Experts Call for Mass Timber in Saudi Arabia’s $500B NEOM Gigacity!

Saudi Arabia is the Middle East's largest timber market, with Mohammed Bin Salmon, Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince, pushing for a zero-emission development as the country weans off its reliance on oil.

Thu 01 Feb 24


As Saudi Arabia unveils plans for “Zardun” – the world’s largest luxury resort and the latest in the Saudi’s NEOM development, attention is now turning to materials used in constructing the world’s largest and most ambitious construction project. 

Once constructed, NEOM will connect more than 26,000 km² of land mass to the Red Sea, an area larger than Israel and Kuwait, eventually accommodating 25% of Saudi Arabia’s total population.

It is part of a development that has seen Mohammed Bin Salmon, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince, invest in extensive forest regeneration to wean the Gulf State of its oil dependence and bring the country’s Vision 2030 to life.

NEOM is the world’s largest construction project and one of its most controversial. NEOM, four letters that reflect the inordinate ambition of one country: Saudi Arabia. A huge region in the northwest of the country, where futuristic cities are due to spring up – footage courtesy of @Looking4En.

Already, 60,000 construction workers from 90 different countries are working on the gigacity, which will see four megacities – THE LINE, Oxagon, Sindalah and Trojena – all designed to have no cars, streets or carbon emissions.

Now, a new report published in Mechanics of Advanced Materials and Structures calls for the Kingdom to use mass timber construction systems, specifically cross-laminated timbers, to bring the 174km LINE development to fruition.

According to the lead author, Danish Ahmed, “the paper’s main objective is to study the feasibility of using massive timber elements in building the futuristic city of LINE-NEOM, Saudi Arabia.”

Dr Ahmed, who belongs to the Department of Civil Engineering at the Prince Mohammed Bin Fahd University in Saudi Arabia, said, “The structural analysis and design results (of the report) indicated that the CLT building was acceptable in terms of lateral deformation or drift under a critical combination of lateral and gravity loads.”

Before adding that, CLT was “an excellent alternative material for buildings in LINE that aims to be zero-net carbon’s city.”

Last year, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed Bin Salmon, discussed NEOM and the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 in an interview with Fox News – footage courtesy of @AlArabiyaEnglish.

Announced in 2017, the LINE is the first megacity project and will consist of two parallel, 500-meter-high, linear skyscrapers standing 200 metres apart, clad with mirrored facades.

According to Al Shihabi, a former banker who now sits on the NEOM advisory board, the project is being built in stages, block by block. 

“People say this is some crazy project that’s going to cost gazillions, but it’s going to be built module by module in a manner that meets demand,” he told the BBC last year.

Much like Barcelona’s traffic-free “superblocks”, Mr Shihabi said each square will be self-sufficient and contain amenities such as shops and schools, so anything people need will be a five-minute walk or cycle away.

Once finalised, travel along The Line will be via hyper-speed trains, with the longest journey “never more than 20 minutes”, the developers claim.

Saudi Arabia is the Middle East’s fastest-growing market for mass timber, with the Kingdom now competing with the UAE to become the region’s “green power.”

In October 2021, Saudi Arabia became the second country in the Middle East and North African region (behind the UAE) to deliver a plan for net zero, with Israel, Bahrain(also in 2021) and Oman (in 2022) joining as part of a broader push for the region to embrace green technologies.


  • 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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