King Abdullah Economic City, Saudi Arabia

King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC) is the single largest private sector investment in Saudi Arabia. The project involves the creation of a World Class City for mixed-use development and an investment of $70 billion to be built on the Red Sea coastline. When completed, KAEC will be the size of Washington DC and have a projected population of over 1.4 million people.

The City is a multi-stage development that plays a central role in Saudi Arabia’s strategy to expand the economy and create sustainable job opportunities for the population. A coalition of companies, headed by EMAAR, the world’s largest real estate company by market capitalisation, was assembled to act as the masterplanner and facilitate investments: EMAAR Economic City (EMAAREC).

EMAAREC commissioned 5 Capitals Environmental and Management Consultancy in 2008 to undertake a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) of the City based on the preliminary Masterplan. This was consistent with EMAAREC’s aim for the integration of environmental issues in the overall design and development of KAEC.

5 Capitals led a team of World Class experts to prepare the SEA for KAEC. Best international practice in city-wide SEA was reviewed, an extensive study of the Environmental and Social baseline was undertaken, the environmental impacts of the city development stages were modelled under different scenarios, impacts were assessed against environmental standards, international benchmarks and the city’s objectives, and mitigation measures in the form of planning tools were developed. The following list highlights the quality and scope of the studies undertaken as part of the SEA for KAEC:

  • 120 Air Quality Samples over a 6 month programme;
  • 200 hours of Marine Diving at 150 sites;
  • 100 Marine Water and Sediment Samples;
  • 24 km bathymetric survey of the coastline;
  • 2000 laboratory analyses in UK, Bahrain, KSA and UAE;
  • 9 month of air and water modelling in the USA, UK and UAE.

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As part of the Strategic Environmental Assessment, Planning Tools were developed to provide mitigation of the identified environmental impacts. These Planning Tools were based on a proactive approach, considering that pollution prevention is a more cost-effective and sustainable than remediation. Each planning tool differed according to the topic covered, but all of them include an overview of International Best Practice and specific steps to be implemented by the different actors to mitigate environmental impacts. The Planning Tools included the following:

  • Environmental Screening Form;
  • Contractor’s Guidelines;
  • Air Emissions Management;
  • Noise And Vibration Management;
  • Electromagnetic Field;
  • Marine Environment Management;
  • Canals And Surface Water Management;
  • Groundwater Protection;
  • Dredging Guidelines;
  • Harbour Management;
  • Wastewater Management;
  • Solid Waste Management;
  • Nature Conservation;
  • Landscaping Management;
  • Integrated Pest Management;
  • Archaeology And Cultural Resources;
  • Travel Planning;
  • Green Building Design;
  • Energy Efficiency For Buildings.

5 Capitals has continued to support EMAAREC as its Environmental Advisor, developing EIA Guidelines, Environmental Guidelines for Industrial Sectors based on international BAT (Best Available Techniques) and providing environmental and sustainability inputs into the subsequent revisions of the Masterplan.