Urban Sprawl Management in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia


The aim of this study is to investigate the measures of ‘urban sprawl management’ in Saudi Arabia using Riyadh as the case study. The study addresses the research objectives of assessing the principles of urban planning, investigating the current state of urban planning in Saudi Arabia, assessing the impact of the issues of sustainable design, evaluating the impact of land use statutes by the ministry of Rural Affairs MOMRA, and examining the environmental impacts of urban sprawl on Riyadh. The investigation was conducted using a content analysis methodology to identify the critical elements that are answered in academic literature on the areas of the research by categorizing the key elements established in the study. The results show that sprawling is unstoppable process that is affected by the dynamism in the construction industry in Riyadh, leading to the adverse environmental impacts on biodiversity, zoning, water and air quality, and on the cultural and social fabrics of the society. However, if professional and social involvement and modern spatial planning techniques are used on a sound legal framework and well-designed construction management policies, sprawling can be controlled and enforced at the municipal level. However, there is need for further research on the use of modern GIS and land management technologies to enhance the process of urban planning in Riyadh.


Many countries in the Middle East including the cities of Saudi Arabia are experiencing the adverse effects of urban sprawling that has a global dimension because of poor planning and the effects of lack of sustainable growth. Mubarak (2004) describes Riyadh is one of cities of Saudi Arabia that are experiencing the dynamic problem of unplanned urban growth and he consequences such as air pollution, water and air quality problems, and high density constructions. According to Ewing, Schmid, Killingsworth, Zlot and Raudenbush (2003) a significant gap in academic literature and scientific research exists on urban design problems, changes that occur in society because of urbanisation,, the environmental management and urban planning policies, the rapid increase in the population, and infrastructure development. Gamboa (2008) and Abu-Lughod (1999) claim that poor urban planning has failed institutions in formulating policies and regulations on urban management that could provide an excellent framework on urban development to achieve sustainable growth. Academicians including by Aljoufie, Zuidgeest, Brussel and van Maarseveen (2013), Hertog (2011) agree with Frenkel (2004) that academic literature has failed to provide the clear reasons on how sustainable planning can be achieved while ameliorating the effects of development on the environment. A poorly designed urban plan is the source of the adverse effects of development and a well-designed plan leads to sustained development and growth of a city. In this study, both sustained development and sustained planning concepts are intertwined to fill the gap in literature on the evidence that the adverse effects of sprawling cities are directly caused by poor urban planning (Almazroui, Islam & Jones, 2013). The study investigates the principles of urban planning and urban development that influence the sprawling of Riyadh to determine the problems to address for sustainable planning.

Since the establishment of the Riyadh city over 70 years ago, the city has experienced rapid urban growth. However, with limited space the outer sections of the city have remained to provide the required space for growth and expansion. The rapid changes in the design of the city have significantly altered the history of the town in the context of urban planning. In addition, the demand for space for expansion has created sustained pressure on the city underpinning the need for planners to investigate the impact of the expansion of the city and determine the best solutions to implement to ensure better sustained growth and development are achieved. The study is based on an assessment of the current urban planning methods of the city in context of the social, economic, and political issues to develop an effective urban planning and expansion strategy that could lead to sustainable development and effective resource utilization.

Urban planning is defined as “a spatial component, in which the general objective is to provide for a spatial structure of activities which in some way is better than the pattern that would exist without planning” (Al-Hathloul 2004, p.34). It entails using multidisciplinary components to design a city or rethink about the space and layout structures and elements that contribute to the economic utilization of space. The planning component must be a collective effort that provides a multiple view of the imagined structure of the city by prioritizing areas to focus on for sustainable development based on the regulatory principles of sustainable planning, development and land use. Here, the social, environmental, and economic conditions are accounted for in sustainable planning and should reflect the local conditions, realistic economic and housing policies, services, and land use issues. Sustainable urban planning must involve sustainable development as a core component in any urbanisation program.


The following were objectives of the study.

