Abu Dhabi: World Future Energy Summit, Solar Power, E-Villa and Estimada, Al Reem Island, Qatar’s Space City, Petra Plan

Big event of the week was the World Future Energy Summit at ADNEC, I couldn’t attend due to school but United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon emphasized supporting renewable energy and reducing greenhouse gases to slow down climate change (The National).

Capt. Jaber Al Shehhi on top of the MS Turanor PlanetSolar inspecting the solar panels. / Image via ADPC.

As part of the summit, the world’s largest solar-powered ship docked at the Marina (Abu Dhabi Ports Co.). Despite the UAE building a handful of nuclear power plants, solar energy was the big focus this week, as the carbon-neutral Masdar City has new high-power solar panels from TVP Solar (AME Info) and are partnering with Spain’s Sener to build $5 billion in solar power plants (Green Building Magazine: Middle East).

Back in the city proper, the Municipality and Urban Planning Council (UPC) are quickly modernizing the city’s building infrastructure. Abu Dhabi is slated to get a building code soon (The National), and the UPC is setting up the Estimada sustainability ratings for existing buildings (not a small task) and launching an e-villa configurator for villa owners and developers to design their plans online, showing how different aspects affect the sustainability rating (Khaleej Times). Meanwhile the city is making it easier for developers to submit plans online (Emirates News Agency).

Dubai's The Palm is still a far cry from the vision of its original master plan for 30 five-star hotels with 14,000 rooms. / Image via The National and Reuters.

Meanwhile, Reem Investments is going to make Al Reem Island a new South Korean hub, including a Korean Cultural Center (Reem Investments). Sorbonne-Abu Dhabi students participated in the recent International Renewable ENergy Association (IRENA) Assembly (Emirates News Agency), plus a new Abu Dhabi film club is launching on January 25th (Aflam).

Elsewhere in the emirate, Mubadala won $1 billion in Airbus contracts for a plant in Al Ain (The National), and the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority is looking to invest in India’s urban infrastructure (Zee News). In Dubai, more luxury hotels are slowly opening on Dubai’s Palm Jumeirah (The National) and a billion-dollar Las Vegas-style development is slated to replace Dubai’s oldest hotel, The Metropolitan (The National).

Elsewhere in the region…

Design Workshop's new master plan for Petra, Jordan includes almost 95 percent conservation zones or open space, and watershed management. / Image via American Planning Association.

Qatar continues its building boom, with a $3 billion Space City, including a NASA-sponsored university (Hotelier Middle East), the $130 million Sidra Village by China’s Sinohydro (Zawya) and the Gulf’s largest labor camp holding 50,000 people. (Construction Week) Their soon-to-launch Green Building Council should improve sustainability. (Zawya)

In Saudi Arabia, its high-speed rail line continues to expand, signing an $8 billion contract with a Spanish rail group to connect Mecca and Medina. (WSJ) And urban design firm KEO is going to manage a mixed-use development in Jeddah (MEED).

In the Levant, there’s an upcoming conference on a greener Beirut (Beirut Green Project), and Design Workshop’s new master plan for Petra, Jordan won the APA’s Pierre l’Enfant International Planning Award (Jordan Times). Finally, who knew the oldest standing mosque in the United States is in Iowa and dates only to the 1930’s? (The National)


Abu Dhabi: New Urban Planning GIS Apps, Top Arab Buildings, Jazz at Lincoln Center Doha, Kingdom Tower

To celebrate World GIS Day, Abu Dhabi’s Urban Planning Council unveiled two new internal GIS applications that should help improve planning. (Al Bawaba and ITP)

The UPC now uses two new GIS apps. / Image via Al Bawaba.

GeoPlanner is an internal web portal, developed by the UPC’s Spatial Data Department, that enables the Council’s planners to easily identify masterplans, planning policies and regulations for any location or area and to visually track the development proposal review and approval process.

GeoPad for the iPad, has been developed by the UPC’s Spatial Data Department to allow managers and planners to easily view projects, plans and maps on their iPad device. Through online synchronisation with the UPC’s spatial database, the app allows users to access such updated data from anywhere and at anytime.

Shouldn’t there be historical districts to preserve the funky 1970’s Arab Modern buildings in neighborhoods like Al Markaziyah East? All these megaprojects are great, but what’s lost in the process? (Gulf News)

The UAE has several buildings in Construction Week’s “Top Arab Buildings” list. (Construction Week) Stunning pics of Dubai in 1990 — only a handful of skyscrapers along Sheikh Zayed Road, which looks like it was only two or four lanes wide? (Abdolian and Web Urbanist)

These three photographs depict the same street in Dubai, progressing from a few lone buildings in the desert to the jam-packed, seemingly perpetually-under-construction ode to excess that it is today. / Image via Web Urbanist and Abdolian.

