Solar umbrellas are somewhat of a concept-in-the-making, as they are currently on track to be completed for Masdar’s City Centre in 2016. When finished, these giant solar powered umbrellas will provide moveable shade and capture solar energy by following the projection of the sun. At night, the umbrellas close up to release trapped heat and allow a view of the sky. The world’s first zero carbon, zero waste city of Masdar embodies the slogan, “One day all cities will be like this.”
The fact that these solar umbrellas could be customizable to open and close at different times is key. During winter months in desert cities, it has been observed through surveys that people have a thermal preference of “no change,” meaning they prefer the temperature experienced outdoors versus a warmer or cooler climate (Aljawabra, Nikolopoulou 2010). This suggests that it would be highly beneficial to install shading structures that may fold up completely during daytime in the cold winter weeks—when having solar radiation throughout the day is actually conducive to greater human comfort—and unfold after sunset to trap all the heat that was absorbed by the ground during the day. Along with all the use-inspired functions described above, the ‘sunflower’ design of these solar umbrellas may provide a source of inspiration for the entire community. As pedestrians frequent a site that holds such sustainable designs as this, they witness how their home is becoming a living, breathing, and interactive smart city.
Aljawabra F, Nikolopoulou M (2010). Influence of hot arid climate on the use of outdoor urban spaces and thermal comfort. Intelligent Buidings International. doi: https://kar.kent.ac.uk/28351/1/Aljawabra&Nikolopoulou.pdf