Case | HBS Case Collection | January 2011

Masdar and Tianjin: Eco-Cities

by John D. Macomber


Compares Masdar City and Tianjin Eco-City, two high profile "sustainable cities." Each showcases technological and financial innovation. Is it real? Is it replicable and defensible? The case is intended to introduce main concepts and tradeoffs with respect to rapid urbanization, new cities, sustainable cities, and urban planning and infrastructure for efficient use of resources. Both of these developments have attracted significant government support as well as major private sector financial interest. Both of the sponsoring entities intend to use the lessons learned to help them to be influential in future new cities in other venues. The case looks at the basic economics of this level of development and poses questions about the costs, benefits, and uncertainties, by comparing conditions and intentions of each project. The ability to distinguish what is really worthy of being called an "eco-city" is explored, as is the likelihood of a single project financial payback from the deployment of many of the very exciting technologies.

Keywords: Technological Innovation; Business Model; Development Economics; Urban Development; Cash Flow; Project Finance; Competitive Advantage; Environmental Sustainability; City; Infrastructure;


Macomber, John D. "Masdar and Tianjin: Eco-Cities." Harvard Business School Case 211-064, January 2011.