Step inside Masdar City, a place unburdened by roads, traffic and pollution


There’s never been a city like this one. If you haven’t already heard about Masdar City, here’s what you need to know: The project was initiated in 2006 with the intent to plan an ultra-modern, renewable energy-powered city with the help of the greatest scientific minds anywhere in the world. For the developers of Masdar City, energy conservation is at the forefront and their achievements are making history.

This is what makes Masdar City special:

Driverless car

These fully electric, zero-emission cars will get you from place to place underground.

There are no above-ground roads. Let that sink in for a moment. There are no roads. The city is built with ease of transportation in mind, even though there are no personally-owned vehicles allowed anywhere within Masdar City limits.

Instead, a subterranean network of tunnels rests beneath the city. Inhabitants of the city can usually walk or bike to and from destinations within Masdar City but, when they can’t, they have the option of using an automated mass transit system located within the subterranean layer.

Some even believe that this push for alternative transportation will push us toward an age in which the traditional automobile may very well become obsolete.


Buildings are built in a way that ensure natural flows of air to keep the city cool.

Still, the reason for banning personal vehicles is about more than just eliminating carbon emissions: it’s about keeping the city cool. The narrow pathways that connect Masdar City’s buildings are an astounding 10 degrees Celsius cooler than the surrounding desert.

This is achieved by taking advantage of knowledge used by the architects of ancient cities like Cairo and Muscat, which are designed to keep cool. By studying these cities, Masdar City’s architects found it beneficial to keep surface pathways short and narrow.  Buildings are also constructed close together at angles that help block out the sun. To cool down the city even more, wind tunnels funnel chill air throughout the city.

The Masdar Institute of Science and Technology houses students who will continue to study technologies based on alternative energy and environmental sustainability. According to Masdar, those technologies will then be implemented to increase standards in the city:

On average the buildings in Masdar City are more water & energy efficient by about 40%. The new International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) building, demands 42% less energy than global energy-efficiency standards and 64% less than typical buildings in Abu Dhabi. The complex uses roughly 50% less water than typical buildings in Abu Dhabi. I attached a fact sheet about IRENA for your reference—I think you’d be interested in the sustainable features that house IRENA, the first intergovernmental organisation to be based in the Middle East.

These standards are helped along due to an enormous number of solar panels. A field of over 87,000 helps power the city, and they are complemented with additional rooftop panels.

Completion of Masdar City is currently scheduled sometime between 2020 and 2025, and the population is expected to increase to 10,000 people within the next three to five years.

Oh, and the best thing about Masdar City is that growth is almost guaranteed because businesses and clients are 100% exempt from corporate and income taxes, with zero import tariffs. It’s time we took note of the achievements of other countries and did the same here at home.

Let us know what you think of the project!

EDIT: This post was edited on July 22, 2015 to include more accurate, updated figures with the help of Masdar. The project also wanted to clarify the following:

  • It is too soon to definitely talk about the expansion of The personal rapid transit system (PRT), as it is still in its pilot phase. Residents and employees will be allowed to bring their cars to the outskirts of the city—while a fleet of EVs and eventually electric buses will provide public transport throughout the city. Masdar City is also linked to greater Abu Dhabi by public transport.
  • For Masdar City’s developers, the goal of Masdar City is to provide a more holistic approach to sustainability—incorporating what Masdar believes are the 3 pillars of sustainability—the social, economic and the environmental aspects are all important. The goal is to make this a place where people will want to live, learn, work and play. We aim to become a complete innovation ecosystem—to date over 300 companies have opened offices here.

About Author

Jeff is a self-proclaimed pragmatic futurist; that is, he has high hopes for absurd life-altering technologies which sound too good to be true, and probably are. Although he writes on a variety of subjects, his real passion is for technological innovation and the people who make it happen. By day, he enjoys fuzzy bunnies, kittens, puppies, roller coasters and a sardonic written word or two. By night, he's busy running, replaying a random Final Fantasy game, or pretending to be Batman. He currently resides in Upstate NY.

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