  1. Assess the concepts of sustainable development and planning
  2. Investigate the environmental Impacts of Urban Sprawl
  3. Investigate the current urban planning strategies for Riyadh
  4. Investigate the different urban management planning strategies for sustainable expansion
  5. Investigate the current integrative principles of sustainable design

Research questions

  1. What are the impact of the concepts of sustainable development and planning on Riyadh
  2. What are the environmental Impacts of Urban Sprawl in Riyadh?
  3. What are the current urban planning strategies for Riyadh?
  4. What are the current urban management planning strategies for sustainable expansion?
  5. How can the current integrative principles of sustainable design be used in sustainable planning?

Significance of the study

Riyadh is one of the cities that have fallen victim of the sprawling effects in modern cities because of urban growth. Many of the studies conducted on urban development show a strong bias towards the determining the detrimental effects of urban development, but fail to investigate the effects of zoning and how professional and societal involvement in the planning of the cities can ameliorate the adverse effects of urban growth. The results negate the findings and their implications on the modern planning and growth of the cities, allowing the problems of poor planning and development to persist. The study puts planning into the perspective of sustainable development that governments can adopt to negate or management the effects of the growth of the cities.

Literature Review


This section of the literature review is a summary of the findings on the research questions on sustainable development in the context of sprawling cities by using Riyadh as the case study.

Sustainable design and planning

The concept of sustainable planning covers significant issues that are generated by the sprawling or increase in size of the cities in Saudi Arabia because of the demand for space and resources to expand and accommodate the increasing population. According to Vogelmann, Howard, Yang, Larson, Wylie and Van Driel (2001) sustainable design and development studies show that the adoption of the critical elements of sustainable planning is to optimise spaces that is available for development based on the principle of stewardship for infrastructure design to accommodate infrastructures that is resource efficient with regard of the rising environmental concerns. In addition, the principle calls for a design that rejuvenates old structures existing within the city to comply with environmental policies and regulations to preserve and protect the environment. The issues of stewardship can only be achieved if the principle of resource efficiency is accommodates in the plan. The fundamental requirements of the principle are that development should be done to optimise the resources that are available and use them in an optimal manner not to harm the environment.

Mubarak (2004) views the element of the hierarchy of services and facilities defined in the principle of diversity of choice as failing to address the needs of people intended to use the infrastructure. That is a contributing factor to the fundamental changes that occur in the environment because of the growth of a city. However, a critical assessment of the principle shows that it falls short of succinctly bringing out the explanation on how the critical human needs are incorporated into the whole process of planning, who the users of the structures are, the desired legalities that guide the implementation of plans, and how the issues of low income, aesthetics, social mix, and sociability are addressed in practice (Saleh 2004). Ziegler (2003) suggests that the principle of sustainable planning and development should accommodate issues of pollution control to reduce and minimise the pollutants that are generated when structures are put up. The problems of the lack of sustainable development is that poor planning leads to an increase of pollutants being discharged into the environment that have adverse effects on the environment (Ziegler 2003). It has been demonstrated that if the development program lacks biotic support, pollution reduction strategies, self-efficiency, and lack of the consideration of human needs, the resulting design is deemed as unsustainable.

Different researchers have written academic articles on sustainable planning and design showing that cities are the central components in sustainable development because many people live in them. The rationale is that most of the cities are expanding and much of the populations are living in them. However, the demand for more space underpins the sprawling of cities and the effects that come with the rapid expansion. Ziegler (2003) argues that the expansion of the cities and the competing need to provide better living conditions lead to high waste production and intensive use of resources, a situation rarely accounted for when new developments are made in Riyadh.

Urban sustainability is understood in the context of sustainable planning and development that demands for the expansion of a city to be done within the environmental laws and to ensure a strong and healthy environment to achieve a sustainable environment and promote good governance by using the society responsibly. Here, sustainable planning must factor the environment, the economy, and the society to achieve sustainable planning and development (Abu-Ghazzeh 1998).

