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Diriyah aims to be ‘shining example’ of sustainability

Diriyah is a popular tourist destination but it is being developed into green hub too Creative Commons
Diriyah is a popular tourist destination but it is being developed into green hub too

Diriyah, the $50 billion giga-project on the edge of Riyadh which is scheduled to open by 2024, will be a world leading example of sustainability, according to its CEO.

“With regenerative tourism and a people-first development at the epicenter of our philosophy we want to ensure that Diriyah is a shining example when it comes to sustainability standards internationally, and will result in a highly liveable, pedestrian city,” Jerry Inzerillo, Group CEO of Diriyah Gate Development Authority, (DGDA) said.

His comments came after the first phase of the DGDA’s master plan was awarded platinum-level precertification for the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) accreditation by the United States Green Building Council (USGBC). 

The USGBC’s LEED certification is a globally recognised symbol of sustainability achievement and leadership, providing a framework for healthy, efficient and cost-saving green buildings and is the world’s most widely known sustainability certification scheme.

The certification has been announced as Saudi Arabia commits to sustainability across its tourism sector.

Last year Saudi Arabia launched a global coalition to accelerate the tourism industry’s transition to net-zero.

The Sustainable Tourism Global Centre, announced by Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, supports travellers, governments and the private sector to ensure that tourism enables growth and creates jobs, while playing its part to achieve the climate goals laid out in the Paris Agreement, including contributing to keeping the world to under 1.5-degrees Celsius warming.

Ahmed Al Khateeb, Saudi Minister of Tourism, said at the time of the launch in October: “The tourism sector contributes to eight percent of global greenhouse gas emissions – and this is expected to grow if we don’t act now.

“Tourism is also a highly fragmented sector – 80 percent of businesses in tourism are small and medium sized enterprises who rely on guidance and support from sector leadership. The sector must be part of the solution.”

The centre aims to be the “north star” for the tourism sector as it recovers from the Covid-19 pandemic and transitions towards a sustainable future.

Globally, tourism supports more than 330 million livelihoods – and pre-pandemic, it was responsible for creating one in four new jobs across the world.

Saudi Arabia has also pledged to reach net zero emissions by 2060, while Saudi Aramco, the world’s biggest exporter of oil, has set a goal of reaching net-zero emissions from its wholly-owned operations by 2050.

The precertification of LEED for buildings and cities at a platinum level forms a part of Diriyah’s wider sustainability strategy, incorporating human-centric, economic and societal sustainability alongside environmental considerations.

Diriyah has also recently introduced major initiatives including improving the circular economy and waste management practices, maintaining and improving biodiversity, monitoring the environmental footprint, and implementing social and economic initiatives that support sustainable mobility, health and wellbeing and the development of the local economy.

DGDA is also ensuring that the development is pedestrian oriented to keep Diriyah a city rooted in an authentic representation of the past, while also reducing the overall fuel emissions and carbon footprint of the development.

The first phase of DGDA’s master plan will be built entirely in the Najdi architectural style which will make use of locally sourced materials, including traditionally made mud bricks and limestone from Saudi Arabia.

Diriyah has also enrolled in Saudi Arabia’s own sustainability certification programme, MOSTADAM, which is directly linked with achieving the Vision 2030 objective of improving quality of life for all Saudis.

“I am thrilled that our efforts have been recognised by the LEED precertification as climate and nature-related considerations are at the heart of our development,” Inzerillo said.

“Diriyah is the ultimate wellspring and source of a civilization, and our sustainable approach, rooted in a reverence of the city’s past and origins, has now been authenticated by this major accolade and proof point.”

Mohamed Saad, acting DevCo president DGDA, added: “The significance of Diriyah’s preliminary LEED accreditation cannot be overstated and has involved input from every portion of DGDA.

“Thanks to this large collaborative effort we are well on our way to demonstrating to the world that our development is comprehensively sustainable at every level.”

Diriyah aims to become Saudi Arabia’s foremost historical, cultural and lifestyle destination.

As part of the kingdom’s 2030 Vision, 14 square kilometres of Diriyah is being transformed. 

With cultural and lifestyle experiences at its heart, Diriyah will include entertainment, learning, shopping, dining, hospitality, residential and workplace offerings.

On completion it will be home to a population of 100,000 residents, workers, students and visitors. 

DGDA was established in July 2017 to preserve Diriyah’s history and develop the historic UNESCO World Heritage site of At-Turaif.

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