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Oman unveils designs for a ‘smart’ city with 100,000 inhabitants

The Sultanate of Oman has recently announced its ambitious proposal for the development of a new “smart” city, located outside the capital city of Muscat, with a projected population of 100,000 individuals.

Spanning an area of around 14.8 square kilometers (5.7 square miles), Sultan Haitham City is projected to have a comparable size to that of Beverly Hills, albeit accommodating nearly three times the population.

The proposed scheme, which was disclosed only by the American architectural firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM), encompasses a total of 20,000 residential units, alongside an educational institution, various schools, healthcare amenities, and places of worship. The proposed construction is scheduled to take place on a predominantly undeveloped location situated in Al-Seeb, which is located several kilometers to the west of Muscat.

The commencement of the project is scheduled for the upcoming year, and its execution will be divided into four distinct phases. The initial stage, spanning through 2030, will involve the establishment of the city center, covering an area of 5 square kilometers (equivalent to 1.9 square miles), along with the construction of six out of the total 19 communities intended for development. The anticipated completion date for the final phase is projected to be in the year 2045.

According to a news statement issued by SOM, the project aims to provide a dynamic public environment, accessible and reasonably priced housing, and intelligent urban transportation options.

A “smart city” is a term that has not been agreed upon by everyone. However, it typically refers to the utilization of sensors, cameras, and internet-connected devices, together known as the “internet of things,” for the purpose of collecting and analyzing data derived from the constructed environment. Although privacy issues have been highlighted by opponents, a significant number of urban planners maintain the belief that the utilization of big data may enhance the delivery of public services in cities, resulting in improved effectiveness and efficiency across several domains such as traffic control and environmental monitoring.

According to Bernhard Rettig, a senior associate principal at SOM, the smart infrastructure of Sultan Haitham City would be employed for the purpose of monitoring environmental aspects, including air quality and water management.

The company further stated that their plans encompass the implementation of a traffic management system that will utilize up-to-date information obtained from cameras and speed sensors. This system will be employed to redirect vehicles and regulate the flow of traffic.

Abandoning oil

The recent progress is a component of Oman Vision 2040, a government-led endeavor with the objective of, among various other goals, augmenting the utilization of renewable energy sources and diminishing the nation’s reliance on oil, which presently constitutes over 50% of government earnings.

According to SOM, the master plan was developed with the objective of reducing the district’s ecological impact. This is achieved by the implementation of various measures such as solar energy facilities, wastewater recycling systems, electric vehicle infrastructure, and waste-to-energy plants. The architects were unable to provide a specific figure for the proportion of renewable energy that will be generated within the district. However, they referred to Oman’s overarching objective of achieving a 30% share of electricity production from sustainable sources by the year 2030.

According to SOM, the design of the structure takes into consideration the elevated heat and humidity levels prevalent in Muscat, where temperatures have been documented to surpass 110 degrees Fahrenheit. The recently unveiled computer renderings of the project showcase roadways characterized by a significant amount of shade, with houses on each side that give the impression of being constructed from brick and timber materials. According to the firm, the orientation of roads and buildings will be optimized to maximize shade and promote natural ventilation.

In addition, a central park will be located within the community, with plazas and a cohesive network of interconnected open spaces. The proposed park is intended to be established on a 7.5-kilometer expanse of a desiccated riverbed. The architects assert that this location will serve the purpose of confining and harnessing floodwater within a coastal area that is susceptible to periodic inundation.

The Ministry of Housing and Urban Planning of Oman characterized the development as a “urban expansion” of the city of Muscat, according to an official release. The forthcoming district is anticipated to be linked to the capital of Oman, situated at the extremity of the Arabian Peninsula, through the implementation of a comprehensive mass transit system.

SOM is renowned for its architectural projects, which encompass notable structures such as the Burj Khalifa, the tallest skyscraper globally. Additionally, the firm has undertaken the development of urban master plans in many locations, including London’s Canary Wharf and Chicago’s Millennium Park, where the company’s headquarters are situated.

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