Oman’s Masterplan: Timber & Trees Drive Net-Zero Smart City

The Gulf State is committed to low-carbon construction materials, planting 11 million trees and investing in the world's largest green hydrogen project.

Sat 19 Aug 23


Oman has provided updated plans for a new mega “smart” city set across 14.8 square kilometres outside the capital in Muscat.

Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) is behind the blueprint for ‘Sultan Haitham City.’

In 2011, it secured the commission in collaboration with Ghafari Associations, over 15 international design firms.

SOM is a global leader in the push for climate action. It was one of the first design and engineering firms to join the World Green Building Council’s Net Zero Carbon Buildings Commitment

In 2022, it became a net zero emissions business through a combination of strategies to reduce emissions, prioritise low-carbon materials like timber and strengthen its carbon offset program.

CNN reports the updated plan includes 20,000 homes, a university, schools, health facilities and mosques. 

Dubbed Sultan Haitham City, the new city will eventually provide 20,000 new homes. (Photo Credit: Supplied by SOM/ATCHAIN)

It is due to be built on a largely undeveloped site in Al-Seeb, several kilometres west of Muscat.

The new city will be equivalent in size to Beverly Hills — but with almost three times as many residents.

Wood Central understands the new buildings will use a hybrid of construction materials, including mass timber, brick and potentially low-carbon concrete.

According to SOM, the new city will offer “vibrant public space, high-quality and affordable housing and smart urban mobility.”

What is a Smart City?

While there is no universally accepted definition of a “smart city,” CNN reports that the city will use sensors, cameras and internet-enabled devices — the so-called “internet of things” to gather and use data from the built environment. 

Urban planners believe big data can help cities deliver effective and efficient public services, from traffic management to environmental monitoring.

According to Bernhard Rettig, one of SOM’s senior associate principals, “smart infrastructure” would be used to “monitor environmental factors such as air quality and water management.”

The plan will also include a traffic management system using “real-time … data from cameras and speed sensors” to reroute vehicles and control traffic flow.

Weaning off oil

The new development is part of the Oman Vision 2040, a state-led initiative to increase the use of renewables and reduce the country’s dependence on oil, which currently accounts for more than half of all government revenues.

In October 2022, Oman became the largest Gulf state to commit to net-zero carbon emissions.

The ambitious plan includes the world’s largest carbon mineralisation plant and a 10 million tree planting program. 

According to the FAO, the Gulf state “does not have forests, in the accepted meaning of the world,” with just 1,000 hectares forested out of 21.3 million hectares.

However, Wood Central understands that the tree planting program will target populated areas and include the new smart city.

Thanks to a process called ‘the urban island effect,’ forests can regulate city microclimates. 

Footage courtesy of @SkyNews.

“Planting millions of trees throughout the Sultanate is one of the most effective ways to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and continue to address the promoting adaption to climate change,” Dr Thuraya from the Oman Ministry of Environment and Climate Affairs told Gulf News.

SOM said its master plan would “minimise” the precinct’s “ecological footprint,” citing solar energy facilities, wastewater recycling, electric vehicle infrastructure and waste-to-energy plants.

The design also responds to high temperatures and humidity, where temperatures can exceed 45 degrees Celsius. 

Newly released digital renderings of the project show streets that embrace urban greening, flanked by structures made from brick and timber. 

“The roads and buildings will be orientated to maximise shade and encourage natural ventilation,” SOM said.

Elsewhere, a park will sit at the heart of the neighbourhood, with plazas and “an interconnected network of open spaces.”

The development is also set to offer retail facilities, as well as a university, schools, health facilities and mosques. (Photo Credit: Supplied by SOM/ATCHAIN)

The city will feature a central park along a 7.5-kilometre-long stretch of dry river, which according to SOM, will be used to contain and capture floodwater in a coastal region prone to seasonal flooding.

In a statement, Oman’s Ministry of Housing and Urban Planning described the development as “an urban expansion” of Muscat. 

The new district is set to be connected to the Omani capital, located on the tip of the Arabian Peninsula, via a mass transit system.

The city’s spine will be it’s central park, with a significant number of trees planted and imported to provide urban shading. (Photo Credit: Supplied by Twitter)
Oman’s National Zero Plan

In October 2022, Oman’s ruler, Sultan Haitham bin Tariq AL Said, unveiled the Gulf States National Zero Plan.

The plan focuses on renewable energy projects, green hydrogen, conservation of natural resources and an extensive planting program.

A crucial part of the plan is the introduction of new building codes, specifications and standards to drive decarbonisation across the building sector and encourage the use of low-carbon materials in construction.

It will also introduce ‘carbon, capture, utilisation and storage’ (CCUS), encouraging its industrial sector to meet climate targets.


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    Wood Central is Australia’s first and only dedicated platform covering wood-based media across all digital platforms. Our vision is to develop an integrated platform for media, events, education, and products that connect, inform, and inspire the people and organisations who work in and promote forestry, timber, and fibre.


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