A city in Abu Dhabi might provide a glimpse into how we’ll all live in the future

When developers broke ground in 2006 on Masdar City in the desert of Abu Dhabi, they were embarking on am ambitious new experiment: to develop a sustainable, zero-net-energy community that operates as a center of innovation and learning. Recently, a group of British researchers went to the site to determine how successful the project is turning out to be. It turns out that while some goals—such as energy independence—have fallen somewhat short, the site is nonetheless a hotbed of innovative strategies and technologies that may transform how humans build communities in the years to come. Interesting features include curved buildings that prevent unnecessary glare, a 147-foot “wind tower” that funnels breezy air from above the city into a pedestrian plaza, an electric car sharing program, and a number of different solar electricity and hot water generation approaches. As we adapt to an increasingly warm planet this century, many of the ideas showcased in this futuristic desert town could become commonplace elsewhere.