Toward the end of our trip, some of the team visited fledgling development Masdar City, located just outside Abu Dhabi. Masdar City is more than just another set of buildings popping up in the desert. When complete, Masdar will house 50,000 residents in one of the most environmentally sustainable cities in the world--an ambitious plan, especially when you consider the unique climate challenges of the region. Not only do designers have to create a sustainable city, it has to be livable even during the 6 to 8 months of the year when temperatures soar well above 100 degrees. To combat this problem, the city uses a mixture of traditional Emirati tactics to beat the heat like orienting streets in a specific way to cut down on sun and angling windows to avoid direct sunlight streaming in, and new technologies that enable more efficient living.
At the heart of the plan is the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology (MIST), which opened its doors to graduate level students in 2009. The Institute is a collaboration with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) that seeks to provide a world-class research and education environment for future leaders and critical thinkers in science and technology, with a particular focus on advanced energy and sustainability. Masdar’s unique design hopes to inspire its students to reach greater heights by making the campus environment thematic inspiration. It consumes 55 percent less in cooling demand compared to UAE baselines, uses 54 percent less water, and has a 75 percent waste-heat recovery. MIST is a great example of how the research environment, including the architectural design, can act as a catalyst for greater discovery.
These approaches are inspiration for the team at the Sheikh Zayed Institute, who are working to create their own state of the art research space back in Washington, DC. That space, expected to open in 2011, will encourage and initiate team science, collaborative research across the four core program areas of the Institute, and innovative thinking aided by state of the art research tools. And, as additional environmental inspiration, the location on the top floor of the main Children’s National building means that the children who will one day benefit from the research are never far from sight or mind.
(Photo: Dr. Sze, Dr. Peters, and Dennis McClellan of the Children's Hospital Foundation met with Inas Khayal, PhD, Assistant Professor, Engineering Systems and Management, MIT Abu Dhabi faculty.)