Today Foster + Partners officially inaugurated the solar-powered Masdar Institute, the first phase of their ambitious carbon-neutral Masdar City. The net energy-positive institute represents Abu Dhabi’s contribution in pioneering sustainable technologies, and it showcases a multitude of efficient systems and design strategies that allow the development to run without carbon-based fuels.
The building incorporates a lot of solar electric arrays to be sure, but goes much further in reducing its reliance on energy by incorporating passive cooling techniques and low-energy solutions for lighting and other systems. In all the complex uses 51% less energy and 54% less potable water than a typical building. The laboratory facades, for instance, incorporate inflatable cushions made of a lightweight polymer and have been designed to reflect intense sunlight and direct light into the street without radiating heat.
Thermal mass is carefully incorporated into the building to maximize cooling potential. The use of green spaces cools the prevailing breezes which are scooped up by the complex’s profile. Glass is reduced on the upper stories and maximized below for natural indirect lighting . Thermal imaging has shown a dramatic reduction in the heat island effect as a result.
Noman Foster, principle of Fosters and Partners summed up the challenges the Institute has risen to: “Many have dreamed of a utopian project that would be solar-powered. Today’s official opening of the initial stage of the Masdar Institute campus at Masdar City is a first realization of that quest. Its student community is already active, living and working in their quarters. This community, independent of any power grid, develops a surplus of 60 percent of its own energy needs, processes its waste water on-site which is recycled and pioneers many energy-saving concepts. It is a bold experiment which will change and evolve over time – already it houses twelve separate research projects with potential world-wide applications.”