International Study of RE-Regions: Dubai’s Self Sufficient Ecotopia

Keywords: renewable energy region, 100% renewable energy self sufficiency region, Dubai’s self sufficient Ecotopia.

Food City

February 2009, the Dubai Chamber of Commerce authorized the development of “free zone” dubbed Food City (Figure 1 and 2). GCLA[1], a green landscape architect firm, proposed a master plan for the city sector turn it into an off-the-grid, self sufficient metropolis. GCLA’s future-forward urban quarter incorporates an extensive list of sustainable urban planning ideas: vertically stacked landscape surfaces, artificial roof landscapes, renewable energy systems (Figure 3), aquatic farms, and thermal conditioning.[2]


GCLA has described their proposal for Food City as “the marriage of landscape and urbanism”(Figure 2). Their project integrates a variety of proposals to decrease energy overall use – concentrated solar collectors, towers covered in thin-film photovoltaic cells (Figure 3), piezoelectric pads in pedestrian areas, and methane harvesting through sewage percolation tanks.[1]

GCLA also proposes water conservation measures critical to off-the-grid survival in water-starved Dubai, like atmospheric water harvesting, solar desalination through concentrated solar collectors, grey water recycling, and application of hydroponic sand to minimize water loss.[1]

Concept of Food City

Food City concept was driven by the following ideas:

  • Inverted landscape where the roof of the entire development was created as an artificial landscape formation of sweeping topography that becomes a continuous agricultural mat for the planting of traditional multiculture oasis plants, public park, and also the grazing of livestock.
  • Layered landscape where the landscape is multiplied many times through the creation of vertically stacked landscape surfaces resulting in overall green area exceeding of undeveloped site.
  • Carbon surplus off the grid where all systems relating to water, energy, and matter are dealt with on-site through renewable means and release surpluses to export from the site. This includes solar, wind, bio-fuels, methane, and kinetic energy.
  • Iconic vertical farm creation of 3o storey vertical farm capable to produce enough organic food for a population of 50,000 inhabitants within the development boundaries and including a beam-down concentrated solar array for energy generation and desalination.
  • Aquatic farms for cultivating, harvesting, and research of fish and pearl oyster species of the Arabian Gulf created in the seafront and accessible from the public beaches.
  • Thermal conditioning using shade, water, wind corridors and natural phenomena like ground-source cooling to create comfortable exterior environment at all times every year.
  • Zero waste city where the key systems cycles keep under control sustainability (energy, water, and matter) were designed as fully circular systems ensuring no imports or exports of waste.