Beyond Oil: Timber in Mix as Saudi Arabia & UAE Plans Green Switch

The world's largest construction project is turning to mass timber and modular-based manufacturing as timber imports surge across the region.

Mon 20 May 24


The Middle East is pivoting from concrete-and-steel-based construction to timber, with the UAE and Saudi Arabia leading the regional green switch. And whilst the number of timber buildings out of the ground is small, Wood Central can reveal that imports of plywood and other timber products have tripled to Dubai and Riyadh in the last 12 months alone.

Last week, Wood Central spoke to Jason O’Hagan, the Managing Director of Weathertex – ahead of Wood You Like to Know 2, set to go live on May 30 – who said the Middle East is now one of its key export markets. “

“We’re in 16 international markets,” Mr O’Hagan said, adding that Weathertex is now working with Ranjit Dhody, the owner of Beautex Wood, to sell the high-value engineered wood products throughout the Middle East and Asia.

Without question, Weathertex’s boldest project, Saudi Arabai’s NEOM development, covered by Wood Central last month, which Mr O’Hagan said is opening doors in a region hungry to decarbonise and embrace sustainable building practices. 

“We’ve been in Dubai for a long time, but NEOM is something else,” – with Weathertex kitting out 1500 residencies with Australian weatherboards, wall panels and cladding. 

Dubai is one the most heavily urbanised city centres on earth, with the UAE now looking to decarbonisation and retrofitting in order to meet it's ambitious net-zero commitments.
Dubai and Riyadh are turning to timber-based construction systems to meet net-zero climate commitments. According to China Customs, plywood exports to Saudi Arabia and the UAE have tripled over the past 12 months amid the rush for construction materials. 

“Saudi Arabia’s growth is incredible,” Mr O’Hagan said, adding that NEOM is just the start with “the country on a massive wave of construction, with leaders turning to prefabrication and modular housing to meet the uplift.” 

“The Crown Prince is very focused on putting sustainability in Saudi Arabia on the map,” Mr O’Hagan said, who attended Saudi Arabia’s Big 5 Construct expo in March – along with many of the region’s largest building and construction companies. “They love Weathertex; they love the sustainability messaging and how it aligns with their vision for Saudi Arabia’s future.”

It comes as the world’s largest oil exporter has pledged to cut carbon emissions to net zero by 2060 – with the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman confirming that the Gulf state would invest more than US $180 billion to decarbonise, including in greener construction materials.

Known as the “Vision 2030 Framework,” the plan will see the Kingdom invest heavily in reforestation in mountain, valley, and mangrove forests. While Saudi Arabia is known for its vast desert landscapes, it is also home to unique forest ecosystems in the mountains, valleys, and coastlines. 

As reported by Arab News, the Kingdom’s English masthead, Saudi Arabia’s National Center for Vegetation Cover Development and Combating Desertification (NCVC), is working on an ambitious plan to plant 10 billion new trees, which would increase the country’s forest cover 12-fold.

According to Samir Malaika, assistant director-general of the NCVC, “forests play a role in mitigating climate change,” with the new plan aiming to dramatically increase the Kingdom’s current 2,768,050 hectares of forests, concentrated in the south, the southwest, and along the coastlines of the Red Sea and the Arabian Golf.

“Sustainability is at the forefront of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030,” Mr Dhody said, who said the region’s green shift is encouraging Beautex Wood “to spearhead real and sustainable wood solutions, ultimately achieving futuristic, innovative, and modular designs.”

According to data provided by Chinese Customs, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are responsible for taking up to 140,000 cubic metres of plywood from Chinese ports for the year to March, with Nigeria and the UK among the top 5 markets for global plywood.


  • Jason Ross

    Jason Ross, publisher, is a 15-year professional in building and construction, connecting with more than 400 specifiers. A Gottstein Fellowship recipient, he is passionate about growing the market for wood-based information. Jason is Wood Central's in-house emcee and is available for corporate host and MC services.


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