Panel Outlines Green City Plan

Carbon-neutral design requires extensive analysis of the regional climate and attention to minute infrastructural details, the design team of a United Arab Emirates carbon-neutral city said yesterday at a panel hosted by the Graduate School of Design.

The panelists presented the details of their work designing Masdar, a planned carbon-neutral city in Abu Dhabi intended to create a model of sustainability for the rest of the world.

If everyone follows the Masdar model, “one planet is more than enough” to provide the necessary resources for human life, said Khaled Awad, the director of property development for the Masdar Initiative.

Panelists included Awad; energy analysts, who spoke extensively about the region’s climate and how to use sustainable energy; an architect; and a traffic analyst, who spoke about the planned public transportation system. All four speakers emphasized the design constraints imposed by the sweltering climate.

“The whole city is predicated around how you actually design in that climate environment,” said Peter Sharett, an analyst with WSP Group, an environmental consulting firm. Sharett said he and his colleagues analyzed the geographies of ancient cities to determine how best to deal with a desert climate.

The city is mainly designed around a cluster of “clean-tech” businesses, which will produce and research environmentally-friendly products.

Masdar will not only be a business and research hub but also an entirely self-sufficient city with vibrant residential life, parks, and nighttime entertainment.

“We wanted a mixture of laboratories, office space, and social elements that are essential for any high quality of life,” Awad said. “The highest quality of life would be attached to the lowest environmental footprint.”

The city will be home to around 50,000 people, while another 40,000 will commute. Because cars will be banned in Masdar, all commuters must walk, ride bicycles, or use public transportation to enter the city.

The panel began 20 minutes late due to technological problems. The panelists tried to include an architect in the presentation using Skype, but he could only occasionally be heard.

During the question-and-answer session that followed, Sharett lauded University President Drew G. Faust for her commitment to the environment.

Harvard’s eco-conscious plans for its new campus in Allston include a voluntary cap on greenhouse gas emissions well below required national standards. The University has committed to keeping carbon emissions 50 percent below national standards in Allston’s new science center and 30 percent below national standards for the rest of the Allston project.

“This is the leadership that Harvard needs to take forward,” Sharett said. “I think the world has been waiting for North America to put the huge amount of intellectual strength and vigor behind developing some of these things.”