Saudi Arabian investment in 76 new environmentally savvy construction projects is estimated to exceed $26 billion, according to Faisal Al-Fadl, Secretary General of the Saudi Green Building Forum (SGB Forum). Over half of those projects are based in Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia.
The SGB Forum is an initiative under the appointment of King Abdullah bin Abdullaziz, recognized by the U.S. Green Building Council as the Exclusive Authorized Education Delivery Partner to provide LEED workshops. Check out the corporate logos on the podium above: with many of the world’s larger building projects in extended hibernation, everyone’s wanting a piece of this Middle East action.
Al-Fadl claims that there are currently 1,350 “green” projects underway in the Middle East, with 5 percent of those located in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA). He told the Saudi Gazette, “There are only 150 Saudi engineers specialized in green building. We hope the number of (specialized) engineers will reach 1,000 within the next three years.”
There’s no mention of source for these statistics, but he observed that scarcity of Saudi engineers proficient in sustainability will thwart the sector’s growth. Approximately 200 Saudi engineers will undergo LEED training this year.
Sustainable and energy efficient building was primary theme at The Big 5 Saudi, an international building and construction show, held in Jeddah last March.
Jeddah municipality mayor, Dr. Hani Mohammad Aburas, was quoted at the show opening, saying, “We are working on a number of infrastructure and construction projects, and on making Jeddah a green city, therefore there is a focus on sustainability in all future projects.”
Unlike Qatar or Abu Dhabi, KSA doesn’t have a green rating system bespoke to the kingdom, instead relying on the American LEED system guidelines.
Ali U. Al Najim, Deputy Chairman of the Saudi Green Building Council, told the Saudi Gazette that “energy savings is the most important factor” when considering the design of green building.
He predicts that following green building guidelines will save 19 gigawatt on a projected energy demand that will soon reach 120 gigawatt, and save 28 gigawatt if existing growth in demand continues unchecked until 2030.
To put that into perspective, a gigawatt could power up to 1,000,000 homes for a year.
Al-Fal acknowledges that construction costs for the kingdom’s green buildings could run up to 13% more than standard construction, but, when long-term operational and maintenance costs are considered, the buildings prove to be more economical.
When the world’s largest oil exporter turns towards sustainability, there’s a clear message for the rest of the planet that change is coming.
Image of green conference from SGB Forum.