The Red Sea Project

Red Sea Coast, Saudi Arabia

The Red Sea Project is being developed by The Red Sea Development Company (TRSDC) based in Saudi Arabia. It is the world’s most ambitious luxury tourism development, sweeping across 28,000km2 of incredible landscape and encompassing 90 islands of unrivalled natural beauty. The resort will boast myriad attractions for international and local visitors, including pristine beaches, magnificent mountains and one of the world’s largest areas of coral reef.

Buro Happold worked alongside WATG Architects to complete all masterplan packages for this unique development. Phase One of the project, due to open in 2022, will see the construction of over 3,000 hotel keys across 5 islands and 2 inland resorts, as well as an airport, a marina, leisure and lifestyle facilities, and supporting infrastructure.

Challenge

The Red Sea and Hijaz Mountains are home to an abundance of flora and fauna, including rare species such as dugongs and green and hawksbill turtles. Preservation of these habitats is central to the success of this project, as is our client’s aim to set new standards in sustainable development and safeguard this beautiful destination for the future.

Because of this commitment, all energy resources for the resort will be completely off grid – comprising solar power, and wind turbines. Buro Happold has a wealth of experience engineering low energy solutions in even the most inhospitable environments, but the challenge on this project comes in equipping the islands with hyper-luxurious amenities while achieving a 100% reliance on renewables, a total ban on single use plastics, zero waste-to-landfill, and eventual 100% carbon neutrality.

Perhaps the most difficult aspect of this development, however, is the very thing that makes it so desirable – its remote location. When coupled with the sheer scale of the resort, this creates logistical issues that make both the initial masterplanning and subsequent construction a huge undertaking.

Buro Happold has a good footprint globally. They are experienced, great to work with and responsive; they communicate well behind the scenes. Their people are focused on relationships and there’s a respect for each other. There’s a chemistry between our cultures and they are a broad ranging multidisciplinary engineering firm, so they can bring so much.

Bryan K Algeo, Senior Vice President, WATG

Solution

TRSDC are committed to preserving and protecting the ecological balance of this unique area. Based on knowledge emerging during the masterplanning, only 22 of the 90 islands will be developed, at least 9 will be protected as special conservation zones, and the others will remain untouched. Where technical solutions do not yet exist to address sustainability challenges, TRSDC is looking for its consultants to propose pioneering technologies for the first phase of the project, with a view to TRSDC adopting them in later phases as and when the technology becomes proven.

For example, the masterplanning team worked with the client’s scientific research partner, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) to support a marine spatial planning process that allowed the modelling and assessment of developmental impact and biodiversity enhancement. This enabled the coordination of multiple uses of the marine environment – including energy and utilities, recreation, conservation, transportation and shipping, and aquaculture – so that interaction with vulnerable species and their habitats can be carefully managed.

Elsewhere, we are also harnessing the latest technology to realise a sustainable development that meets the high expectations of luxury travellers. An extensive smart destination management system will monitor the impact of the resort’s operations on the natural environment, while also supporting a range of seamless, personalised services that ensure visitors will experience the trip of a lifetime.

When it comes to construction, we worked closely with TRSDC’s wider project team to ensure operations have minimal impact on the surrounding ecosystems, while also providing a safe and comfortable environment for people to work in.

Satellite view of Red Sea Coast
This ambitious luxury tourism development has a strong environmental focus, offering visitors the chance to experience the ‘unparalleled diversity’ of Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea Coast. Image: Google Maps

I like their cultural style. There’s an ease of working that means you can overcome any performance issues that arise as the relationship is good.

Ian Williamson, Chief Project Delivery Officer, The Red Sea Development Company

Value

Expected to be fully complete by 2030, The Red Sea Project will provide over 8,000 luxury hotel rooms across island resorts, mountain retreats and desert hideaways. On completion, it will create employment opportunities for around 75,000 people, including supporting economic activity in the wider community by creating opportunities for local businesses, entrepreneurs and supporting industry.

As a result, the concept masterplan safeguards marine and coastal habitats while supporting the sustainable development of luxury tourism. TRSDC aims to deliver a net positive conservation benefit of up to 30% within the next two decades and, in doing so, set a new global standard in sustainable development.

Imagery ©2019 Google. Landsat / Copernicus, Data SIO, NOAA, U.S. Navy, NGA, GEBCO, Maxar Technologies, CNES / Airbus,
Imagery ©2019 TerraMetrics, Map data ©2019.

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