Morocco’s Zenata Has Ambitious Goals

Africa’s first Eco-City, Zenata, will soon have an Eco-Campus, the latest phase of an ambitious plan to revolutionize the way that living, learning, working, and commuting are experienced in Morocco. The Moroccan Master plan of the Zenata Eco Campus has been accepted by Public private Partnership and the tendering process for the state-of-the-art Engineering department has began.

C Concept Design has unveiled their masterplan for Zenata Eco-Campus, the next phase of a project that already includes an integrated Health Care Center and a Shopping and Leisure Center, all connected by massive green corridors and links to inter-modal transportation.  With this, Zenata Eco-City is well on its way to offering a diverse range of high value-added services for the eight million people (representing 20% of the overall population and 35% of the economic activity) within a 1-hour radius between Casablanca and Rabat. 

“’This masterplan—similar to masterplans we completed for Zenata’s health and retail centers– follows three fundamental sustainable development pillars: environmental, social, and economic,” explains Matthew VanderBorgh, C Concept Design’s Founding Director. “It’s exciting because, with this kind of development, you start with a clean slate: you can really think about how the components of a smart city can and should work together.” 

The Eco-Campus includes state-of-the-art Engineering and Business Schools, student residences, laboratories, and sports facilities, plus a central Student Commons in a landmark building with library, administration, meeting, and food & beverage spaces. This will all link seamlessly to the Health Care Center’s Medical School, teaching life sciences, and public transport links on the peripheries. It is unique to Africa and a model for pan-African collaboration in a university setting. 

“Our approach built on references from the world’s leading university campuses, localizing and optimizing them for Zenata’s unique profile, such as the population mix and regional weather patterns that affect both land/building use and mobility,” says VanderBorgh. 

“For example, we integrated walking and cycling paths throughout the spine of the campus, what we call the ‘pearl necklace,’ and positioned the Commons as the gemstone in the center—a place for meeting and interacting on a human scale, following the Moroccan Medinas’ traditional principles of organization.” 

Thirty percent of Zenata Eco-City’s total footprint are designated ecological corridors– surpassing the ratio of green space per inhabitant recommended by the WHO (10 m2/inhabitant). The green spaces include water collection ponds and support local flora and fauna. Moreover, natural cooling is achieved by harnessing winds from the Atlantic, helping to keep the carbon footprint low. 

The goal is to create an eco-city that’s intelligent in how it addresses all the key areas: mobility, healthcare access, social equity, use of public spaces, security, infrastructure, and waste management. This vision was recognized formally in 2015 when Zenata was awarded the Eco-City label by the French HQE certification agency, Cerway. Zenata is an initiative of King Mohammed VI and is being implemented by CDG; the project has received support from the UN as well as several prominent, international organizations and companies including Ikea, Saudi German Hospital (SGH), and the French Development Agency (AFD).

Groundbreaking for the Eco-Campus is planned for 2020 with the first classes enrolling in 2023. Congratulations to the Zenata project team.

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