17 March 2010 - Masdar City, the "zero carbon" community being built on the outskirts of Abu Dhabi, is to be scaled back.
According to The Nation, Masdar City will keep its goals of being carbon neutral and producing zero waste to landfills, but there will be fewer buildings, they will be taller and built over a longer period of time. Masdar officials originally aimed to bring the whole city, with a floor space of 5.5m square metres, to market by 2016.
Now the goal is to complete 360 000 sq metres by the end of 2013, and only if executives are satisfied that there would be an adequate market, according to Alan Frost, the director of the Masdar City property development unit.
In the two years since the city plans were unveiled to the public, demand for both residential and commercial property has fallen, while Masdar has engaged in lengthy experiments to choose suitable energy technology and carbon-neutral materials. Masdar laid off 34 people from its property division this week, or about 20 per cent of its staff.
The company has met success in the commercial market by signing preliminary agreements with firms to lease out 100 000 of the 120 000 square metres of commercial space in the first phase, he said. But only one rental agreement has so far been finalized: a five-year deal for 1000 square metres with GE.
The development is also awaiting a promised energy policy to establish subsidies for renewable power.
Masdar is also looking to cut costs and is being more cautious about decisions on transport and energy with a view to avoid being locked into dearer or inefficient technologies.
A futuristic electric “pod car” system would serve the initial phase of the Masdar institute, but might not be rolled out across the city. Public transport systems linking Masdar to the rest of Abu Dhabi, which would help Masdar reduce its carbon footprint, have also been delayed.
Meanwhile, Masdar is re-evaluating previous assumptions that almost all of its power needs would be generated on-site through rooftop solar panels and other technologies. The city could instead import some of its electricity from Masdar’s solar plants in other parts of the emirate, which are expected to be more efficient.