MENA to pioneer sustainable construction with $2tn investment, generate 4.3m jobs

RIYADH: The Middle East and North Africa region is poised to lead in sustainable constructions, with a planned $2 trillion investment in new “built environments,” creating 4.3 million annual jobs. 

The term “built environments” encompasses human-made surroundings, including buildings, neighborhoods and cities, along with supporting infrastructure like water supply and energy networks. 

A recent Strategy& Middle East report highlighted the potential for sustainability-focused construction technologies to slash lifecycle emissions by 50-60 percent amid the region’s $2 trillion construction surge. 

The report said: “The size of the investment will have a substantial economic impact. It represents a little over 10 percent of GDP (gross domestic product) of the region annually, and we estimate it will create about 4.3 million jobs per year.” 

The MENA region is pioneering sustainable construction technologies as the UAE prepares to host the UN Climate Change Conference or COP28. 

Mega-projects like Saudi Arabia’s NEOM futuristic city and Qatar’s planned Lusail entertainment city are examples of where sustainability-focused technologies could propel the region toward achieving its net-zero emissions goals. 

The report emphasized: “The $2 trillion in investment encompasses projects in GCC countries and Egypt and can substantially underscore the region’s commitments to decarbonization.” 

“Saudi Arabia has pledged more than SR700 billion ($186.6 billion) to meet net-zero emissions targets by 2060,” it added. 

The report highlighted the potential for urban planning, real estate, construction and asset operations to adopt innovative and sustainability-focused methods and technologies. 

Yahya Anouti, a partner with Strategy& Middle East, noted that the “built environment” contributes significantly to global emissions, with approximately 37 percent of energy use, 39 percent of carbon dioxide emissions and 40 percent of material use. 

He said: “Our estimates show that a reduction in these emissions for urban development could take the region more than halfway to realizing its net-zero emissions goals.” 

The report identified existing technologies and innovations, such as solar photovoltaics, greener construction materials, and artificial intelligence systems in buildings that can be implemented soon. 

However, it also acknowledged the need for additional investment and time to develop, test and integrate other nascent innovations. 

Balsam Nehme, head of sustainability at Dar Al-Handasah, encouraged stakeholders to embrace an innovative and sustainable approach, emphasizing the potential for setting a new global standard. 

He stated: “From urban planning to architecture, civil engineering, mechanical systems and construction materials, sustainable development can unlock widespread better quality of life, incremental economic growth, and develop local skills and jobs.” 

The report underscored the significant implications for stakeholders in the built environment and outlined the necessity for regulators to stimulate demand for sustainable technologies, developers to adopt eco-friendly construction techniques and financiers to drive the transition. 

Collaboration among all stakeholders is crucial for success, with lessons learned from pilots and trials essential to drive the adoption of sustainable practices and innovations. 

Sarah Al-Feghali, the moonshots and innovation lead of the ideation center at Strategy&, highlighted the report’s examination of over 50 innovations that can shift the paradigm toward sustainable built environments. 

The report provided 17 high-potential and actionable applications across multiple areas to reduce emissions, including mobility, managed landscapes, development density, mechanical systems and construction processes. 


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