How can drones help Saudi Arabia’s construction sector post COVID-19?

Rabih Bou Rashid, the CEO of Falcon Eye Drones (FEDS) explains the role of drones technology in Saudi construction recovery

Will adopting drone technology boost the journey to recovery for Saudi Arabia construction sector, which is known for its gigaprojects including Qiddiya, The Red Sea Project, Diriyah Gate, AMAALA, Riyadh Metro, among others, post the COVID-19 pandemic?

According to the CEO of Falcon Eye Drones (FEDS), Rabih Bou Rashid, drones are “an imperative tool to ensure continuity of building operations in Saudi Arabia”.

Bou Rashid said: “The pandemic has presented a considerable challenge to the construction sector in Saudi, which used to require a significant number of labourers. As the Kingdom contains the spread of the disease as a paramount concern, drones can help afford an effective alternative to guarantee the sector’s continuity of operations, while ensuring health and public safety.”

Explaining that drones could reduce the manual rework by 25%, Rashid added: “Drones can help avert costly errors as they help developers identify slip-ups prior to and during the construction, which — if left unchecked — can put a damper on a project’s budget later on.”

According to FEDS, a report by Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Housing showed that it surged by 8.03% in 2019 due to its major projects that support the Vision 2030, contributing to the Kingdom’s GDP boost to 12.6%.

FEDS revealed that with drones being able to survey some of the most hazardous and remote spots, the need for several people visiting sites for the collection of data could be eliminated.

Instead, contractors could get detailed data footages from the safety of their offices.

Bou Rashid explained: “Saudi Arabia’s construction sector can definitely progress further with drones. The technology they possess can be truly vital in saving firms extra expenses, time, and effort.

“They [drones technology] can also help safeguard the wellbeing of workers, as well as provide more accurate data without spending a nickel and an hour of their time,” Bou Rashid concluded.


Saudi Construction Sector to Complete 5,000 Projects Worth $1.6 Trillion

The construction sector in Saudi Arabia has been the most affected by the suspension of economic activities during the coronavirus pandemic.

However, specialists in the construction and urban development sector have expected a strong resumption of work, which would contribute to reducing economic losses while completing pending projects.

They affirmed that smoothly starting economic activities can ensure the sector’s gradual recovery and reinforce expectations for an active return to construction in Saudi Arabia to complete the implementation of 5,000 projects worth $1.6 trillion.

These hopes come in light of the challenges facing the sector due to the coronavirus crisis, which has cast a shadow over Saudi contracting activity.

According to the Saudi Contractors Authority, a survey conducted on 600 contracting companies in Saudi Arabia has revealed the challenges facing Saudi contractors, mainly in cash flow, project delays, and supply chain disruptions.

It pointed to an expected decrease in awarded projects this year by 20 percent due to the pandemic.

Meanwhile, operating sources have stated that the Saudi market is expecting an active and gradual resumption of activity in the construction sector.

They pointed out that the boom in the conclusion of construction contracts in 2019 supports the restoration of this activity to complete the commitment to implementation during 2020, which would record growth during Q1 2021.

Fahad bin Mohammed Al Hammadi, former chairman of the Federation of Arab Contractors, expected early 2021 to experience a maximum flow of mega projects in the Kingdom.

He cited the Red Sea Development Project after raising the value of its awarding contracts to more than double in 2020, to increase from SAR2.3 billion ($613 million) in 2019 to SAR6.8 billion ($1.8 billion) in 2020.

He noted that the coronavirus pandemic has greatly affected the construction sector, as work was suspended in line with the precautionary measures imposed.

Another challenge was low oil prices, he stressed, adding that spending in the construction sector during 2020 was negatively affected by the pressure posed on the oil sector since the virus’s outbreak.

Fadl al-Buainain, a financial and banking analyst, told Asharq Al-Awsat that the construction sector was one of the most affected by the Kingdom’s suspension of economic activity.

He expressed hope that activities would resume strongly and contribute to reducing losses, gaining profits, and gradual recovery.


Saudi construction equipment market set to grow 4.79pc by 2025

The Saudi construction equipment market is poised for solid growth over the next five years thus registering a CAGR of 4.79 per cent during the forecast period of 2020-2025, according to a new survey by

Saudi Arabia is one of the fastest-growing nations in the GCC region. The low and middle-income groups of people in the country and the government’s significant efforts in constructing new residential buildings are the factors driving the demand for construction machinery.

The construction sector had experienced a strong rebound in 2019. However, the outbreak of Covid-19 has negatively affected the growth of the construction sector. Also, the construction sector is labour intensive..

