Juan M. Barrionuevo, Pascual Berrone and Joan E. Ricart are of the opinion that over 50% of the world’s population lives in cities and urban areas, if the current trends of rural-urban migrations are anything to go by; this is set to shoot over 75% by the year 2050. (Barrionuevo, Berrone, & Ricart, 2012 p. 51)
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The number of densely populated areas in cities will increase complicating urban mobility and putting greater strain to public facilities, this calls for cities to employ mechanisms to accommodate the large population, in what is referred to as “Sustainable Development.”
In their article, “Opportunities for Urban Development, smart cities sustainable progress” (Barrionuevo et al, 2012 p. 50-57) lists Rio de Janeiro, Barcelona, Yokohama, Malaga, Singapore, Birmingham, Copenhagen, Eindhoven, Suwon, and NYC as the world’s smartest cities.
They however fail to quote Masdar as one of the smart cities. Therefore, the main goal that defines the discourse of this paper is to evaluate Masdar city in the light of the factors of sustainable development of smart cities as stipulated by (Barrionuevo et al., 2012 p. 52-55)
This paper is divided into two parts; the first part is an in-depth analysis of Masdar city in the light of factors of sustainable development as presented by (Barrionuevo et al, 2012 p. 52-55), the second part seeks to establish whether the technology triangle has a role to play in the sustainable development of Masdar City.
Sustainable Development of Masdar City
Economics; the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology is leading research in IT and biotechnology, this is set to attract multi-global companies to invest in the city boosting its economy. Global companies in renewable energy and sustainability are already relocating to Masdar City. It hosts the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) which attracts investment thus boosting the city’s economy
Mobility and transportation; there is a pilot project of electric vehicles at Masdar Institute, electric cars and buses are set to be the means providing public transport in the city. Connection to the extensive metropolitan area will be provided by the light rail of Abu Dhabi and Metro lines which are set to pass across the city.
Urban planning; renewable energy sources with low relative environmental impact are used, the buildings’ orientation to the sun and winds are set in a way that the city is dominated by cooler temperatures. It employs narrow streets whose orientation maximizes shade at ground level. The entire city is built on a 23 foot-high concrete base to maximize exposure cooling winds.
Environment; the city is fully powered by on-site renewable energy, generates photovoltaic electricity and taps solar energy via solar collectors. It capitalizes on the resourcefulness of waste by , recycling, re-using, composition and recovery of energy. It encourages a public transport system to reduce co2 emissions, wastewater is treated and reused for landscaping.
Governance and civic participation: The city presupposes a democratic political system and established civil societies
Social cohesion: Technologically the city has adopted fiber optics and technologies that control traffic and ambulance services from a central point. As part of the social cohesion plan, the city’s buildings are built based on traditional Arab homestead architectures.
International presence: the city has zero-rated tax on imports and income and permits establishment of wholly-foreign businesses thus attracting external investments.
Role of the Technology Triangle in Masdar City
K. R Kemm in “Technology’s Winding Path; Implications for South Africa’s Development” (Consultants, 2001 p. 12) defines technology as the economically viable and socially acceptable application of science to the benefit of the economic process.
The Technology Triangle, according to The Masdar Institute (Masdar Institute, 2010) refers to “the strategic interaction and cooperation of (S) scientific research and community, (E) economics, business and industry, and (P) policies of governance.”
When science (S), Government policies (P), and Economics (E) all exert their magnetic forces on a variety of probable solutions to a problem, the most viable technological answer would be one which is Scientifically possible, one which is within the Government Policies and regulations and also it should be Economically viable.
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Masdar City is designed for the most efficient techniques of energy consumption and production. All energy will be drawn from renewable energy sources, and waste-to-energy conversion techniques.
Initial energy is deemed to come from a combination of photovoltaics, solar energy and waste-to-energy, any excess energy generated will be supplied to the national grid. It has incorporated the use of high power transformers and semi-conductor devices for power transmission.
The Masdar City energy plan clearly shows that the technology triangle has played a great role, the renewable energy concept is scientifically possible, within the government policies of environmental protection and is economically viable since tapping solar energy is much cheaper in comparison to hydroelectric power and fossil oils.
Taking a close look at transport sector, cars driven by fossil fuels will not be allowed into the city. Instead the city will be served by a network of electric cars and buses, walking and personal transit system (battery powered auto-piloted cars) are expected to serve as the convenient ways of traversing the city.
Electric and battery powered auto-piloted cars are a clear indication of advanced science, this transport system reduces emission of co2 to the environment and is in line with the government policies, and is also a cheaper alternative.
The Masdar City buildings are constructed in such a way that solar radiation to the surface is minimized to maintain low temperatures in the city, the buildings have the ability to monitor water consumption and power usage with systems that turn off remotely in incidences of overloads and when there are no people in the buildings.
This is a clear indication of advanced technology, economically viable- as the remote shutdown of systems in the absence of people conserves energy- and is in line with the authority policies.
The Carbon Management Unit is working on a way of Co2 emission reduction and Carbon Capture Storage (CSS) technology network for enhanced oil recovery (CSS-EOR) This project is aimed at reducing the UAE’s yearly co2 emission by 40% and increase oil production by 10%. This portrays science in action taking into consideration policies of environment protection and increasing economic gains through oil production.
In order to gain a complete insight of a smart city, this paper has undertaken a complete evaluation of Masdar City in the light of the factors of sustainability stipulated in the Journal, “Opportunities for Urban Development; Smart Cities Sustainable Progress” (Barrionuevo et al, 2012)
Benchmarking Masdar City on these factors, this paper concludes that Masdar city qualifies as smart city and that the technology triangle has played a role in its sustainable development.
Barrionuevo, J., Berrone, P., & Ricart, a. J. (2012). Opportunities for Urban Development; Smart Cities Sustainable Progress. IESEinsight: Third Quater2012 issue 14 , p. 51.