CBT Unveils Award-Winning Detailed Master Plan for Phase 2 of Masdar City

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Boston-based firm’s Urban Design group pushes the limits of city-building and urban design to set a new international precedent for sustainable urban planning and community building

As the price of oil continues to fluctuate, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is positioning itself as an energy leader for years to come with a forward-thinking, transformative and constantly-evolving vision for Masdar City. CBT’s master plan for Phase 2 establishes a highly sustainable and pedestrian-focused innovation community located just outside of Abu Dhabi. The detailed master plan (DMP) for Phase 2 is not just a master plan for a development phase, but also a next step in the evolution of Masdar City as an eco-friendly, commercially-viable city with a high quality of life. The city’s Phase 2 DMP received the 2015 American Institute of Architects Middle East Design Award in recognition of its leadership in design excellence, urban design and planning, as well as its “seamless blending of residential, research and development clusters within a tight knit urban fabric.”

This innovative 6.7 million square foot (630,000 square meter) mixed-use project will introduce many of the city’s core elements, including a research and development cluster, shops and restaurants, residential neighborhoods, community centers, mosques and schools. Designed to encourage creativity and collaboration in the midst of one of the world’s hottest climates, the Phase 2 DMP has successfully created a replicable and market-friendly model for sustainable urbanism that is aligned with local regulation guidelines, yet maintains its identity as a truly walkable and comfortable city. The plan utilizes passive design, rather than technological investments, to optimize sustainability, using design strategies such as a fine grain fabric, environmental optimization and hydro-zoning.

According to Kishore Varanasi, Principal and Director of Urban Design at CBT, “Together with our partner Masdar City, our refreshed vision and approach is fundamentally different from standard city planning. Traditional city building typically begins by looking at the organization of buildings and public spaces, but we focused instead on how we could leverage environmental and sustainable features to directly influence the organization of the master plan and public realm. By looking at all of the factors in the design process at the same time, rather than individually, we found something special in Masdar City’s Phase 2.”
The ultimate success of Phase 2 DMP is the result of its approach to:

1.    Identity: Inspired by local culture and the natural environment, the DMP creates one-of-a-kind spaces that animate and engage the city. From community centers to research labs and residential courtyards, the DMP celebrates the city’s tremendous social, ecological, cultural and economic synergies. Together, these thoughtfully-planned spaces create a lively and engaging city experience. This distinct identity is further enhanced by strong community cross connections and seamless transitions between the public and private realms.

2.    Walkability: The DMP also focuses on outdoor environmental comfort to establish a walkable and welcoming community. The DMP orients streets and sikkak (pedestrian pathways) towards prevailing winds and creates a tight-knit urban fabric to create cool and shaded streets and pathways for walking and biking. A robust multi-modal transit network connects Phase 2 to the city’s other neighborhoods and nearby communities.

3.    Sustainability: The DMP integrates sustainable design practices and encourages eco-friendly lifestyles at all levels, from the building to the block to the city landscape. At the building and block levels, the DMP leverages renewable energies and passive urban planning strategies to achieve a 40 percent reduction in energy consumption over conventional standards. At the landscape level, it establishes a set of distinct hydro-zones to strategically allocate precious water resources. The DMP uses 70 percent native plantings to create small green spaces, as well as larger desert landscapes. It also offers research and development spaces, environmental education centers and renewable energy research centers to further its goal of advancing sustainable city building. Together, these impressive initiatives will create one of the UAE’s most sustainable communities as assessed by the Abu Dhabi Urban Planning Council’s rigorous “Estidama” sustainability program.

4.    Replicability: Lastly, the DMP is highly replicable. The Phase 2 DMP sets a strong precedent for public realm, pedestrian experience, mobility and sustainability planning that can be carried through to future phases, as well as other developments in arid environments across the region and the world. Its thoughtful design guidelines serve as a jumping-off point for other communities looking to create strong identities and experiences in difficult desert or other extreme heat environments.

The DMP is designed to fit the needs of a growing city and community, making it socially, environmentally, culturally and economically sustainable. From its diverse collection of programmatic uses, vibrant streetscape and multi-modal transit system, to its resilient natural landscapes, as well as its self-shading and self-sufficient neighborhoods, Phase 2 will sustain the life and energy of Masdar City for years to come…and perhaps inspire other equally-sustainable communities along the way.

About CBT

At CBT, “Design Is Our Business.” CBT is 49-year old design firm working nationally and internationally on projects that range from urban district master planning to large-scale mixed-use developments, building repositioning, multi-family residential, hospitality interiors, corporate workplace, civic and academic projects. From offices in Boston and Saudi Arabia, we have approximately 220 architects, urban planners, interior designers and support personnel working together to deliver unique solutions that respond directly to our clients' needs. Over 250 awards recognize excellence and creativity in our design of new buildings and the renovation of existing structures. Clients come to us for our real estate savvy, our ability to provide strategic design services in a broad number of project types and styles, and our skill in blending high quality planning and architecture with practical goals of building performance, budget and schedule. The core values at the heart of the practice are creativity in our design, social responsiveness in our community, and collegial behavior in our efforts.

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Jonathan Pappas
Solomon, McCown & Co., Inc.
+1 617-981-2194
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