In Abu Dhabi, a United Arab Emirate as-sociated with opulence, there is a $22-billion megadevelopment called Masdar City under way, which, if built out, would be the world’s first carbon-neutral mini-city. To ensure the project’s infrastructure and buildings are designed and constructed sustainably, the government owner, the Masdar Initiative, is developing guidelines that include seeking ways to reduce even embedded energy in the production of building materials and products. All firms that want to compete for work on Masdar City have to pass a green screening.

The man developing and maintaining the ambitious undertaking—writing Internet-based specifications centered around sustainability—is Omar M. Waqfi, Masdar’s specifications manager. For the past 18 months, Waqfi has been consumed by development of the guidelines and master specification, which are constantly evolving to accommodate advances in sustainable design, manufacturing and construction.

Soon, the specs will be published to encourage solutions and comments from the global community, says Waqfi. “I believe the Masdar Initiative and its guidelines and specifications have been a catalyst for change toward sustainability in the region and innovations globally,” says the licensed civil and structural engineer with a Ph.D. in civil engineering.


The Web-based Masdar City master specification, the vision of Waqfi, encourages best practices in sustainable design, construction and operations.

The specifications are written to encourage best practices and standards in sustainable design, construction and operations. The specs encourage innovation and use of local materials and contractors. The specs are applicable not only locally but globally. They also encourage economies of scale.

The Web-based specification includes an evaluation system for materials and products, based on performance, sustainability and availability. “We have had success aiding the development of sustainable products,” says Waqfi. These include materials such as concrete, steel and aluminum, which have big carbon footprints because of their production methods.

Mark Kalin, a specifications consultant, has been helping Waqfi reach his goals. “Omar has been the primary driver in the creation of a unique master specification system whose content delivers Masdar’s stated goals of sustainability, zero waste and quality of life,” says Kalin. He adds that Waqfi’s “vision of a collaborative” Internet-based specification system that blends the needs of designers, contractors and suppliers advanced from concept to reality in less than 12 months.—NMP