Saudi Arabia’s current infrastructure and public spending programme is worth US$35 billion and will provide 38,000km of new roads, railway network, four new airports, houses, hospitals, schools, ports and industrial developments for the Kingdom’s ever growing population. In the mega project pipe line are six new cities, a nationwide rail network and the world’s next record breaking skyscraper. The Big Project looks at a selection of the biggest developments transforming the Kingdom over the coming decade
Asking anybody in the industry which GCC market heralds the greatest opportunity for future projects, and the answer will always be Saudi Arabia.
The Kingdom’s nominal GDP grew 28% in 2011, according to data from the Central Department of Statistics and massive public spending budgets will see the country transformed within the decade.
From the grit of industrial development to the glamour of mega projects, not even Qatar’s World Cup can overshadow the phenomenal growth of a Kingdom many cannot even enter.
Saudi Arabia isn’t just building individual towers, housing projects, or malls. It is building entire cities at a time; nationwide transport and utilities infrastructure; industrial bases and ports will soon spring up on both coasts; and in its strategy to diversity from the oil based economy while retaining its position as the world’s powerhouse, the Kingdom is even pursuing renewable energy projects.
Currently there are officially four economic cities under construction, which will become hubs for petrochemicals, mining, knowledge and logistics based economies. Upon completion they are predicted to contribute $150 billion annually to GDP, generating more than one million jobs.
The 2011 budget, part of Saudi Arabia’s series of five year development plans, allocated $6.72billion to transportation and telecommunications, that can be used to construction 36,800km of new roads; four new airports; railways and ports designed to support the mega projects and economic cities.
Affordable housing will also be boosted with investments to the tune of $67 billion – enough for 500,000 new units – and in realising its tourism aspirations, Saudi Arabia may look to Mecca, the region that has recently completed a number of transport infrastructure projects to serve the six million pilgrims who visit for Hajj and Umra.
With a number of hospitality projects also supporting the demand, a budget of $120 billion has been allocated for development over the coming decade. The Mecca metro line was completed in time for the arrival of 2011’s Hajj pilgrims and its new airport terminal is the world’s busiest for the six weeks a year it is open.
Currently, Saudi Arabia retains its place at the top of the active projects list, with 1026 projects valued at US$1.102 trillion currently underway in the Kingdom.
The pace may have been set last decade, but in the second half of 2011, the value of awarded contracts surpassed that of the whole of 2010. The coming decade is undoubtedly set to see the launch of projects worth billions of dollars more.
The mega project: Kingdom Tower
It’s the US$1.2 billion mega tower that has been planned since before Dubai’s Burj Khalifa was even completed, and since the tender was first announced in August 2011, work has progressed rapidly.
On February 21 the final licences were granted for construction of Kingdom Tower; the supertall reaching so high it has increased the average height of current projects worldwide and heralded a new age in skyscraper design.
“The vision of constructing the tallest tower in the world in Jeddah belongs to HRH Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal, who was closely involved in the selection of the scheme currently under design,” says Eng. Talal Al Maiman, executive director of development and domestic investments and board member of Kingdom Holding Company and Jeddah Economic Company (JEC).
Kingdom Tower will rise more than 1000 metres above a 5.3 million sqm city to the north of Jeddah, on which construction began in January of this year. Including the project budget for the surrounding Kingdom City, investment is expected to reach $20 billion.
Bringing together the who’s who of the industry, contractor (and one of Saudi Arabia’s largest companies) Saudi Bin Laden Group , will be supported by Environment Systems Design Inc, Thornton Tomasetti and development partners Samual Bakhsh and Abdulrahman Hassan Sharbatly.
Also involved is HOK Architects; and AS+GG, whose Adrian Smith designed the icon.
Occupation is anticipated to begin within a staggering five years and the mixed-use building will feature Four Seasons hotel; Four Seasons serviced apartments; office space; luxury condominiums and the world’s next highest observatory.
Kingdom Holding Company currently has a 47.5% stake in the Four Seasons chain, which is co-owned by Bill Gates’ Cascade and Four Seasons’ chairman Isadore Sharp.
The surrounding Kingdom City will feature the 23 hectare Kingdom Tower Waterfront District, mall and communal outdoor spaces, punctuated with residential and commercial buildings.
“Prince Alwaleed, Mr. Bakhsh, Mr. Sharbatly and I were impressed by the boldness and simplicity of the AS+GG design. Kingdom Tower’s height is remarkable, obviously, but the building’s iconic status will not depend solely on that aspect. Its form is brilliantly sculpted, making it quite simply the most beautiful building in the world of any height.
“The decision of the partners to build the world’s tallest building further demonstrates their belief in investing in this nation,” Eng. Al Maiman adds.
King Abdulla Economic City
Described as an “economic city that will evolve over time”, King Abdulla Economic City (KAEC) will undergo phased construction and completion over a 20 year period, which began in 2006.
With development headed by Emaar The Economic City, phase one was completed in 2011 and incorporated the seaport, industrial zone, business park and city districts. Today investors are committing to the city and beginning operations in these areas.
A contract for $1.3bn was signed last year for phase two. Built along a 64km stretch of coastline, in total the five phases will cover a total area of 168 sqkm, similar to the size of Washington DC.
The vision is to establish “the greatest enabler of socioeconomic development in the Kingdom”, and the journey to achieving that will involve Parsons International Ltd, WATG, Skidmore Owings and Merril, and RSP.
Built with the future in mind, the city will be equipped to provide housing and jobs for a population twice the size of Bahrain’s.
Transport infrastructure will cover an integrated, multi-modal system for passengers and freight, with rail lines linking to the Landbridge project and Makkah-Madinah high speed line, connecting to all major cities in the country.
Energy and water will be provided by two power plants and two desalination plants, located adjacent to the seaport and all will be linked by an integrated telecoms network.
Total investment was initially pegged at around $100 billion; $13.6 billion of which will be purely industrial investment.
King Abdulla Financial District
Riyadh’s custom built financial district is economically designed to meet targets in economic diversification, employment and living standards. The state of the art – and financial regulated – district spans more than 3 million sqm, and will be the region’s first financial district to meet such criteria.
The King Abdullah Financial District (KAFD) will secure the sustained dominance of Saudi Arabia as the largest economy and financial centre within the region.
It will house the largest community of financial and related professionals and also the headquarters of Capital Market Authority, the Stock Exchange, banks, financial institutions, and all supporting financial and IT service industries.
Also constructed by the Saudi Bin Laden Group, Henning Larsen leads the urban planning and also devised sustainability guidelines for the development, including monorail connection between districts and air conditioned footbridges over street level.
Through the “optimisation” of building proportions Henning Larsen says it has also managed to lower the temperature of the city’s outdoor areas by up to 8?C, through the application of facade materials that “maintain” humidity, vegetation and water features. The firm is also acting as consultant during construction to ensure its objectives are met.
Complementing this vision, US architects FX Fowle designed 10 separate projects, including the Mosque, business towers and residential elements.
The district will also set up a solar rooftop plant in Riyadh on the roofs a number of clusters. The irst and largest 200-kilowatt rooftop plant in Riyadh, will be installed by Conergy and local partner Modern Times Technical Systems (MTTS). Over 800 Conergy PowerPlus 230M modules will be installed on nearly 1.7 kilometres of Conergy SunTop III mounting systems spread over 1300 square metres. The plant’s 330 MWh annual output will be fed into Riyadh’s power grid via 14 string inverters. In 2010, Conergy erected the kingdom’s first rooftop solar plant at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST).