Stefan Holst, who came to MCS to give us a lecture about the Zero Carbon Masterplan for Masdar City in Abu Dhabi.
Transsolar is a climate engineering firm whose scope is ensuring the highest possible comfort in the built environment, with the lowest possible impact on the overall environment. We have had the opportunity to talk with Stefan Holst, Managing Partner and CEO at Transsolar, who came to MCS to give us a lecture about the Zero Carbon Masterplan for Masdar City in Abu Dhabi (UAE), a six square kilometers city which is going to house 50.000 people in accordance with WWF One Planet Living sustainability standards.
1.- Can you summarize in a few lines the content of your class?
After an introduction to KlimaEngineering, the approach to comfortable, energy efficient and sustainable building design, the lecture concentrated on the Zero Carbon Masterplan for Masdar City in Abu Dhabi, UAE.
Summarizing the principles of climate-related design advice and looking into examples of vernacular architecture for desert climates, the development of the urban design together with the numeric analyses for shading, daylight, and street layout and massing recommendations, outdoor comfort optimization and building energy demand reductions were presented.
Achieving an energy demand reduction of up to 80% compared to current UAE standards, a zero carbon emission balance will be achieved when adding renewable energy generation by solar thermal and photovoltaic power, waste to energy, and some wind power and within the footprint of the city to the overall balance.
Measurements on achieved energy consumption and outdoor comfort ratings for the already built Masdar Institute of Technology block were shown and an outlook on the revision of the master plan done, which was performed by other design teams in 2014, and the impact on energy and carbon emission targets, and achievable outdoor comfort parameters, were presented.
2.- Why is so important the presence of professionals experts in Smart Cities?
Smart cities should be targeted at livable cities with great comfortable indoor and outdoor spaces but generating minimal negative impact on the environment. As the Urban Design of Smart Cities deals with the highly interrelated topics of climate, human comfort, energy and infrastructure, experts that are able to integrally look onto all these fields are essential.
3.- Which kind of companies and institutions are more interested in hiring experts in Smart Cities?
Typically Transsolar is hired together with the urban design team by either the authority or the developing entity.
4.- Which systems and technologies do you use in Transsolar to combine urban sustainability with good design and the construction of high quality buildings? Can it also be cheap?
We have developed a four step approach which first optimizes urban layout and building massing for optimized outdoor comfort and transportation, secondly building construction and systems for climate-adapted indoor comfort and reduced energy consumption, in a third step selecting appropriate concepts for city infrastructure and in a fourth step integrating renewable energy potentials to finally minimize energy use and the impact on the environment. If the first, mainly passive, optimization steps are done properly and are combined with efficient infrastructure and renewable systems, the lifecycle costs of such an optimized city development may be lower than a conventional reference scenario, depending on the local cost structure
5.- Ecological Urbanism needs to start from the beginning of the projects and create new neighborhoods and residences or can it be adapted to existing buildings and infrastructure? Can you give us some examples?
We have done a master plan for the Werksviertel in Munich with Steidle Architects, where an old industrial quarter has been transformed into a new neighborhood with 600,000 square meters of partly new and renovated buildings. Clever integration of new buildings into existing building mass is able to raise outdoor comfort qualities for streets and plazas. Next, to optimize existing building envelopes, a new local district heating system, using cogeneration of heat and power, and renewable energy sources was designed, which ecologically and economically boosted the carbon dioxide emission savings for both new and renovated building stock. Another example was a smart densification proposal for a quarter in Helsinki, where a mix of uses has been introduced. The densification avoided compromising the daylight and solar potentials by introducing new highpoints within existing courtyard structures.
6.- In your opinion, which are the cities that are more committed with sustainable development nowadays?
Aside from mainly marketing-focused examples in a lot of countries, we see some very interesting developments in small countries like Switzerland and Denmark that are trying to push the limits.
7.- Currently, which is the most interesting project that Transsolar is developing?
Currently we are involved in a masterplan development for a software campus in India, where we are trying to implement adaptive indoor comfort strategies and re-open the buildings to the outdoors to avoid conventional air conditioning to a significant degree. If we can show the functionality of these ideas on such a continent, this could have an impact...
8.- Which issue is more important in the Smart Cities field: technology, good professionals, public opinion awareness, politicians with an open mind?...
Our general impression is that technology and expertise are available, but we have to work on changing the mindset of the public and politics to have a significant impact on the world.