Research Internship – Reclaiming Abu Dhabi’s Roads and Roofs

The student Team #14 was awarded by ASCE, DMT, and CITIES with a prestigious Research Internship to further develop their idea to fight rising temperatures in Abu Dhabi. 

Roads/Roofs: Reclaimed shows how the team transformed their original idea into a scientific solution within CITIES during the academic year 2021/2022. 


  • Jason Cruz, Civil Engineering, 2024
  • Jennifer Tsai, Civil Engineering, 2024
  • Mawadda Abdan, Civil Engineering, 2024
  • Yasmeen Abdelmoneim, Civil Engineering, 2024


  • Borja García de Soto, Assistant Professor of Civil and Urban Engineering
  • Kemal Celik, Assistant Professor of Civil and Urban Engineering
  • Matthias Fitzky, Research assistant at AMBER Lab 

Project description:

According to the Environment Agency of Abu Dhabi, by 2050 the city is expected to experience at least a 2.5 degrees Celsius increase in average temperatures and a 10% increase in humidity. The increased apparent temperature will produce great threats for society. Even pursuing simple everyday activities will become extremely challenging. The urban heat island effect will become persistent during the night. This is due to the infrastructures’ materials having a much higher heat capacity than the surrounding desert, leading to heat being retained in the city.

To combat the urban heat island effect in Abu Dhabi, the team investigated the effects of making changes to construction materials for road pavements and buildings, as well as planting vegetation and urban green spaces.

The project’s aim is to produce a deliverable similar to the current Abu Dhabi Urban Street Design Manual published by the DMT. The document would be beneficial for DMT and CITIES by proposing concrete steps Abu Dhabi can take to combat rising temperatures.

1st Research Presentation: Reclaiming Abu Dhabi’s Roads and Roofs

On Monday, December 20th, 2021, the winning team of the ASCE@NYUAD Future CITIES Competition presented their work to the NYUAD community and CITIES partners.

2nd Research Presentation: Reclaiming Abu Dhabi’s Roads and Roofs

On Wednesday, April 27th, 2022, the winning team of the ASCE@NYUAD Future CITIES Competition presented the latest news from their research internship in CITIES and showed how they had transformed their original idea into a scientific solution. Reclaiming Abu Dhabi’s Roads and Roofs aims to accurately model the thermal emission from a section of Downtown Abu Dhabi to understand how different buildings, materials, and landscape components (including water and vegetation) behave and how to minimize the Heat Island effect. The model will then be tested against accurate IR data collected by CITIES researchers. This will lead to a better understanding of the natural and built environment and will help in creating a more liveable and sustainable Abu Dhabi. Mawadda Abdan, Yasmeen Abdelmoneim, Jason Cruz, and Jennifer Tsai, all Civil Engineering students of the NYUAD class of ’24, worked hard this academic year under the supervision of Borja García de Soto and Kemal Celik, both Assistant Professors of Civil and Urban Engineering and CITIES’ investigators and Matthias Fitzky, Research Assistant at AMBER Lab.

The DIDI Project Design Space

DIDI is a design and innovation program hosted by Dubai’s Institute of Design and Technology aimed at high school students worldwide. This program encourages design thinking methods to solve today’s problems and create a better tomorrow. The team TechPhantom (Amtul Baseer, Jaydev Nair, Jazlynn Mujeeb Valiyara, Reel Osman, Trun Vishal Ramteke) had the opportunity to solve problems for real-life clients, in their case Schneider Electric. Over eight months, they worked on developing a Smart Home prototype based on a four-step design process: analysis, ideation, prototype creation, presentation, and pitching. The final steps of the process are the boot camp and final event, where the selected teams will pitch their prototyped solutions to a jury of clients, other professionals, DIDI professors, and experts. The team collaborated and came up with numerous ideas to create a sustainable home (in terms of construction materials and features) and makes the best use of technology. 

The ASCE@NYUAD student team and CITIES have supported the team, and they have been chosen for the DIDI Project Design Space finale. 

“We’d like to thank Jason, Jennifer, Mawadda, Yasmeen, and the CITIES team for taking the time to speak with us and guide us properly. The NYUAD Student Research Team’s research was incredibly helpful. They helped us understand how buildings can be designed to minimize the Heat Island effect to assure a more comfortable future. For instance, we learned how using green rooftops and construction materials could play a key role in managing temperature. And more importantly, they helped nurture our designing abilities, guiding us to identify the root of a problem and then develop methods to create solutions. They essentially gave us a crash course on the design. We also learned that designing is not about how things look but how things work. We think their support and feedback truly enhanced our home, and we felt it was essential for us in reaching the DIDI Project Design Space finale.”

Following the DIDI Project Design Space finale, the team won the Gold prize and we will be receiving an in-person internship at Schneider Electric.