Masdar City (Arabic: مدينة مصدر, romanizedMadīnat Maṣdar, lit.'Source City')[1] is an urban community in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates. It was built by Masdar, a subsidiary of the state-owned Mubadala Investment Company, with the majority of seed capital provided by the Government of Abu Dhabi.[2][3]

Masdar City
مدينة مصدر
Rendering of the future Masdar City from the air
Rendering of the future Masdar City from the air
Masdar City is located in United Arab Emirates
Masdar City
Masdar City
Location of Masdar City in the UAE
Coordinates: 24°25′45″N 54°37′6″E / 24.42917°N 54.61833°E / 24.42917; 54.61833
CountryUnited Arab Emirates
EmirateAbu Dhabi
SeatMasdar City Hall
 • Lord MayorAbdulla Balalaa
 • Total6 km2 (2 sq mi)
 • Land6 km2 (2 sq mi)
 • Water0 km2 (0 sq mi)
 • Total5,000
 • Density830/km2 (2,200/sq mi)
Time zoneUTC+04 (Arabian Standard Time)

Launched in 2006 as a $22 billion state-funded project to construct "the world’s most sustainable eco-city" by 2016, the start date for the project has since then been delayed indefinitely.[4] By 2023, approximately 15,000 people lived and worked in Masdar City (of whom 5,000 were residents), and the community covered less than a sixth of the area it was intended to cover.[4][5]

Urban plan


Initiated in 2006, the city was envisioned to cover six square kilometers and estimated to cost US$18−22 billion. The original plan was that it would take approximately eight years to build, with the first phase scheduled to be completed and habitable in 2009.[6][7][8]

Construction began on Masdar City in February 2008 and the first six buildings of the city were completed and occupied in October 2010. However, due to the impact of the global financial crisis, completion was pushed back to between 2020 and 2025.[9][10] By 2016, less than 300,000 square metres (0.12 sq mi) had been developed and final completion was estimated to be 2030.[11] As of 2020, a 2030 completion date was still projected.[12]

The city is meant to be an example of sustainable urban development, innovation, and community living. As designed, the city would be home to 45,000 to 50,000 people and 1,500 businesses. More than 60,000 workers were projected to commute to the city daily.[7][13][14]

On June 24, 2022, Masdar City broke ground on a new construction called Masdar City Square. It will cover 29,000 square meters, including a net-zero energy commercial headquarters building and six additional LEED Platinum and WELL Gold buildings. It is projected to be complete in 2024.[15][16]

On February 2, 2023, Masdar City broke ground on The Link, a mixed-use development that will cover 30,000 square meters. It will include a net-zero energy co-lab building that will house both office and residential space, as well as four other LEED Platinum and WELL Gold buildings that will include event space, recreational and fitness facilities, and retail. It is projected to be complete in 2025.[17]



Masdar City is designed to welcome pedestrians and cyclists.[18]

The temperature in the streets generally feels 5-10 C cooler than the surrounding desert. The difference is due to urban design. The city's core, called the podium, is raised above the surrounding area and oriented to pull wind through the streets. Buildings are clustered close together to create streets and walkways that are shielded from the sun. Additionally, a 45-metre-high (148 ft) wind tower modelled on traditional Arab designs sucks air from above and creates a cooling breeze.

Masdar City is home to the widely pictured Eco-Residences, which have terracotta walls decorated with arabesque patterns and are rated LEED Platinum. Masdar City also contains a tech park made from recycled standard 40 foot unit shipping containers.[19]

Masdar City was designed by Foster and Partners. Foster's design team started its work by touring ancient cities such as Cairo and Muscat to see how they kept cool. Foster found that these cities coped with hot desert temperatures through shorter, narrower streets, usually no longer than 70 metres (230 ft). The buildings at the end of these streets create just enough wind turbulence to push air upwards, creating a flushing effect that cools the street.[20]


Podcar at a personal rapid transit (PRT) station

Transportation options include public mass transit and a personal rapid transit (PRT) system, which transports people in autonomous electric pods along an underground track.

In October 2010, it was announced the PRT would not expand beyond the pilot due to the cost of creating the undercroft to segregate the system from pedestrian traffic.[21] Subsequently, a test fleet of 10 Mitsubishi i-MiEV electric cars was deployed in 2011 as part of a one-year pilot to test point-to-point transportation for the city as a complement to the PRT.[22][23]

In 2018, as part of a trial project, seven autonomous shuttles, called NAVYA, began to operate on the podium, carrying passengers between the car park and the city center.[24] A further route was due to open in 2019 that ran from the residential complex above the city's North Car Park to the headquarters of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and the Majid Al Futtaim's My City Centre Masdar Shopping Mall.[25][26][27]

Under a revised design, public transport within the city will rely on methods other than the PRT and NAVYA.