Principles of sustained planning

A critical analysis of the principles of sustained planning show that they cover areas of population, cultures, proper planning, infrastructure, safety, the environment, and urban forms. However, many studies do not detail how the principles of sustained planning and development translate into managing the unplanned sprawling of the cities (Aljoufie 2014). In particular the issues of policies and regulations are not clearly detailed in academic literature that discusses sustainable planning and development. In addition, the studies are devoid of how the key elements of sustainable planning are translated into sustainable development of the infrastructure of the cities such as Riyadh (Alskait 1993).

The critical elements of sustainable development include improving the quality of life of the people in Riyadh, ensure that the earth’s vitality is sustained, reduce the level of consumption of virgin resources that cannot be renewed, implement environmental protection through the participation of societies, and provide the assurance that integrated sustainable development strategies are observed. The study shows that “good sustainable urban planning requires a methodical process that clearly defines steps that lead to optimal solutions; this process should reflect the primary principles of sustainable urban planning” (Al-Hathloul & Mughal 2004, p.23).

A synthesis of academic literature on land use in Saudi Arabia describes a significant number of sustainable urban planning challenges that need to be reconsidered by the government (Barlow, Munn, Cleaves & Evans 1998). The study shows that political and economic instability results into the consumption of resources and national conflicts creating a gap on striking a balance between sustainable development and economic resources (Bengston, Fletcher & Nelson 2004). Sustainable planning challenges are mapped into the elements of sustainable development that include economic, environmental and social issues. A critical review of the sustainable issues shows that the growth of the city is inconsistent with the elements of sprawl management and modern urban development and growth (Bhatta, Saraswati & Bandyopadhyay 2010).

A critical review of the issues of sustainable planning show that Saudi Arabia is deficient of integrated policies that define strategies and matters of sustainable land use, coordination between government departments and agencies that covers issues of physical planning, environmental protection and conservation, and sustainable development (Garba 2004). The gap clearly demonstrates policies on matters of sustainable development and of lack the proactive involvement of the people when the policies are written (Garba 2004).

Research shows culture to be an element that adversely impacts on sustainable planning and development (Gillham 2002). The study by Gillham (2002) is critical of the struggle between modern design and traditional development methods and the consequences of globalization and the need to accommodate different cultures to be consistent with the practices that enables them to accommodate the Muslim ideals and community needs. In addition, it is crucial to note that “there is not even a city with defined powers, limits and function, but only an assemblage of neighborhoods, mostly defined by family, tribal, ethnic or religious criteria….appointed by the sovereign” (Mills 1981, p.22). The view is that the unplanned nature of the city in view of the cultural beliefs of the communities underscores the constant problem of lack of water, power, and other basic services and amenities (Mandeli 2008).

Current state of urban planning

Studies have demonstrated that urban planning and policies are the true elements of sustainable growth of cities in Saudi Arabia. The element of sustainable planning for urban growth is critical because of the problems that come with the sprawling effects on city’s infrastructure (Saleh & Adullah 1996). True with Saudi Arabia, the city of Riyadh has experienced the problems of urban sprawling and different authors have used different strategies and models to describe sustainable urban planning to address the problem. Stone, Hess and Frumkin (2010) argue that Many academic articles have written about the different models that have been used for sustainable design include the CASBEE models for Urban Development, the BREEAM Communities model, and the Neighborhood Development model. According to (Al-Ahmadi, Heppenstall, Hogg and See (2009), despite the fact that the models have different weaknesses and strengths, they have successfully been applied to develop sustainable cities for resource optimization.

The impact of sustainable Issues

The core issues that researchers have considered in their academic writing on sustainable planning and development include the environmental, social, and economic elements (Sudhira, Ramachandra & Jagadish 2004). The economic elements include the efficiency of the cost of construction, improved productivity, affordability, government efficiency, employment and business activities that focus on sustainable planning and development (Abdulaal 2012). The environmental issues include control and prevention of pollution, preservation of biodiversity, protection of the climate, preservation of the aesthetics of the environment, and the precautionary actions that protect the environment. On the social front, sustainable planning should provide support for education, equity, human health, and public participation, the provision of good quality life and equitable distribution of resources (Yeh & Li 2001).

