Chasing Zero

Century after century, home along the east-central coast of the Arabian Peninsula generally meant a house of mud or coral brick, roofed with palm thatch, in a small town or settlement. Food staples were local dates and rice, as well as fish that came to shore aboard dhows powered by the winds. Cooking was fueled by wood, carried to the coast by camel from interior oases. It was an economy powered, directly and indirectly, by the sun. Though by today’s standards it seems little more than sustenance, it endured. It was sustainable. 
This all changed in the last century, of course, and in 2007 global population tipped its balance, for the first time, from rural to urban. More than ever, ours is a century of cities.
What kinds of cities will these be, five, 20, 100 years from now? From those carrying millennia of history to those built entirely anew, we face pressing questions about not just where we live and how we get around, but also how much energy we use. “Carbon footprint” has become fundamental for thinking about cities. This has set before urban planners a challenge: How can we extend the lifestyle benefits of cities while minimizing their carbon costs? While many cities are experimenting with adaptations, the greatest prize is a city that is fully “carbon neutral” or “zero carbon.” Is such a city possible? If we tried to build one, what might we learn? 
Ten years ago, a few kilometers east of Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, the first attempt broke ground. A hybrid of some of the region’s oldest, most sustainable urban ideas and new, high-tech ones, it was named “Source” in Arabic: Masdar.

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Sector: Cross cutting

Country / Region: Asia, United Arab Emirates

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Knowledge Object: Web Resource

Published by: Alan Mammoser