate shows the guy doesn’t understand the site parameters.

    And Riomx, don’t try to impose your (western?) cultural views on this part of the world.

  • Roni van der Veen

    My God, it’s easy to crap on a couple of VisArc renderings!!! Maybe all of you have gotten into the bones of this thing to tear it apart, but I applaud the ambitons of this town plan. It will be much easier to judge it’s merits once it’s futher designed and/or built.
    As one who has been intimately involved in similar, but smaller, town planning projects I know that even getting a client who would dare attempt something so ambitious is itself worth a hearty applaud.

  • Niloufar

    The whole thing seems to be PR story rather than a real plan. In this region you have to exceed everything in order to get attention… I don’t know, I just feel bad about everything related to Foster. I can only accept it as science fiction – quite cheap though. Imitating lots of old films of the eighties/nineties…

  • a n d r é s m o r e n o v á s q u e z

    Even if it goes well after being builded, even if it contributes to wrong as “sustainable”, we have to agree on that we ARE facing a change of paradigm.. let`s keep criticing but parallel to this, let`s adapt ourselves to this change in human way to build and think of space.

  • gabriel

    more important than the technological aspects of this plan, the urban and spatial qualities are highly questionable…

  • This is infact no doubt the future and should be adapted as a benchmark principal for all future projects.
    We have been in Business of Solar powered systems and believe us saving and using our energy wisely would make us live our lives wisely.

  • Martin

    The project is scheduled to be completed by end of 2009.

  • Todd

    Wall Around City = Growth Management = Antithetical to UAE Development Ethos = Believe It When I See It

  • In brief follow-up to Roni van der Veen’s comments. Where does Visarc enter into this, I am quite sure that we did not produce these renderings…

  • where will the energy come from to build this development?????

  • Bakada

    I applaud the idea of a planned “walled” city in a hostile environment. Nothing turns my stomach more than driving thru a country-side that has been decimated to build 5,000 sqft McMansions.

  • Lee

    Hundreds of years ago the arabs would have build these vernacular citiies in a time honoured way, why do they now need a British Architect, good earner Norman!

  • Rabih Gorayeb

    What are the external walls for? protection? isolation? growth control? an extremely-gated community? I find them a bit weird…

  • The people in UAE want to fight (with other) the global warming in a way or another.
    The project (in their eyes) would help to reduce the CO2 emissions.
    If someone has a good and useful ideas, I strongly advice him to speak up, there are a lot of listening ears in UAE.

  • Maliheh

    Nobody can live in any part of the UAE without airconditioning system, I thinck Foster should visit UAE in summer and he’ll never ever decide to do such a fake project!!!

  • sammydavisaskicker

    hey where is all that co2 intensive concrete made? where do they get the copper? thats not zero carbon. of course the green movement has been hijacked to market large energy and design-construction firms rather than to reduce POLLUTION. just because you use a couple solar panels for five or so years (their real lifespan) you are not solving the pollution problem. now you know why I am a laid off engineer.

  • DK

    This looks fascinating- applause + curiosity

  • mawn


    there are ways to survive without air conditionning. This must first start by the adaptation of our so-called needs. Bedouins have survived just fine, and so have we before twenty-four-hour-running centralized air-conditionning systems invaded our offices, homes and malls.

    Foster has been experimenting with double-skin facades and other similar low-consumption, low-emission technologies in order to reduce dependance on air conditionning.

    So I suggest you take a look around you and see that if the change doesn't start in our mentalities and standards, and unless we become open to new alternative lifestyles, we will drown in our own shit (pardon my french).

    ps. I know what heat is, I gew up in Kuwait, and I still think something like this can be made possible.

    • Keith


      You have touched upon some wisdom by one of the greatest thinkers of the twentieth century – Buckminster Fuller when you stated what may be possible.
      Mr. Fuller stated that :

      "There is no energy crisis – but a crisis of ignorance" ( I will add also a "crisis of greed and self-interest") that permeates most of society!

      My belief is that there is going to be a massive shift globally that will see most of the power and water supply utilities world-wide be put out of business by forward-thinking inspired geniuses that will provide cost-effective ways to create clean drinking water and unlimited power to every man, woman and child on this planet for very little cost! What's more I believe it is the right of every human on this planet to have access to these commodities!

      This shift in thinking and process will eventually stabilise the worlds population and go a long way in reducing the madness that creates wars.

      Masdar City is only a glimpse of what the forward-thinking leaders of the U.A.E. are striving for!!! This may happen within the next twenty to fifty years.


    what kind of techiniques are using for the zero carbon city concept…..will this concept discussess about sustainability by considering all the factors………

  • …a nasty trick of visualization..somehow a contradiction of what's within the scenario…