Environmental issues

The resources that are used for sustainable growth and development should be applied in a sustainable manner to ensure that the sprawling effects of the cities do not spill over to adversely affect the people accommodated within the cities (Alshuwaikhat, & Aina 2006). Alskait (1993) argues that when a city is poorly planned, it allows for unplanned sprawling leading to the many problems that include the depletion of renewable resources. Academic literature shows that planning that integrates the elements of sustainable development focus on strategies that lead to the reduction of frequent interactions with the environment that lead to pollution reduction. Audirac, Shermyen and Smith (1990) argue that the key issues that should be focused on include the waste management systems, management of the effluence that emanates from the consumption of resources for day to day lives such as water and electricity, and the planning that addresses the need to reduce adverse effects on the health of the people. It is important to consider a plan that factors the key factors that affect the environment and the strategies that should be in place to address the problems (Breheny 1992).

The key components that are considered in sustainable development and planning include the need to reduce global warming that happens through the emission of greenhouse gases into the environment, minimising the destruction of the environment with a specialised focus on preserving the biodiversity, minimising the emission of chemicals and greenhouse gases into the environment, and influencing the introduction of the natural lifecycle of the natural environment to continue (Biquand, Boug, Biquand-Guyot & Gautier 1994).

In addition, the issue of energy consumption is a critical element to integrate into the sustainable planning strategy because energy is consumed at every phase of the development lifecycle of the city. Energy consumption in the development and construction sector leads to higher levels of energy consumption and is one of the key sources of pollution on the environment.

Social element

The social element is critical and should be given due consideration in sustainable urban planning and development. Nuissl and Rink (2005) challenges the positions that the social dimension of urban planning is considered to be critical because it enables the planners of the city to incorporate the needs of the people into the urban plan. The importance of the element underscores the need to factor the component into the sustainable plan because the expansion of the city incorporates the people and is for the people and is achieved through and by the people. Here, people should have an adequate share besides the need to influence the wealth, health, and safety (Saleh 2004).

The safety and well; being of the people are derived from the social element of the people and because decisions to carry on specific actions of the planning function should involve the people who are the users of the infrastructure. In addition, sustainable planning is a social activity and should involve the people who are the stakeholders of the resulting infrastructure and the sprawling city. The social dimension should include the “fight against poverty through employment, support to sustainable livelihoods, antidiscrimination work, and social security for all” (Ziegler 2003, p.24).

Economic element

Altshuler (1993) views another dimension of sustainable planning and development to be the economic aspect of planning. The critical issues here as proposed by Brueckner (1997) is a sustainable plan provides the sustainable economic development and by working within the principles of stable economic growth. In addition, a sustained plan provides the people with the assurance of stable and rewarding employment opportunities that can be sustained through the participation of the people. A similar argument by Brueckner (2000) defines the element of sustainable economic prosperity as being critical because it enables the communities to engage in productive growth and development while addressing the problem of poverty.

Impact of land use statues by the ministry of Rural Affairs MOMRA

Research studies describe Riyadh as a city that is rapidly growing with sprawling buildings and other infrastructure that is exercising pressure on the available space. Studies by Johnson (2001) show that the government lacks a comprehensive plan for the management of space and lack of a conceptual framework for the development of the city outskirts adds to the pressure that is exerted on the current space and development. Here, Mandeli (2008) argues that there is a lack of a link between theory and practice in the planning of land for efficient use. It is evident from the study that the planning and development strategies and the management of the available land resources within the city are lacking in the ministry’s land planning and resource management program.

One of the weaknesses that are evident in the ministry of lands management strategies is the statute that was passed that allows plot owners to make their developments without the due regard for zoning. Zoning is a critical component that is used to organise the development of space to ensure fair distribution of land resources and effective use of land (Jones & Hervik 1992). Here, the only condition to meet is to ensure that the size of the plot meets the conditions set down for the front and the rare sections of the plot. Researchers have established that the presence and application of the statute on land use has combined with the requirements in the land size requirements of for the development or construction of buildings with the requirements on the height of the buildings to weaken the strength of the act and the resulting effects on land use and the environment.

