“The concept of ‘smart cities’ is growing in Saudi Arabia and most of the GCC. Everyone wants to have an interconnected web of services and infrastructure but few really plan ahead to ensure their sustainability,” according to Mohamed Jassim Al-Othman, CEO of QPM, one of the region’s leading project management companies.
Speaking on the sidelines of the 2nd Annual Digital Grids And Smart Cities Summit being held in Riyadh from 5-6 May 2014, he said: “When planning sustainable cities you have to look at various factors including ICT frameworks, transport grids, energy and utilities and more. When you do, you often see that people plan for the project early phases and not necessarily what will happen in say two to five decades.”
With over 15 mega projects in the MENA region, and its Saudi operations based out of Riyadh, QPM is looking at building partnerships in the Kingdom to help project principals develop integrated smart cities that are both sustainable and effective.
“Our experience with smart city planning tells us that even in a tightly controlled project scope, there is always the need to innovate, bring in subject experts and develop greater flexibility.
He said Saudi Arabia faces the same challenges that many of the region’s fastest growing economies do: “The amplified need to proceed with delivery is usually one of those primary challenges. In implementation, without the right plans in place, project owners may have to compromise on built sustainability to meet deadlines. We do not find this acceptable. However once a well-planned methodology is in place, civil administrators, contractors, public and private organizations, businesses and community groups can weigh the impact of smart ICT solutions and integrated utilities in their adoption of the new city enclave as a new extension of their lives and operations.”
“Standardization is a major problem, because unified standards and benchmarks for the industry have not been forged to ensure compliance across primary parameters. In these situations, we are faced with the prospect of operating in the dark particularly when it comes to future capacity planning by not having shared methodologies that allow smart cities to ‘learn’ from each other. The region in general tends to reinvent the wheel many times over with varying results.”
“Simple factors such as assessment criteria are still undefined or uncharted in the region’s project landscape. For example, defining an ICT or utility grid solution requires looking at the scope of the needs, defining coverage areas, considering future expansions or de-scoping, understanding what a realistic usage scenario will be, understanding the impact of a situation where the infrastructure cannot sustain itself, and what redundancy measures need to be in place to meet these challenges.”
“With both existing plans and greenfield projects in Saudi Arabia’s pipeline, this ability to learn from other projects is extremely important. Like many of the region’s economies, the Kingdom has been investing billions of dollars to build new economic cities in order to diversify its economy away from the hydrocarbon sector. The real value is when every riyal spent starts generating more organic contributions to the GDP. Our challenge as project consultants is ensuring that the necessary means to achieve these goals are planned for.”
Mr. Al-Othman was speaking ahead of the 2nd Annual Digital Grids And Smart Cities Summit being held in Riyadh from 5-6 May 2014. QPM is the Project Management Partner to the conference, which will work towards identifying development areas within the market.
The conference, organized by Fleming Gulf, addresses topics such as the need for smart city development in Saudi Arabia, integrating renewable energy sources and digital grids, smart infrastructure communications and connectivity, enhanced security systems and telecommunication technologies for smart city development will be covered during the conference.
To meet rising demand for its specialist services QPM, which already has smart city mandates under its umbrella, is currently recruiting new specialist smart city managers tasked with planning, organizing, and supervising the work of smart city team members to ensure all work is performed within the parameters of the project schedule.
Since completing his education from the University of Colorado in Denver, USA, Mr. Al-Othman has spent nearly three decades within the broader engineering and real estate sector in his homeland of Qatar. In addition to his role as QPM chief executive, he holds Board Memberships in various large urban developments within Qatar.