Saudi Arabia Is Paving Way For Smart Cities Through Construction

How Construction Is Creating Different Opportunities In Saudi Arabia?

Saudi Arabia is making notable strides in the urban environment. We have already explored its blockchain-based initiatives in the previous blog. But today, it is about construction projects that are taking place in full swing across the Kingdom. Not just any other construction projects, but those that are aimed at making life more meaningful for its people while bringing huge benefits to the economy.   

Currently, over 5000 projects worth trillions of riyals are underway in KSA in which construction projects are being visualised as the most essential tool to build the future. The launch of KSA’s 2019 budget unveiled that non-oil revenues are increasing in the region. Amidst this, construction projects remain the key job creators in the country.  

Dozens of gigaprojects in the country are targeted towards different sectors in the urban region which include transport and mobility schemes, social infrastructure projects, energy megaprojects and healthcare projects. In fact, the Kingdom is building smart cities from the ground up that will have all the required amenities for a quality life. From all of them, we have picked up three different construction projects that will prove to be game-changing for the citizens.

Housing Project – Sakani (My Residence)

Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Housing and the Real Estate Development Fund launched a housing project called ‘Sakani’ (My Residence in English) to allocate over 500,000 homes to the citizens. The vision is to boost home-ownership in the Kingdom and provide convenient residential solutions to the people in an easy and hassle-free manner.    

The initiative was introduced in February 2017 in collaboration with numerous private organisations and financing community in an attempt to speed up the process.

According to the housing ministry, 28,051 residential units were allocated in August 2017. Out of them, 7,700 homes were to be funded in partnership with financial institutions, 7807 were free of charge, and 12,544 were an integral part of Wafi initiative implemented in association with real estate developers. The aim was to deliver 280,000 homes to families in 2017.

Going ahead, the ministry signed an agreement for five residential deals to build over 19,000 homes under the Sakani project in November 2018. The five projects will be built in major areas of the Kingdom including Murooj in Jeddah, comprising 10,000 homes; Jeddah comprising 8,000 homes; Tanal in Riyadh, including 1,008 homes; Al Khobar with 273 homes; and Qassim covering 78 homes. All five projects are planned to include green spaces, parks, mosques, and government agency sections.

Furthermore, KSA’s Minister of Housing recently delivered a new batch of residential units built by property developer Alhakmiah Holding using modern construction techniques while keeping the focus on sustainability. This batch was allocated to citizens in Dammam where the first home was built in a matter of 48 hours.

Popularly known as ‘Al Wajiha’, the project comprises 574 villas with each stretching from 251-metre square to 326-metre square. The ministry is seeking to increase the national home-ownership rate by 60% in 2020 and 70% in 2030.

Riyadh Metro & Bus Transit System

Riyadh Metro is one of the largest construction projects taking place in Saudi Arabia with an investment of $23 billion (SAR 86.3 billion). This project is on the verge of completion and is expected for a light opening in 2019 while the full network will be operational by 2021. Some of the sections of the rail network were tested in June 2018.

In November 2018, naming rights were given to major economic organisations such as Dr Sulaiman Al Habib Medical Group and UAE-based Majid Al Futtaim Shopping Malls to name 10 stations out of 85 that constitute Riyadh Metro.  

How Riyadh Metro Will Improve Connectivity Within The Cities?

According to sources, trainsets for the metro were shipped by Alstom, a rail transport multinational company headquartered in France. Other companies involved in the project are FCC Spain that has a contract for lines 4-6 (Phase 2), Atkins (UK), Strukton (Netherlands), Freyssinet (Saudi Arabia, Typsa (Spain), and Setec (France). The Riyadh Metro will be consist of six metro lines spanning 176 km.

Phase 2 was 86% complete as of 16 February 2019 while the total construction was 64% complete, as per sources. The new public transport in Saudi Arabia is anticipated to be the centrepiece of the country.

Furthermore, the Riyadh Metro is integrated with another major transport system i.e. Riyadh Rapid Bus Transit System which is currently under construction. The new mobility solution includes a 22-line network covering 1,200 km across 6,765 stations in the capital city of Riyadh. Level 1 comprises three bus lines of 77.5 km and 103 stations, whereas Level 2 will serve the major residential areas across 83 km and 67 stations.  Level 3 will cover 444 km and 17 lines and Level 4 will span 600 km. The third level will connect the city’s residential areas with each other and the fourth will be built within the residential neighbourhoods.

As of April 2018, Phase 1 was 50% accomplished and the rest of the work for all three phases in the city is continuing. Saudi Public Transport Company (Saptco) will receive 242 Man Lion City M buses delivered by the French public transport company RATP Dev, as part of their partnership, for the project.

In total, 842 buses will operate within the new bus rapid transit system including 400 Mercedes Benz Citaro g and 200 Mercedes Benz Citaro Solo buses. The new buses are specially equipped with circulating air blowers in the doors, double-glazed, darkened side windows and air conditioning to cope with extreme summers in Riyadh. The bus engines are powered by Euro 5 emissions standards with 290HP or 213kW outputs. Additionally, the buses will offer free WiFi to its passengers and enable complete wheelchair access. Even the bus shelters constructed for the system are equipped with air conditioning.

The bus rapid transit system will closely integrate with Riyadh Metro and enable citizens to travel safely, quickly, cheaply across the city. The entire system will improve the connectivity between residential, commercial and industrial areas of Riyadh. The buses are expected to start operating this year in 2019.

King Salman Energy Park (Spark)

Saudi Arabia’s other major smart city construction project is the King Salman Energy Park or Spark which was launched by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on 10 December 2018.

According to reports, the project will add $6 billion to Saudi Arabia’s GDP and produce up to 100,000 direct and indirect jobs by 2035 – being in line with Vision 2030 diversification programme.

Saudi Aramco is one of the companies involved in the construction of Spark which will be a three-phase 50 km2 energy and industrialisation centre.

Phase 1 that stretches across 12km2 with an investment of $1.6 billion (SAR 6 billion) will be fully operational by 2021. The first phase will include general manufacturing and industrial facilities, a Saudi Aramco well-drilling and maintenance zone, and dry port area. All the more, it will be equipped with a specialised training zone comprising 10 centres that will be focused on enhancing the technical skills of the citizens.

When Phase 1 is achieved, it will already have attracted over 120 investments. Therefore, Spark is an ideal destination for companies seeking to invest in the flourishing Saudi Arabian energy services market.

These are just a few initiatives underway among others in Saudi Arabia. But all of them are focused on fulfilling the countries vision to broaden the real smart city landscape to enhance the quality of life in the region.