The Masdar Institute

The Masdar Institute is the first part of the wider Masdar City masterplan to be realised and creates an educational focus for the entire programme. The Institute embodies the principles and goals of Masdar to create a prototypical and sustainable city and is the first building of its kind to be powered entirely by renewable solar energy. The design incorporates a variety of passive and active environmental strategies and will be used as a test bed for the sustainable technologies that will be explored for implementation in future Masdar City buildings.

The residences and laboratories are oriented to shade both adjacent buildings and the pedestrian streets below and the facades are self-shading. Over 5,000 square metres of roof mounted photovoltaic installations provide power and further protection from the sun. A 10 megawatt solar field within the masterplan site provides 60% more energy than is consumed by the Masdar Institute, all of which can be fed back to the Abu Dhabi grid and the campus will also use significantly less energy and water than average buildings in the UAE. Horizontal and vertical fins and brise soleil shade the laboratories, which have highly flexible ‘plug and play’ services to encourage interdisciplinary research. These are highly insulated by facades of inflatable ETFE cushions, which remain cool to the touch under the intense desert sun. Cooling air currents are channelled through the public spaces using a contemporary interpretation of the region’s traditional windtowers and green landscaping and water provide evaporative cooling.

The laboratories and residential accommodation are supported by a variety of social spaces, including a gymnasium, canteen, café, knowledge centre, majlis – or meeting place – and landscaped areas that extend the civic realm. One, two and three-bedroom apartments are housed in low-rise, high-density blocks, which act as a social counterpoint to the research environment. Windows in the residential buildings are protected by a contemporary reinterpretation of mashrabiya, a type of latticed projecting oriel window, constructed with sustainably developed, glass-reinforced concrete and coloured with local sand to integrate with its desert context and to minimise maintenance. The perforations for light and shade are based on the patterns found in the traditional architecture of Islam.

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