Currently, prevention of the spread of Covid-19 is of paramount concern. This concern, along with the global economic slowdown, has led to a decline in the demand for construction machinery, said the report.

However, things are slowly looking up, thanks to the key government housing projects in the pipeline.

Under the ministry of housing’s Eskan project, the government has plans to build 500,000 homes. Additionally, the government has also allocated a budget for the construction of 15 million residential units over the next five years, stated the report.

Saudi Arabia is in the midst of Vision 2030, a major transformation agenda that includes many megaprojects, such as the tourist destination of the Neom super-city; the 334-sq-km entertainment city of Qiddiya; the development at the Unesco World Heritage site of Al-Ula; and the luxury, sustainable tourism-focused Red Sea Project.

In 2019, the Saudi government had announced various giga projects, such as the Red Sea Development Project, Qiddiya, Amaala, Riyadh Metro, and Diriyah worth $56.2 billion.

The tourism sector also witnessed significant growth in the last few years. The country has also taken up large hotel projects to accommodate the increasing number of tourists to Makkah, Madinah, Riyadh, and Jeddah, it added.

The Ministry of Housing initiated ‘The Sakani program’ in 2017 as part of Vision 2030, and it was launched to provide more than 500,000 residential units across the kingdom, at an estimated cost of $133 billion.

By the end of the decade, Sakani aims to achieve home ownership for 70 per cent of Saudi nationals. In Riyadh, a total of 7,500 units had been delivered in the first three months, while in Jeddah, the number reached 1,800. pointed out that with ongoing projects since 2017, Saudi Arabia had been showing a potential demand for tower cranes compared to that of other crane types, owing to the increasing new and redevelopment of cities, airports and other infrastructure in the country in the coming years.

Various crane types such as tower, crawler, rough-terrain, all terrain cranes, port and offshore cranes have been considered in the market studied.

Crawler cranes have been the next major crane types in demand in the country owing to the increasing projects in energy and infrastructure sectors.

XCMG, Liebherr and Mammoet have been the key players in suppling crawler cranes with heavy lifting capabilities.

For instance: In 2018, XCMG with its 4,000 ton crawler crane XGC88000 made its overseas debut of hoisting a 1,926-ton washing tower in Saudi Arabia and went on to complete a hoisting operation of 15 parts for Duqm Oil Refinery project of Oman Oil.

Similarly, in 2018, Mammoet had expanded its presence in Saudi Arabia with the opening of a new operational hub in the city of Al Jubail.

The new facility comprises an office building and a 20,000 -q-m yard which enables in-house maintenance and repair of fleet equipment.

In late 2016, Liebherr opened a newly erected facility in Dammam to strengthen the sales and service staff of its cranes, foundation work and concrete technology product divisions in the east of the country.

The company has also developed a number of boom systems especially for this purpose to meet the steadily growing demand from commercial wind farm operations in the country. pointed out that due to the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic, many construction sectors have cut the spending in the ongoing projects in 2020.

However, post 2020, the cranes specially tower and crawler cranes are likely to see an increase in demand from crane rental operators and as well as from construction contractors in the country.

The building segment includes various construction activities in areas, like residential, commercial, mixed-use, airports, and sports facilities, which have been considered in the market studied.

The Saudi Arabia construction machinery market is mostly characterised by the presence of numerous international companies, resulting in a highly competitive market environment.

The top seven players in the market account for around 67 per cent of the market share, and the remaining 33 per cent of the market share is dominated by other players, such as Sumitomo construction machinery, Doosan, and XCMG.

Major players are investing considerably in their R&D department in order to integrate innovation with excellence in performance. The demand for high performance, efficient, and safe handling equipment from the end market is expected to make the market more competitive over the forecast period.


AMAALA awards construction supervision contract of Triple Bay to Saudi Arabian Parsons

AMAALA, the ultra-luxury destination located along Saudi Arabia’s northwestern coast, appointed Saudi Arabian Parsons Limited (Parsons), who, following a competitive tender, was awarded the construction supervision contract. The digitally enabled solutions provider is taking on the role of engineer, supervising the execution of works currently underway across Phase I of Triple Bay.

Binyah, a Saudi Real Estate Infrastructure Company, joins Parsons onsite carrying out the excavation, backfilling, and earthworks required to achieve the formation levels and grading of Phase I of the Triple Bay masterplan.

Chief Executive Officer of AMAALA, Nicholas Naples said: ‘We are delighted to work with two prestigious firms on a project of this scale. We are very pleased with the progress to date and have welcomed the expertise and experience both Parsons and Binyah have brought to the development of the destination. We celebrated a milestone moment in our history when work on onsite began, and we are looking forward to working closely together to bring our vision for Triple Bay to life. Together we will deliver an ultra-luxury destination for future generations around the globe, nested in the long-term vision of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.’