German firms are helping Abu Dhabi think about renewable energy through Estimada. (Khaleej Times) The city opened a new e-waste recycling facility. (Gulf News)

The MEED Abu Dhabi Conference confirms that the city’s airport plans on carrying more passengers, and the passenger rail line is on track for 2018. (AME Info)

Elsewhere in the region…
Jazz at Lincoln Center: Doha, a unique partnership with the luxury St. Regis Hotels, continues Doha’s push to become the Gulf’c top cultural destination. (NYT) Infrastructure firm Interserve continues to focus on Qatar. (Construction Week)

Construction on Jedda, Saudi Arabia’s Kingdom Tower, a 1km-tall supertower designed by Adrian Smith and Gordon Gil Architecture, is slated to begin in January 2012. (The National) But real estate firm Jones Lang LaSalle says Saudi Arabia could use an urban planning commission (like Abu Dhabi’s) to help plan its 1 million affordable houses. (Construction Week)

Wonderful travel writing on Beirut, Lebanon. (The National) … Istanbul struggles with traffic — two bridges were built over the Bosphorous River, and a metro is being built…but will a third bridge destroy what natural heritage is left? (NYT: Latitude)

Abu Dhabi: Saadiyat Island museums delayed, Dubai’s tram, archaeology digs rediscovering old towns

If last week’s removal of the Guggenheim concrete bids sounded ominous, well it is…the whole Saadiyat Island museum project is now projected for a staggered opening, starting in 2013 or 2014. The Louvre is expected to open first. (The National, first and second article)

Saadiyat Island's massive museum projects are likely to be delayed. / Image via The National.

Not even oil rich Abu Dhabi is immune from the global financial crisis and plummeting real estate market. (Construction Week)

Even by Abu Dhabi standards, Saadiyat Island is a monumental undertaking by the Tourism Development and Investment Company (TDIC), which may look into partnerships for the $27 billion (!) project.

In transportation news, Dubai is starting construction on the new billion-dollar Sufouh tram, by Besix and Alstom, scheduled to open in 2014. It’ll travel from Dubai Marina through Media City and Knowledge Village, with 13 stops and capacity of 5,000 passengers/hour. (A second 4km would run from the Mall of the Emirates to the Burj Al Arab.) (Construction Week and The National)

And the upcoming Gulf Traffic Conference in Dubai is going to tackle traffic safety. (The National)

40 years of the UAE: Dubai and the Northern Emirates had the first roads in the UAE, before the country unified. Likewise, Abu Dhabi's early roads, including the first paved road where Al Maqta bridge now stands, cleared the way for the rise of the capital. / Image via The National.

Can you believe that the country’s first paved roads weren’t until the 1960s? It turns out that Abu Dhabi island is artificially one meter above sea level so the roads wouldn’t flood. (The National)

It’s too late to preserve the demolished historic structures in the coastal towns of the Western Region, but ADACH’s archaeological digs and GIS maps are recreating what life was like not that long ago. (The National and Abu Dhabi Week)

Former life in Western Region coastal towns. / Image via Abu Dhabi Week.

Finally, it’s good to see Abu Dhabi’s Urban Planning Council is increasing social media presence — now on Facebook and holding a student contest.
(The National)

Elsewhere in the region…
Oman’s southern port city of Salalah is expanding its sea-to-air freight connections, apparently it has the lowest transport times in the region. (AME Info)

Qatar is delaying the $3 billion West Bay metro system, which would connect Doha’s financial district to the Doha metro. (Construction Week)

Only 5 years until Yemen’s capital of Sana runs out of water. (Atlantic Cities)

Abu Dhabi Plan 2030

How do you plan a city that’s expected to triple or quintuple its population in less than 20 years? (The emirate’s population was 2 million in 2010, per SCAD.) How about if this same city is springing from the desert, with no infrastructure in place?

It’s an exciting challenge. But for Abu Dhabi, the city described above, there’s an ambitious and far-sighted framework in place: Plan 2030. Two different but interconnected plans (one economic, one urban planning) guide development. Intriguingly it’s for the whole emirate, so there are also plans for Al Ain, Al Gharbia aka Western Region, and Abu Dhabi’s forthcoming Parisian-styled Capital District.

Five themes weave together the urban plan: Environment, Society, Culture and Economy…or as the nifty video shows, four themes: Green, Live, Work, Connect.

Either way, the Urban Planning Council (UPC)’s goal is “to create an authentic Arab city” that “will be owned by the people of Abu Dhabi, it will become an inspiring image of its collective vision for a harmonious, diversified, culturally rich, stable and sustainable society.”

Leading global design/engineering/planning firm KEO International Consultants is making the master plans for the Capital District; and the suburbs of Khalifa City A, Khalifa City B and Mohammed Bin Zayed City (green on the map below).

I’m most excited for the variety of transit options — metro by 2016, tram, bike lanes, walking and water taxis! The National reports that a 5-year update is slated for 2012.