If the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is known for one thing, it’s oil. They have sculpted their city out of its profits, and developed massive infrastructure on its account. Yet the UAE is under no illusions about their stake in black gold. They know its revenues are limited, and one day it will be gone. So now they’ve headed into new, greener pastures, setting up some of the most advanced eco-friendly technology in the world.
It all began nearly a decade ago, when leaders of the UAE set out to diversify. In 2006 this took shape in the form of Masdar City. An ambitious plan, Masdar City was created with one intention: being one of the greenest inhabitable cities in the world. Every bit of design in the city, from the shape of its walls, to the placement of its buildings was intended to cut down on both the need for carbon-based energy and support eco-friendly technology.
Although Masdar City is set in the desert, the city enjoys comfortable temperatures compared to the rest of the country. A traditional Arab wind tower sends cool air through the city streets, meanwhile the lack of traditionally powered automobiles keeps urban heating down.
In fact, when the city was first created, personal vehicles were banned from the initial planning. The streets were designed for bicyclists, pedestrians and electric mass transit systems. Since then the city has relaxed on this a little, allowing for electric cars and clean-energy vehicles.
Inside the city, a number of green-technology firms have been given a home. The International Renewable Energy Agency, Masdar Institute of Science and Technology, and Siemens AG, a German engineering and electronics corporation, focusing on renewable technology, will all have a headquarters there. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has also partnered up with Masdar Institute, with an impressive lab designed to explore new fuel alternatives.
It is commendable that in the harsh landscapes of the Arab Peninsula, LEED Platinum buildings, using a mixture of traditional Arab cooling techniques and state of the art technology, have been successfully designed. Wind tunnels, palm wood screens, thousands of solar panels and ‘buildings inside of buildings’ have reduced the need for air conditioning and water by nearly 50%. And if we can succeed at reducing such needs in this unforgiving setting, then this technology could be instituted around the globe.
In addition to the work being done at Masdar City, ecological initiatives are taking hold around the rest of the country. One such plan involves reducing water waste inside of all government buildings by 44% and energy by 24%. This will be done by installing special light bulbs, sensors and water conservation devices in all buildings.
Pesticide Management is also an issue that has been put on the table. Currently the UAE has laws regulating the use and importation of pesticides, but the government has set aside funds to not only study their effects, but put further controls in place regarding their usage. This will include the detection of pesticides in foods, reevaluating the safety of all pesticides imported into the UAE and introducing agricultural methods that would reduce the need for such chemicals.
This march to develop sustainable technology, with plenty of oil money to back them up, is a very strange dichotomy for those looking towards the UAE. Yet, at the same time, it has been said they’re putting the ‘devil to good use’.
And all that wealth, being used to free them from dependence on oil themselves, makes absolute financial sense. Every single drop of oil they save in the UAE is a drop that countries around the world will pay for. When their oil wells run dry, they have assured their quality of living will not suffer. And more than that, they’ll have another stake in the energy game, selling renewable energy designs the world will likely be desperate to emulate.