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The building that houses both the Masdar and International Renewable Energy Agency headquarters will have stores and restaurants in addition to office space, powered by 1,000sqm of photovoltaic panels. While no residential buildings beyond dormitories have been built, they are in the works. “There are various residential plots around the city, and over the coming years they will be tendered out to global architects,” Zaafrani explained. The city’s economic free zone – with zero taxes, import tariffs or restrictions on foreign hires – is set up to specifically attract clean energy and tech companies, clustering them together in incubator office buildings. “The number one target is people who work in Abu Dhabi and around the UAE,” Zaafrani said. “We are trying to make sure as we build up the city, there will be demand for both commercial and residential spaces.” Currently, a four-bedroom villa in central Abu Dhabi rents for around 200,000 dirhams a year, while a two-bedroom flat in Reem Island rents for around 100,000 dirhams. Over the next two years, 45,000 new flats and houses will come available.

Former Expo Site, Shanghai
Rather than building an entirely new city (although China is doing that too, by the dozens), Shanghai is taking the area that housed the 2010 Shanghai World Expo on the Pudong and Puxi sides of the Huangpu River and turning it into a city-within-a-city. While the Expo originally displaced 18,000 families, it was themed around urban sustainability and efficiency, and the city invested heavily in the site’s infrastructure so it could be redeveloped after the fair was over and the pavilions dismantled. Parks, green space, water features and cultural institutions – such as the large red China Pavilion, now a museum – were left to be incorporated into mixed-use projects containing apartments, hotels, offices, shopping malls and restaurants. By 2016, two hotels and some office and retail space will be completed, and in May 2013 the 50,000sqm Green Valley project broke ground. Near the China Pavilion, the project will form the central axis of the overall site with sustainable commercial space, restaurants and offices, all linked by open courtyards, gardens and other green spaces. 

The Shanghai housing market is rising quickly, and recently the government reacted to fears of a bubble by directing banks to stop giving mortgages to people buying their third home. The median house price in the city centre is currently 42,500 renminbi per square metre, and a new-build, two-bed flat in Pudong can start at 8 million renminbi. A one-bedroom city centre flat rents for about 6,000 renminbi per month, and a three-bed in the centre rents for 14,500 renminbi.

Victoria, British Columbia
This Canadian city across the Puget Sound from Seattle, Washington, has created an urban experiment within its borders with the Dockside Green development on the city’s harbourfront. The three neighbourhood master plan is based on the tenets of New Urbanism, with its focus on density, community and sustainability. Dockside Wharf has been completed, and Dockside Commons and Dockside Village are not yet under construction. Streets are walkable, housing is diverse and energy efficient, and residential and commercial spaces are densely packed but close to nature trails and ponds. The three developments and 26 buildings, designed by Perkins + Will Architects, are LEED platinum certified and built on a former industrial site. Strong eco-credentials include the fact that the buildings use 55% less than water than traditional condos and were constructed using low VOC paint and eco-friendly materials such as bamboo flooring and carpets made from recycled material.

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