The world’s cleanest city

When JFK declared that the U.S. would put a man on the moon by the end of the 1960s, no one knew just how it would be done. But scientists, engineers and politicians rallied behind the cause, and the goal was achieved.

Last week, I interviewed an engineer from a company called CH2M Hill who compared Masdar, the zero-carbon, zero-waste, car-free city being built in Abu Dhabi, to the moon shot. No one knows if such a city can be built, or how to do it, but lots of brainpower and money is now behind the idea. An impressive, employee-owned company based in a Denver suburb, CH2M Hill is the project manager.

Masdar is the topic of this week’s Sustainability column. If you read it, ask yourself this: Why is this bold experiment going up in the Persian Gulf, and not in the United States? Maybe it’s because the government of Abu Dhabi has in abundance some things that are scarce these days in Washington—vision, political will, the ability to think and plan for the long-term and, of course, money.

Here’s how the column begins:

Halfway around the world, a zero-carbon, zero-waste, automobile-free city known as Masdar is rising from a 2.3-square mile plot of desert in Abu Dhabi.

If all goes according to plan, Masdar – financed with $15 billion in oil money – will become a showcase for smart urban planning, green building, renewable energy, sustainable materials and advanced recycling.

“There is nothing like it in the world,” says Masdar CEO Sultan Al Jaber, without exaggeration. “Masdar has a simple promise – to be the world’s center for future energy solutions.” Should this grand experiment work, Abu Dhabi will profit from the clean energy economy of tomorrow, just as it profits from $100-a-barrel oil today.

To get from here to there, Abu Dhabi will tap into the vision of London architects Foster and Partners and the skills of a big U.S. engineering firm called CH2M Hill. Last week, I visited CH2M Hill’s headquarters in Englewood, Colorado, a Denver suburb, to learn more about the project, and about the company that’s been hired to make it real.

You can read the rest here.


  1. Paul Sager says


    Interesting article. I have mixed feelings. My negative feelings have nothing at all to do with your article so I won’t even bring the up. It is good to see our petrol dollars going to some good use. It helps when you have a fresh city plan and no bureaucracy.

    This article also reminded me of what has been going on in Dubai: 300 artificially created islands that look like a palm tree, largest waterfront development in the world when (completed), indoor ski parks, worlds largest airport (when completed), tallest building (when completed), worlds biggest amusement park (when completed) etc. I am not sure how much thought went into making this sustainable however? Is this a good of resources? What else to they have to spend their money on in this part of the world besides building more ‘stuff’. a city on crack??


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