AMAALA’s environmental team is guiding Parsons and Binyah on the AMAALA site to oversee all stages of development, ensuring work is being carried out within its sustainability and environmental guidelines.

Commenting on the signing, Managing Director of Saudi Arabian Parsons Limited, Ken Murray, said: ’As an iconic development in the Kingdom, AMAALA is set to become a preeminent destination for travellers from the world over. Parsons is thrilled to join the delivery team, and we look forward to supporting the Triple Bay development and continue our proud participation in the delivery of Vision 2030 for Saudi Arabia.’

Chief Executive Officer of Binyah, Eng. Fahad Al-Mesfir stated: ‘The agreement marked a strategic turning point for the company, given it’s the first business agreement with AMAALA to implement the preparatory works. Binyah is working to provide the highest quality standards in the implementation of the project, which will contribute to achieving the ambitions of the Kingdom’s 2030 vision.’

Set in the Prince Mohammed bin Salman Nature Reserve across three unique communities, AMAALA will bring to life the desires and ambitions of a community passionate about shaping and living transformative moments. AMAALA’s trio of communities – Triple Bay, The Coastal Development, and The Island – will showcase three different sets of experiences for guests.

  • Triple Bay will offer a fully holistic wellness retreat, state-of-the-art diagnostic medical facilities and authentic treatments designed to feature the local environment. Triple Bay will also be home to a fully integrated sports and entertainment community.
  • The Costal Development is set to become the defining hub of contemporary art in the Middle East, playing host to a dynamic programme of exciting events from the global arts and cultural calendar.
  • The Island will be the tranquil home of an exclusive art community, and an Arabic botanical garden bestrewn with sculptural pieces.

With a focus on creating transformative personal journeys inspired by arts, wellness and the purity of the Red Sea, AMAALA will allow travellers to immerse themselves in the finest wellness, arts, culture, sports and fitness offerings, redefining the luxury tourism experience.


Construction begins on Saudi Arabia’s $17.1bn Diriyah Gate

The Diriyah Gate Development Authority (DGDA) has revealed that construction on Saudi Arabia’s gigaproject, Diriyah Gate, has commenced after ground broke on one of the development’s foremost areas Bujairi Square.

The developer claims that this is one of the first gigaprojects in Saudi Arabia that has broken ground.

Diriyah Gate will comprise a mixed use area of dining, Diriyah Art Oasis – an arts centre designed to support and inspire the production of contemporary Saudi art and international emerging artists, as well as At-Turaif – the original home of the Al Saud Royal family.

The Diriyah province, north-west of Riyadh, is being touted as one of the largest habitable mud cities, overlooking the UNESCO World Heritage Site of At-Turaif.

DGDA laid the foundation stone on the Diriyah Gate gigaproject in November 2019.

On completion, Diriyah Gate will feature an array of cultural, leisure, hospitality and residential areas, including more than 20 hotels, several museums and more than 100 places to dine.

The development will be home to a population of 100,000 residents and hospitality guests as well as professional, hospitality and retail workers, as well as aiming to attract 25 million visitors annually.


Work forges ahead on Saudi megaproject despite pandemic

To ensure the tourism project has been able to remain on track, Qiddiya Investment Co. obtained the necessary permits to carry on with construction on the site while closely monitoring health and safety measures outlined by the authorities
RIYADH: Work on Saudi Arabia’s epic Qiddiya entertainment megaproject has been forging ahead despite a global economic slowdown caused by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak.

While many countries have been forced to stall or scale down similar construction schemes due to the pandemic, it has been business as usual in the Kingdom for the building of the ambitious visitor destination.

To ensure the tourism project has been able to remain on track, Qiddiya Investment Co. (QIC) — which is driving the development — obtained the necessary permits to carry on with construction on the site while closely monitoring health and safety measures outlined by the authorities.

Qiddiya, an initiative born from the Vision 2030 reform plan and supported by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, is located southwest of Riyadh, and is set to become the Kingdom’s capital of entertainment, sports, and the arts.

Amid the ongoing COVID-19 health crisis, Arab News spoke to QIC officials about the project’s latest developments and the company’s plans to continue with construction.

Preliminary construction — to prepare the site for the subsequent phases of development — commenced at the end of 2019 and is due to be completed next year.

QIC Chief Executive Officer Michael Reininger said: “After taking the necessary precautionary measures to ensure the health and safety of our employees and contractors, we obtained the necessary work permits to continue work on the site.

