ITCC: Saudi's Smart City
Saudi Arabia's capital Riyadh set to burst into the cyber-century
In two and a half years Saudi Arabia’s capital Riyadh will burst into the cyber-century and beyond with the completion of its Information Technology Communications Complex (ITCC), the Kingdom’s first “smart city”.
In order to attract the world’s leading Information Technology and Communications (ITC) companies to a place like Saudi Arabia, you need to offer the world’s best ITC services and infrastructure - this is the concept behind the Kingdom’s new US $1.65 billion (SR6.5 billion) ITCC development.
The project is being developed by Rayadah Investment Company, the investment arm of the government’s Public Pensions Agency (PPA), which is also developing the $10 billion King Abdullah Financial District (KAFD) in Riyadh.
As with KAFD, ITCC aims to generate income to support the PPA’s social security network, as well as achieve the broader goal of stimulating new jobs and industry to improve Saudi Arabia’s social future.
Currently, the Kingdom’s ITC sector is disjointed, lacks sufficient infrastructure and faces numerous challenges and limitations with its internet service providers. ITTC will change that.
Included in the project’s 776,000m² will be administration buildings for ITC companies, technical business centres, buildings for research, training and development and software production companies.
There will also be support buildings such as hotels, restaurants, a convention centre, residential apartments, a technical college and government service buildings.
When commissioned in mid-2012 it’s expected ITCC will make Riyadh a regional hub for ITC services, education, research and innovation.
The master plan for ITCC was designed by a joint venture between local consultants Zuhair Fayez and Singapore’s Jurong International. Zuhair Fayez then carried on with the detailed design of infrastructure and substructures.
In April 2008 Rayadah awarded a $65 million contract to local contractor El Seif Engineering for construction of infrastructure for the 487,000m² of the development.
The contract included a sewage treatment plant and a concrete-encased optic fibre cable network and was completed in August.
Meanwhile, mobilisation and excavation works for the superstructures began in July following the award of three more contracts for phase one of construction.
The main package went to Al Rajhi Projects for construction of ITCC’s central area, which includes four 20-storey towers - the projects main architectural feature.
The contract also includes construction of two research and development buildings, two business technology incubator buildings, a sports club and a clinic.
The second contract, valued at $150 million, was awarded to Construction Contracting Enterprises to build a 326 room Crown Plaza hotel and a 5000m² convention centre.
The third contract, worth $50 million, was awarded to Al Yamama Company for the construction of a residential complex including apartments, villas and recreational areas. All three contracts are due for completion in 30 months.
ITCC project director Mohammed Alsabek says construction is progressing as per schedule and few hiccups are expected.
“The time frame for this project is satisfactory; with hard work and good coordination we should be able to achieve the completion dates,” he says.
Alsabek says excavation work for the superstructures is ongoing and isn’t expected to be complete until the end of the year. He says a staggering 1.6 million m³ of earth must be removed from the central area alone to accommodate ITCC’s extensive parking facilities.
“For this development to be successful we wanted to provide enough parking for every tenant,” he said.
“So under each of the four towers there will be five basement floors of parking, a total of 22m deep, while under the research and development building there will be two levels and under the hotel and conference centre there will be three levels.
“If we don’t have proper parking it will be difficult to market the development properly, so overall we have worked out a design with 1 park per 25m², which is quite a lot.”
Alsabek said there are still several other elements within the project that are yet to start construction including a 35-tonne district cooling plant. He said tenders will roll out over the coming months.
Meanwhile, phase two of construction, which includes 18 buildings and the second infrastructure package, is currently under design and tenders will be open to bidders during the course of next year.
While the focus of the project is certainly on the technology aspects, ITCC will also be up to scratch on its environmental credentials according to systems project director Abdul Muhsin Al Bakr.
Bakr says all buildings in ITCC will achieve at least the basic Leed environmental certification through the use of grey water recycling, low energy lighting, low energy air conditioning and most of all – reduction in solar gain.
A key feature of the ITCC’s four central towers will be the unique external cladding designed to reflect the sun’s rays.
“About 1.4m away from the curtain wall is a golden sheet covering the entire building,” Baker describes.
“The sheet is aluminium shined to gold and is perforated which means you can see out of the building but you can’t see the glass from the outside.
“The purpose of this cladding is not only for aesthetics but also energy savings as it reflects UV rays and up to 60% of the solar gain.”
The aluminum sheets will be held in 4mx2m diamond-shaped panels that will have individual lights which will illuminate the towers in various changing patterns at night, he added.
The concept of the “smart city” can be loosely defined as a place which offers widespread broadband services, the latest in voice and video communication platforms and high-level data security.
All of this should be operated on a huge optic-fibre cable network designed to give the fastest speeds and accommodate next generation technologies for years to come.
Silicon Valley in the US was one of the first cities specifically designed around the needs of ITC companies.
In this region, Dubai Internet City in the UAE is one development, which boasts the smart city tag while India’s Smart City
Kochi and Smart City Malta are currently under development.
As the world catches onto the economic and social benefits to be gained from a thriving ITC sector, Rayadah’s lead ITC engineer Khalid Al Arfaj says ITCC will ensure Saudi Arabia is not left behind.
“We benchmark ITCC with the best high-tech smart cities in the world,” he says.
“If a company comes to us with a specific need there is no doubt that we will be able to do it. It’s a flexible design, which will suit both Saudi and multi-national companies.
“We have no boundaries, the sky is the limit.”
Rayadah commissioned international ITC consultants Orange to design all of its networks and solutions. Meanwhile the company has already signed MOUs with several leading ITC companies who want to be involved in the project, including Microsoft, Cisco and Cantel.
“One of the biggest attractions for these companies is the fact that we will own and operate the infrastructure and ensure the highest quality is delivered to the tenant,” says Al Arfaj.
“If you search around you are not going to find a space like this for ITC companies, basically there is nowhere in KSA that can provide all the services that an ITC company needs in one place.”
Al Arfaj says he expects only ITC related companies to operate within ITCC.
It’s expected that the project’s 22,000m² technical college will help to feed the ITCC with trained professionals and create new jobs. The facility will act as a high-class ITC college and link in with the project’s research and development facility.
Facts of interest
- The total cost is around US $1.65 billion (SR6.5 billion)
- The entire site will achieve at least the basic Leed environmental certification
- The four towers will be covered by a golden perforated aluminium sheeting 1.4m away from the curtain wall which will reflect up to 60% of the solar gain
- Each of the 4mx2m panels holding the aluminium sheets will have individual lights which will illuminate the towers in various changing patterns at night
- ITTC’s data centre will be rated tier four, the highest rating possible which allows virtually zero downtime
- There will be an average of one parking space per 25m
ITCC – Project Data Sheet
Client: Rayadah Investment Company (Public Pension Agency)
Master planners: Zuhair Fayez and Jurong International joint venture
Main consultant: Zuhair Fayez
Super-structure contractors: Al Rajhi Projects, Construction Contracting Enterprises, A Yamama Company
Infra contractor: El Seif Engineering
IT consultants: Orange