Masdar City is working on using a mix of electric vehicles and other clean-energy vehicles for mass transit inside the city.[28] The majority of private vehicles will be restricted to parking lots along the city's perimeter. Abu Dhabi's planned but delayed light rail and metro line may eventually connect Masdar City's center with the greater metropolitan area.[9][23] As of 2020, connections to beyond the city continue to be by car, as a projected light rail line does not yet exist.[12]

Commercial tenants and population


Khalifa University


Part of Khalifa University, formerly the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology, is located in Masdar City. The design of the campus emphasizes flexibility, the use of traditional architectural elements, and modern materials that minimize energy needs. By 2013, 336 students were enrolled at the institute. These students were selected from more than 2,000 applicants. Forty-two per cent of enrolled students are from the UAE and 35 per cent are female.

The university's building, developed in co-operation with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, uses 51 per cent less electricity and 54 per cent less potable water than traditional buildings in the UAE,[29] and is fitted with a metering system that constantly observes power consumption.

International Renewable Energy Agency


Masdar City is the headquarters of the International Renewable Energy Agency, commonly known as IRENA, the first intergovernmental organization in the Middle East.[30] Construction of IRENA's headquarters was completed in 2015.

Masdar City was selected to host IRENA's headquarters after a high-profile campaign by the UAE. In its bid, the UAE offered rent-free offices in Masdar City, 20 IRENA scholarships to the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology, and up to US$350 million in loans for renewable energy projects in developing countries.

Siemens Energy


The regional headquarters for Siemens is also located in Masdar City. The LEED Platinum building makes use of sustainable and energy efficient materials and building techniques.[31] It was designed to use 45 per cent less energy and 50 per cent less water than typical office buildings.[32] The Siemens headquarters won an award for best office building at the MIPIM Architectural Review Future Projects Awards in 2012. The Middle East Architect Awards named it both the best and most sustainable office building the same year.[32]

The 12,000 square-foot building is built around the idea of a "box within a box." The structure includes a highly insulated airtight inner façade that insulates from the sun and a lightweight aluminum shading system on the exterior. The plaza beneath the building is funnel-shaped. This shape works to suck prevailing winds underneath the building. Due to the Venturi effect, a breeze flows up to the roof of the building through atria in the building's structure, cooling public spaces without energy costs. These atria also allow daylight into the center of the building in order to reduce the need for artificial lighting, further reducing energy consumption. The building's automation systems are all from Siemens.[32][33]

Siemens signed an initial 10-year lease.[33]

Incubator Building


The Incubator Building includes retail and office space to house start-ups, small-and-medium-sized enterprises, and regional offices for multinationals. Some of the most notable tenants have included General Electric, Mitsubishi, Schneider Electric, and the Global Green Growth Institute.[33][34] It is rated LEED Gold.[35]

The Catalyst


Masdar City partnered with oil giant BP to created The Catalyst, an investor that supports clean-tech start-ups. As of May 2023, The Catalyst supports eight start-ups. It aims to attract companies focusing on green technology, and they accept applications from local and international businesses and entrepreneurs.[36]

Renewable resources


The original master plan envisioned a city functioning on its own grid with full carbon neutrality.[37] Masdar City is partially powered by solar panels, but also draws power from the local grid.

Gerard Evenden, the lead architect, says that the original plan for Masdar called for powering the entire city through on-site methods such as rooftop solar panels. He said,

"When we started this project, nobody had really looked at doing projects of this scale. Then you realize it's much more efficient to build your solar field on the ground in the middle of the desert. You can send a man to brush them off every day, rather than having to access everyone's buildings individually, and you can make sure that they are running at their absolute peak. It's much better than putting them on every building in the city."[38]

Blowing sand has been a problem for its solar panels, so Masdar City has worked with other organizations to engineer surfaces with pores smaller than sand particles to stop them from sticking on the panels.

Low-flow water fixtures are used throughout the city to reduce water use, and waste water is reused "as many times as possible," with greywater being used for crop irrigation and other purposes.[13][39]

Palmwood screens used in Masdar City

The exterior wood used throughout the city is palmwood, a sustainable hardwood-substitute developed by Pacific Green using plantation coconut palms that no longer bear fruit. Palmwood features include the entrance gates, screens and doors.[40]



The project is supported by the global conservation charity World Wide Fund for Nature and the sustainability group Bioregional. In 2008, in response to the project's commitment to zero carbon, zero waste[19] and other environmentally friendly goals, WWF and Bioregional endorsed Masdar City as an official One Planet Living Community.[41]

The US Government has supported the project. The US Department of Energy has signed a partnership agreement with Masdar in a deal that will see the two organizations share expertise to support plans on zero-carbon cities.[42]

The Alliance to Save Energy honored Masdar City with a 2012 EE Visionary Award in recognition of the city's contributions to the advancement of energy efficiency.[43]

Some skeptics are concerned that the city will be only symbolic for Abu Dhabi.[6] In an interview in 2011, Geoffrey M. Heal, a professor at Columbia Business School in New York City and an expert in environmental economics, called Masdar City "a gimmick, a way of attracting publicity and attention."[37] Its use of solar energy is not a practical model for others to follow, Heal further noted, given that few places in the world enjoy as much year-round sunlight as the Persian Gulf.[37]


See also



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