“Qiddiya is set to become the Kingdom’s capital of entertainment, sports and the arts, and the only way to achieve this is to remain on track with the development of the project and carry on working, come what may.”

A key tenet of Vision 2030 is to enable local businesses to contribute and play an important role in the Kingdom’s transformation, and in this context, QIC has awarded three key construction contracts to Saudi companies.

Shibh Al-Jazira Contracting Co. (SAJCO) secured a deal to begin construction of the first phase of the roads network to provide easy access to the site and enable future building work.

The first contract for 2020 was awarded to Abdul Ali Al-Ajmi Co. to start work on preparing site foundations for Qiddiya’s first major zones, the Resort Core, and the City Center.

A second 2020 contract has gone to Saudi Pan Kingdom Co. (SAPAC) to build security fencing around the entire premises as the first step toward allowing the commencement of multiple construction projects scheduled to begin this year.

Kareem Shamma, Qiddiya’s chief development officer, said: “In compliance with the Kingdom’s regulations, we are proud to bring you this major construction update showing how Qiddiya is moving forward with some of its key infrastructure projects.

“We are also grateful to our partners for their commitment and support in delivering only the best during these challenging circumstances. Collectively, we continue to take all the necessary measures to ensure the health and safety of our employees and the community.”

In addition to the ongoing progress, QIC is committed to the preservation of the site’s natural resources and ecosystem.

By focusing on biodiversity and creating improved microclimates, it aims to encourage comfortable pedestrian movement in attractive surroundings, while promoting well-being, cutting carbon fuel consumption, reducing, reusing and recycling waste, and managing valuable water resources in the most efficient way possible.

In coordination with the Saudi Electricity Co. and National Grid SA, Qiddiya has also carried out a major transfer of high- and medium-voltage overhead power lines between existing and new towers on site.

Salman Al-Hubeis, the executive director of project development, said: “We are proud to be on schedule with some of our key infrastructure projects at Qiddiya.

“We are thankful to our development partners for their support during this difficult time as we continue site preparation and security projects as well as power lines relocation projects.”


US $500m Al Khobar 2 desalination plant to be constructed in Saudi Arabia

The Saudi publicly-owned company Saline Water Conversion Corporation (SWCC) has awarded ACCIONA and its partner RTCC a US $500m contract for the construction of the Al Khobar 2 desalination plant at Khobar, on the east coast of Saudi Arabia around 400km from Riyadh.

The project

The facility will be equipped with reverse osmosis technology and a daily capacity of more than 600,000 m³, making it one of the biggest in the country and the largest RO plant under EPC scheme awarded in a single shot in KSA. It will provide a service to three million people in the area. ACCIONA thus consolidates its presence in the water treatment sector in Saudi Arabia, a country in which it currently has three projects under way.

Last year, a contract of about US $813.8m was awarded for the financing, design, construction, operation and maintenance (for 25 years) of the Shuqaiq3 desalination plant. Located in the south-west of the country on the Red Sea coast, it is expected to be completed sometime in 2021 and will have a treatment capacity of 450,000 m³ per day to provide a service to a population equivalent of two million. It will also be equipped with a photovoltaic plant to reduce internal energy consumption.

In July 2018, a contract was also awarded for around US $217m to build and commission the Al Khobar 1 desalination plant (capacity: 210,000 m³ per day). It is located close to the Al Khobar 2 plant and serves a population of 1,000,000.

The company has also designed and built the Al Jubail RO4 seawater desalination plant in the east of the country for the utility Marafiq. With a capacity of 100,000 m³ per day, it serves both the city and the nearby industrial complex.


Saudi’s Red Sea Project reaches key milestone

Key sites identified for villas, hotels and restaurants on Sheybarah South and Ummahat Al Shaykh islands

Work to identify locations for villas, restaurants and hotel arrival points for two hyper-luxury hotels and one luxury hotel on Sheybarah South and Ummahat Al Shaykh islands, as part of the multi-billion-dollar Red Sea Project in Saudi Arabia.

The Red Sea Development Company (TRSDC), the developer behind the ambitious tourism project, marked the key sites in line with the master plan, over a three-week period.

“The marking of locations for our overwater assets is another milestone reached for the project, and is indicative of the progress being made at the site,” said John Pagano, CEO, TRSDC.

“This activity was an essential step in the identification of suitable locations which will allow our hotels and other assets to coexist in harmony with their surroundings while providing our visitors with an immersive experience and stunning views.”

The work was carried out in order to minimise the impact on the existing environment, particularly invaluable coral reefs.

