Steve Severance, manager of program management and investments for Masdar City, rightfully noted at Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week 2014 that, "It's one thing to use less energy, it's another thing to create an attractive real estate development that uses less energy."
Now, it seems that Masdar City - Abu Dhabi's low-carbon, low-waste sustainable eco-city - is doing both. This week, global electronics powerhouse Siemens inaugurated its new Middle East headquarters at Masdar City - a pivotal turning point in the city's growth and the beginning of a wave of high-profile corporate tenants.
The building itself is somewhat of an architectural marvel. Designed by acclaimed architects Sheppard Robson International, in collaboration with Masdar City Design Manager Chris Wan, the structure is the first LEED Platinum building in the region and is designed to slash energy usage both inside and out. During the design and planning process, Siemens and Masdar agreed that the building should not cost more than an average office building of its size. That goal was achieved, while also cutting water and energy use by 50 percent compared to conventional office buildings in the region.
"When we look at the success of Siemens headquarters, it shows that we kind of cracked the formula or broke the hypothesis that being sustainable means that you need to be more expensive," Dr. Nawal Al-Hosany, director of sustainability at Masdar, told TriplePundit.
While achieving cost parity, the Siemens building boasts a laundry list of sustainable design features - aimed at reducing energy use while maintaining a pleasant environment for employees and city residents. Raised in the air, the building provides a generous, naturally shaded public space for parts of Masdar City. Its design also maximizes the flow of cool air through city streets - creating a noticeably more comfortable environment during Abu Dhabi's sweltering summers. Based on the concept of a "box within a box," the structure also includes a highly insulated, airtight inner facade designed to reduce solar conductivity, and a lightweight aluminum external shading system - which minimizes solar gain while maximizing daylight and views from the building. The whole system is automated using Siemens technology.
The 130,000-square-foot space, which Dr. Roland Busch, member of the managing board of Siemens AG, called a "showcase" of sustainable design, will house 800 employees - the first of which moved into the space this week - for an initial 10-year lease.
"The basic idea behind Masdar [City] shows what sustainability looks like in a desert environment, which is really a challenge on its own," Busch told TriplePundit. "We believe that the Middle East, the UAE and Abu Dhabi are very interesting growth markets from many perspectives, and the perspectives are really covering the whole area of Siemens offerings … So from that perspective, it's a very nice project, and Siemens would like to be a part of it."
In addition to Siemens, Masdar City will also welcome a collection of large, medium and small-sized companies to its state-of-the-art Incubator building this year - starting with General Electric. GE's first-of-its-kind Ecomagination Center opened its doors last week. What Masdar City's Steve Severance called "part museum, part sustainability showcase and part training center," the GE space will show off the company's latest green technologies while serving as a training hub for its Middle East employees.
Integrating retail and office space, the Incubator will house a range of businesses from startups and SMEs to regional offices of large multinational corporations. More than 100 companies have already registered in the Masdar City free zone and will join GE in the Incubator building over the coming months. Some of the most notable tenants include Mitsubishi - which will open up shop this quarter - and Schneider Electric, along with a number of regional and international startups, Masdar said.
Siemens headquarters image courtesy of Masdar
Incubator building image by Mary Mazzoni
Ed Note: Travel expenses for the Author and TriplePundit were provided by Masdar.
Based in Philadelphia, Mary Mazzoni is an editor at TriplePundit. She is also a freelance journalist who frequently writes about sustainability, corporate social responsibility and clean tech. Her work has appeared on the Huffington Post, Sustainable Brands, Earth911 and The Daily Meal. You can follow her on Twitter @mary_mazzoni.