AMS Spring 2023

Leading Saudi Construction Firm Breaks Ground on First Two-Story 3D Printed Home in Middle East

6K SmarTech

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Dar Al Arkan, the largest property developer in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), announced that the company has broken ground on the Middle East’s first two-story home built with additive construction (AC) methods. Dar Al Arkan announced its first residential 3D printed construction project in the summer of 2021.

Rendering of Dar Al Arkan’s Shams al Riyadh project

Concurrently with the first project’s launch, Dar Al Arkan also announced that the company had partnered with the leading firm in the AC market segment, Denmark’s COBOD. Relevantly, COBOD’s signature machine, the BOD2 concrete printer, is also in-use on the recently announced project in Houston, Texas to construct the US’s first two-story printed residence.

In a press release about the Middle East’s first two-story printed residence, the project manager of 3D construction printing at Dar Al Arkan, Wael Al Hagan, commented, “Dar Al Arkan is currently building the second villa, which will typically take a month to complete, but we’ve already finished the first floor in only eight days. …[The] villa has additional insulation layers and features that ensure energy conservation, saving up to 30 percent in energy consumption. Our efforts are focused on developing the Kingdom’s real estate sector by integrating the latest trends and technologies, drawn from global best practices to enhance our industry locally and deliver on the objectives of Vision 2030.”

Site of Dar Al Arkan’s two-story villa

Vision 2030 is an all-encompassing economic and infrastructural overhaul that the KSA announced in 2016, a little over a year before King Salman deposed his nephew, Muhammad bin Nayef, as Crown Prince, replacing the latter with Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), who is King Salman’s son. Given that MBS was the one who, as deputy Crown Prince, announced the Vision 2030 plan, the decade-plus megaproject is often viewed as interchangeable with his leadership. In particular, it is seen as an effort to deflect away from some of KSA’s more flagrant human rights abuses.

Along with a general plan to wean the Kingdom’s economy off of its dependence on fossil fuel profits, the centerpiece of Vision 2030 is the project called NEOM, the name for the wildly ambitious, futuristic, idiosyncratically narrow smart city that KSA has been hyping for years. That project is drastically behind schedule: initially announced in 2017, NEOM was intended to be partially finished by 2020, and expanded by 2025. Delays related to the exodus of Western businesses from KSA owing to the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, followed by the pandemic, now make those deadlines seem impossible.

On the other hand, Dar Al Arkan, for one, seems to be pushing along on the Shams Ar Riyadh project, a “city-within-a-city” in KSA’s capital, which is also the largest city on the Arabian peninsula. Both of Dar Al Arkan’s printed villa projects are a part of Shams Ar Riyadh, which has already sold out of all its units. Additionally, MBS announced another project last week, worth $10 billion, called the Global Supply Chain Resilience Initiative. Considering the growing inextricability between additive manufacturing (AM) technologies and the idea of supply chain resilience, KSA is almost certainly in the process of ramping up its incorporation of AM — including the AC market segment.

Along those lines, does it matter if NEOM is never, in fact, built? Given KSA’s progress on admittedly less ambitious, less broad-sweeping projects, NEOM could end up proving just as valuable as a sandbox for new tech as it ever would be as a real place where people actually live. Moreover, the growing bonds between KSA and China suggests a realistic rationale behind the possibility that the Kingdom could be having to go to evermore extreme lengths to hide its hand on the global stage. NEOM may never be completed, but if KSA’s economy is transformed in the process of its development, that might be easily forgiven.

Images courtesy of Dar Al Arkan

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