The placing of buoys required careful coordination by the teams, which included local experienced boat captains to navigate among the coral reefs, along with the TRSDC construction team.

The process also required an on-boat crew handling the buoys and concrete blocks, working with the surveyors, as well as snorkelers and scuba divers, to ensure no corals were damaged in the process.

“It has provided an essential visual aid for the TRSDC executive management team and our global design teams to get a feel for the resort planning, proximity to the near shore islands and the customer experience” said Ian Williamson, chief development officer, TRSDC.

Buoys were secured by divers, using concrete blocks carefully placed to avoid the coral communities on the seabed. Following the placement of the marker buoys, the site team deployed drones to take footage and mark their location using global positioning system (GPS) coordinates to enable the company’s executives, designers, and engineers to refine and conclude the master planning process.

The Red Sea Project will welcome its first guests by the end of 2022. The first phase of the development will include 14 luxury hotels offering 3,000 rooms across five islands and two inland locations. It will also include entertainment facilities, an airport, and the necessary supporting logistics and utilities infrastructure.

Work is already underway at the destination with the development of key supporting infrastructure and accommodation for the workforce and company employees deployed to manage construction.

Upon completion in 2030, the destination will deliver up to 8,000 hotel rooms across 22 islands and six inland sites.


Red Sea Project breaks the ground on a coastal village

RIYADH — The developer behind Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea Project has begun phase one of its operations breaking ground on the construction of a 1.5 million sq. meter coastal village area which will house workers, staff and management of the mega-city project.

The construction of the coastal village is being done in partnership with HUTA Hegerfield and Saudconsult and hss begun with infilling of the land and ground improvement several days ago.

“Teams on the site are currently raising the ground level to 3.5m above sea level. Every day, we transfer some 10,000m3 of earth and compact about 7,000m2 of land. The Coastal Village will be home to 14,000 employees from The Red Sea Project community when the first phase of the destination opens and we will provide the highest quality accommodation and a wide range of facilities, whilst meeting our own stringent environmental standards,” according to a press release.

The Red Sea Project is a planned megacity on Saud Arabia’s western coast and will cover 28,000 sq. km in total area including 200 km of coastline. The city will welcome its first visitors by the end of 2022 and will be fully completed by 2030.

The project is one of Saudi Arabia’s three mega-projects aimed at boosting its tourism sector announced in October 2017, along with the megacity NEOM and Amaala, another resort on the Red Sea.


Spanish company to build second largest desalination plant in Saudi Arabia

Spanish company Abengoa, in consortium with SEPCOIII is set to construct a 600,000m3 / day desalination plant in Saudi Arabia; the second largest plant with reverse osmosis technology in the country. Specifically, the company will be responsible for the engineering, supply and construction of the Jubail 3A reverse osmosis desalination plant, located to the south of the city of the same name, in the eastern province of Saudi Arabia, in the northeast of the country.

The plant will have the same capacity as the Rabigh III plant already under construction and will guarantee the supply of drinking water to the Eastern provinces, Riyadh and Qassim throughout the year. The project contemplates the construction of tanks for the storage of treated water with a capacity of one day of production, as well as a photovoltaic solar field, which will reduce, in a sustainable way, the energy consumption of the desalination plant network.

Scope of the project

The scope of the project includes the capture of seawater, pumping, pre-treatment, reverse osmosis system with energy recovery, post-treatment, pumping station, product water storage, effluent treatment, discharge through outfall and photovoltaic solar field, as well as associated electrical installations that include the construction of a 380/33 kV electrical substation.

The project is part of the Saudi government’s program to promote private participation in the country’s water sector. The developer consortium consists of ACWA Power, Gulf Investment Corporation and Al Bawani Water & Power Company. Desalinated water will be supplied to the state-owned Saudi Water Partnership Company, promoter of this project.

Jubail’s will be Abengoa’s third desalination plant to be built in Saudi Arabia and the seventh in the Middle East. With it, it consolidates its leadership position in the desalination sector worldwide, with an installed capacity of 1.7 million m 3 / day, which will expand to 4.3 million when the portfolio in execution is completed.

In the Middle East, Abengoa is currently building the world’s largest reverse osmosis desalination plant, located in the Taweelah power and water generation complex, with a production capacity of 909,000 m 3 / day, and the desalination plant in the Emirates Global Aluminiun (EGA) of more than 41,000 m 3 / day, both in the United Arab Emirates, as well as the 600,000 m Rabigh III desalination plants3 / day also in Saudi Arabia and the 114,000 m 3 / day Salalah desalination plant in Oman.


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