COP28 in UAE: How Masdar City in Abu Dhabi sets blueprint for sustainable urban spaces of the future

'Our approach is exploring technologies openly, without preconceptions'


Ahmed Waqqas Alawlaqi

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Chris Wan
Chris Wan

Published: Mon 23 Oct 2023, 2:47 PM

Last updated: Thu 7 Dec 2023, 1:21 PM

Masdar City is committed to addressing the climate crisis and believes in sharing its profound knowledge the world. Chris Wan, the Associate Director of Sustainability at Masdar City, offered these insights during an interview with Khaleej Times. Nestled in Abu Dhabi, Masdar City is a pioneering sustainable urban model with a global vision for zero-carbon urban development. This city stands as a thriving epicentre for sustainability, innovation, and research, and it's ready to showcase its innovative approaches as it heads toward COP28.

Wan highlighted that Masdar City offers a distinctive approach to building design and components. He stated, "Our focus is on sharing our innovative thinking methodology when it comes to building design and components." Wan, who has been with Masdar since 2008 and initially served as the lead architect, plays a central role in transforming the project's vision into tangible structures.

Wan further explained that Masdar City's approach to technology is quite unconventional. He stated, "Our approach is exploring technologies openly, without preconceptions. By piloting solutions, gathering data, and evaluating outcomes transparently, Masdar determines which technologies to expand citywide. No single building is the end goal, but rather a stepping stone toward the whole.”

Wan said, "At Masdar City, we consistently question: What does sustainable living truly entail?" He continued, "This questioning leads us to adapt and refine our approach within our buildings and designs." With each new development aimed at advancing urban sustainability, this conversation fosters a culture of quality and enhancement in the designs and structures within Masdar City.

Known for the architecture of Siemens and IRENA buildings, Wan discussed three new net zero buildings, set for completion by the end of 2023. These structures mark a momentous stride towards the UAE's ambitious 2050 net-zero emissions goal. Among these, NZ1 takes the lead as the first of the trio, serving as a net-zero test pilot. Wan said, "NZ1 will need occupants and a year of data before we can officially declare it as a net-zero building."

Delivering tangible results in a highly competitive field, especially within a region heavily dependent on fossil fuels, presents its own set of challenges. Wan acknowledged the complexities involved in turning a vision into reality. "Real-world collaboration is not easy,” he said. “Masdar City does its best to strive for collaborative design.”

Masdar City represents one of the UAE’s initial commitments to addressing climate change and sustainability, It is widely recognised as the initiative that marked the beginning of the UAE's efforts to address climate change and environmental concerns. As the UAE prepares to host COP28 in 2023, Masdar City aims to showcase its progress and innovations in sustainable urban development on the global stage. In 2021, the UAE made history as the first country in the region to pledge to achieve net zero emissions by 2050—a commitment that surprised many. Wan said: “This is a real commitment. I see huge progress in energy transition and sharing knowledge between organisations."


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