Considering today's situation—high pressure from human-made climate change, and limited resources already causing war—single tower projects will be not enough to initiate change. We need concepts for the cities of tomorrow—like those we developed with Foster Partners for the carbon-neutral Masdar City, or with Finn Geipel/Giulia Andi for Grand Paris in 2030. By 2050, more than 75 percent of the world's population will live in cities.
As a member of the design team—consisting of the architects, traffic planners, infrastructure and renewable energy systems engineers, and us as climate engineers—for the Masdar City Master Plan in Abu Dhabi, we developed a new and most holistic approach for defining sustainable urban development.
Urban density is one of the most important measures for the sustainable approach in Masdar City. It has the greatest impact reducing energy demands in this hot and humid climate. All energy consumption must come from renewable sources, and materials have to be recycled. Due to the limited capacities of renewable energy sources such as sun, wind and geothermal, the first essential step is to minimize demand. Local natural adaptations showed us the way to reducing energy and material consumption. But developing a sustainable approach cannot be solved only through technical solutions. It demands rethinking lifestyles. This means a change in our daily behavior with respect to mobility, comfort expectations, water, energy and material consumption and waste production.
Our involvement in the Masdar City master plan project has given us the chance to view the possibilities of our work differently. Up to this point, we saw ourselves as experts in planning highly comfortable environments for the building user with a minimized energy demand. Through our work in the design team for Masdar City we were challenged to set the highest targets possible for energy savings and comfort protection in a city, enabling the team to plan a self-sufficient sustainable city—by realizing high-density living and working space, which will still allow for a modern but responsible lifestyle. If this can be showcased, it will have global impact. Some of the key concepts of Masdar City are innovative and have never been built at such a large scale. They demand further development and adjustment. To plan and realize these concepts in seven years will be a great challenge.
Society's high standard of living is responsible for the tripling of our ecological footprint. To prevent irreversible damage, we not only need to see our personal lifestyle and its impact in a global context, but also the opportunities that lie in our work and in the way we work. We see the vision of the Masdar Development for a carbon-neutral city as a concept demanding replication in other locations around the globe.
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