Net-zero school to open in Abu Dhabi's Masdar City next year

Campus will feature a network of solar panels which aims to generate 3.1 million kilowatts of energy annually

Artistic rendering of Gems Founders School Masdar City.
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One of the UAE's leading education groups is to launch a net-zero school in Abu Dhabi's Masdar City next September.

Gems Education said Gems Founders School Masdar City will generate as much energy as it consumes, helping to cut its carbon footprint and support the UAE's green drive.

The campus will feature a network of solar panels covering 9,500 square metres, which is projected to generate 3.1 million kilowatts of energy each year.

The solar panels will power the school and provide shade for the building's roof, car park and walkways.

Gems said the school's thermal insulation and its building orientation – its position in relation to the sun – will also contribute to an annual reduction in its carbon dioxide footprint of 1,154 tonnes.

The school will initially have capacity for 900 pupils, from foundation stage one to year eight.

“With its wealth of eco-friendly features and new sustainability models in education, we are immensely proud of what this school means and stands for,” Dino Varkey, group chief executive of Gems Education, said.

“Across our schools, we teach climate change literacy, and our students rightly demand that we back up our words with action.

“With Gems Founders School Masdar City and our schools leading the way, we are nurturing environmentally conscious global citizens and preparing them to make a positive impact on the world.”

Matthew Burfield, executive principal of Gems Founders School Dubai, said all of the shading in the car park would be solar-powered.

“The technology we're putting in, we're making sure that it absolutely matches the energy requirement. We want to make sure we're completely net zero in energy terms,” said Mr Burfield.

He said that focus on sustainability extended to the choice of products in the school, its cafe and canteen.

The school is recruiting staff with a focus on how they would teach climate change and sustainability too.

“We've got a wonderful opportunity in the school, to be able to recruit and make sure everybody coming in has already got that at the core of their pedagogy,” said Mr Burfield.

The school will be the first at Masdar City, which is central to the UAE's efforts to build a more sustainable future.

In August, Adnoc and the National Central Cooling Company, better known as Tabreed, finished testing two geothermal wells at Masdar City.

The hot water generated by the heat from the wells will pass through an absorption cooling system to produce chilled water, which will then be supplied to Tabreed’s district cooling network at Masdar City, meeting 10 per cent of the sustainable research and development hub’s cooling needs.

Supporting net-zero goals

In 2021, the UAE unveiled its Net Zero 2050 Strategic Initiative, a Dh600 billion plan to invest in clean and renewable energy sources over the next three decades.

It was the first Gulf country to commit to net-zero emissions by 2050.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, said at the time that the country would “play its global role in combating climate change”.

Net-zero strategies are being adopted across the globe, as the climate crisis deepens.

These aim to stop increasing the amount of greenhouse gases – such as carbon dioxide and methane – in the atmosphere.

Updated: November 22, 2023, 6:14 AM