Masdar Institute by Foster+Partners: An Institute Building with Passive and Active Environmental Strategies

Masdar Institute By Foster Partners 1

Designed by Foster+Partners, Masdar Institute is the first part of the wider Masdar City masterplan to be realized. It creates an educational focus for the entire program and embodies the principles and goals of Masdar to create a prototypical and sustainable city. With a variety of passive and active environmental strategies, it is the first building of its kind to be powered entirely by renewable solar energy.


Masdar Institute By Foster Partners 1

Masdar Institute By Foster Partners 2

Masdar Institute By Foster Partners 3

The design for this building incorporates a variety of passive and active environmental strategies. It will be used as a test-bed for the sustainable technologies, explored for implementation in future Masdar City buildings. The laboratories and residences are oriented to shade the pedestrian streets and the adjacent buildings. The facades of the building are also self-shading.



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A power and further protection from the direct sun comes from the roof-mounted photovoltaic installations while 60 percent more energy than is consumed by the Masdar Institute is provided by the 10-megawatt solar field within the masterplan site. The campus also will use less energy and water than average modern buildings in the UAE.

Masdar Institute By Foster Partners 5

The vertical and horizontal fins and the brise soleil shade the laboratories of the building with flexible ‘plug and play’ services. These awesome services can encourage interdisciplinary research. Formed from highly insulative inflatable ETFE cushions, the laboratory facades also remain cool under the intense sun light. There are cooling air currents that directed through the public spaces using a contemporary interpretation of the region’s traditional wind towers while the water and green landscaping can provide evaporating cooling.



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The residential accommodation and laboratories are supported by a variety of social spaces including a majlis, knowledge center, cafe, canteen, gymnasium, and landscaped areas. Housed in low-rise, high-density blocks, the one, two, and three-bedroom apartments can provide a social counterpoint to the research environment.

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In the residential buildings, the windows are protected by a contemporary reinterpretation of mashrabiya. These windows are constructed with sustainably developed, glass-reinforced concrete, and also colored with local sand. The perforations for shade and light are based on the patterns of Islam’s traditional architecture.


Masdar Institute Gallery


Photography: Foster+Partners