Delivering sustainable healthcare projects in Saudi Arabia

Andrew Castle, our healthcare director in Saudi Arabia, looks ahead at how the Kingdom can meet its targets to transform the healthcare system while also influencing international sustainability standards.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is undertaking an enormous transformation as part of Vision 2030. The transformation impacts all aspects of society and the wider economy.

Healthcare is one of the pillars of V2030 and there are four key deliverables:

  • To improve access to healthcare
  • To improve the value of healthcare
  • To strengthen prevention
  • To improve traffic safety

To support these deliverables, a wider program of healthcare infrastructure work is underway. This includes the development of new healthcare facilities for primary, secondary, tertiary, community and mental health services to improve the access and value provided. 

There is evidence that Saudi Arabia needs an extra 20,000 beds relative to its socio-economic peers to meet the anticipated future demand. Developing new primary healthcare centres to provide these beds presents an opportunity to create a more sustainable healthcare estate.

To deliver a more sustainable estate requires a shift in thinking. The old “cost centric” (value for money / cost per square meter) approach should be replaced by one that starts with the question of what are we looking to provide, and what is the best means of delivery. That should include looking at operational and economic efficiency, but also sustainability.

Prior to focusing on the facility design, we need to look at what services need to be provided, what’s the optimum method of providing them and then what is required to deliver them. It is important to recognise that there are sustainability trade-offs with different delivery models. For example, a digital and remote delivery carbon footprint versus a facility models carbon footprint when recognising the carbon costs of out of scopes 1 to 3 considerations (patient transport to / from facilities).

Only once we have clearly defined the infrastructure required to best serve the patient needs for the specific services can we then move on to optimising those designs from a sustainability perspective.

Once we know what is required, rather than attempting to optimise every sustainable aspect of the facilities with todays knowledge, we should recognise that the cycle time for a facility to be developed may be as much as a decade. This means the options for optimising the facility’s carbon footprint should not be limited by today’s constraints but be developed in a process that allows improvements to be integrated in to the facility as the program of work is delivered.

In addition to having a design and build process that permits changes in technology to be integrated into new facilities as they are designed and constructed, there is a much broader opportunity in Saudi Arabia to impact the construction supply chain industry globally.

Saudi Arabia is  undertaking some of the largest construction programs in the world. With that comes the potential to procure more sustainable solutions which would influence the international construction industry’s investment in innovative sustainable materials and construction methods.

To deliver its current construction program, there is a recognition that investments will be required in global supply chains to meet the domestic demands in Saudi Arabia. That provides an opportunity for KSA to invest internationally in more sustainable construction supply chains, to increase the production of green steel or carbon curing concrete which Aramco has pioneered.

Andrew is attending COP28 in Dubai and will be speaking at the Dar Pavilion on 5th December in a session titled “Carbon, resilience and care in health – successful case studies of sustainable developments”. 

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