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Can Saudi’s construction sector learn sustainable lessons from the UAE?

by Neha Bhatia on Jun 10, 2017

Large-scale projects are expected to boost the Middle East’s MEP market.
Large-scale projects are expected to boost the Middle East’s MEP market.

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Last month, engineering giant Honeywell announced that it is collaborating with organisations such as Integrated Industrial Gases (IIG), Trane, and ASHRAE to supply the Saudi Arabian market with environment-friendly refrigerant solutions.

In a statement, Honeywell termed its collaboration as being “significant”, since cooling technologies are “a necessity in a country like Saudi Arabia, where the average summer temperature is 45°C, sometimes even reaching 54°C”.

Honeywell’s effort in the kingdom draws inspiration from Saudi Vision 2030, a national programme with far-reaching socio-economic ambitions, one of which is to reduce the country’s energy consumption and limit the environmental damage caused by greenhouse gases.

Honeywell’s sustainable push in the kingdom’s building sectors is a natural step forward for the company, which lists the Middle East as one of its “fastest growing markets” in the Europe, Middle East, and Africa region. It is likely – and perhaps, even necessary – that more companies will replicate Honeywell’s effort in 2017.

The kingdom looks set to emerge as a fruitful prospect for sustainable design, build, and operate (DBO) experts as Vision 2030 – directly and otherwise – propels the transition of Saudi’s economy away from petrodollars. For consultants, contractors, and product suppliers in the mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) segment, Saudi’s drive towards environment-consciousness represents an added growth opportunity in the country.

After all, the sparseness of sustainable influences in Saudi Arabia’s contemporary built environment is no secret. Both Riyadh and Jeddah ranked in the lower quartile of construction consultancy Arcadis’s Sustainable Cities Index 2016, published last September. The cities finished 76th and 81st place respectively in a list of 100 global cities.

Remarking on the list’s findings about the kingdom, Paul Souaid, managing director of Arcadis Saudi Arabia, said: “Whist the study indicates a number of areas for improvement, there are lots of positive elements within [...] Vision 2030 that should boost Jeddah and Riyadh’s future performance. Investment in new infrastructure will act as a catalyst for growth and make both cities an easier place to do business, whilst the drive to diversify the economy away from [...] hydrocarbons should deliver environmental benefits.

“There is a strong strategy in place [to boost sustainability in Saudi]. However, the challenge now will be to implement it effectively over the next decade, particularly in an economy that’s exhibiting slower growth,” Souaid added.

Some of Vision 2030’s goals may well drive growth in the Middle East’s MEP market, which according to research analysts at Technavio, will expand at “a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of more than 10% by 2020”.

In its December 2016 report, MEP Services Market In Middle East 2016-2020, Technavio states that a significant portion of this growth will be led by the development of regional mega-projects, such as Saudi Arabia’s Jeddah Tower (pictured).