It has been established that the length of time required certifying plan for the construction of a building and the bureaucracies related to the use of land, poor planning procedures, and the lack of the need to work with the community as a group in planning for the use of land combine to make the problem of land use critical. In addition to the zoning act, an additional act for the regulation of land use in the context of the new act creates significant conflict to the use of land (Miceli & Sirmans 2007). The entire problem is the compounded in the assumptions that land use is properly regulated with the use of the current land policies and regulations. However, the outcome of the use of the land acts and regulations that are deficient of the proper land uses that are consistent with proper planning provides the rationale to conclude that the poor land use policies are the cause of the increase in the frequency and number of users on the road. In addition, the high density or concentration of buildings along poorly planned city streets and outskirts of the city contribute to a significant extent the high levels of diseases that are related to rapid congestion and pollution in the city.

On the other hand, the weaknesses in the land use policies contribute a significant extent to the weaknesses in the enforcement laws on high rise buildings. In addition, the land use polices have been suggested to be the factors that weaken the enforcement of construction rules and requirements that are consistent with the environmental preservation laws (Mubarak 2004).

On the other hand, the problem, of land poor use has compounded with the weak enforcement of the land laws to make the construction of buildings on the plots to be concentrated and that has made the streets to be concentrated together, leading to the many problems that arise because of the high concentration of land use. In addition, the poor enforcement of the civil laws makes it difficult for the local authorities to enforce the construction laws of the country. It is evident from the sprawling effects of the buildings that the violations of the land use laws and statues have contributed to the significant problem of the current fabric of the society. It is evident from academicians that people do not prefer high density and poorly constructed buildings to leading to the adverse effects that are evident on the cities that include economic, physical, and social problems.

Physical problems

Researchers on the impact of poor planning of land use show the effects to be noticeable because of the changes that are evident with the physical organisation of the land. In addition, researchers conclude that the current spiral of poorly organized structures continuous without proper planning and that it is possible for the city of Riyadh to enter into problems that never end that are related to the problems of physical land use (Alskait 1993). In addition, the problems due to poor physical planning were not accounted for when revisions were made on the land use policies. In addition, most of the city master plans that are supposed to factor effective land use approaches at the policy level fail to address the current problems showing that the future master plan cannot be implemented when city has already grown to its future level without appropriate planning and construction designs (Aljoufie 2014).

One of the examples that demonstrates the poor land use and enforcement of land use policies include the Jareer Al-balji section of the city of Riyadh. Jareer Al-balji is a section if the city that is evident of the poor enforcement and use of land that is evident in the weaknesses of the land use policies. The Google map of the section of the city shows that the city’s major streets intersect and an interval of 30 meters based on the design and land use policies of the last decades that allow for offices and shops to be spaced at the interval of 30 meters wide. The zoning that happens at an interval of 30 meters has been created an impact that has led to the experience where new buildings have been set up leading to a density of 3.5 story buildings of residential use within the city. It has been established that much of the space has been consumed in the construction of buildings that are for residential purposes because of the high rates of the return on investment. The advantage with the current zoning laws is that more space is created for the construction of buildings than the old zoning rules. However, an evaluation of the impact of new zoning rules shows that the new constructions are a mixture of buildings with different uses that include business uses, residential use, and administrative use.

Here, Alskait (1993) takes the position that consistent with the critical assessment of the structures that are put up in the sprawling city, which shows that some space is consumed by single family buildings that occupy a lot of space interspersed with high rise apartment buildings. In addition, the assessment shows that old family structures were erected using the old zoning rules and the current zoning rules paved the way for the construction of the apartment houses (Shenton & Hay-Gibson 2009).

The evidence of the poverty in the enforcement of the land use rules is shown by the high consumption of space by vehicles creating an artificial shortage of space for side walking (Andrulis & Siddiqui 2011). The underlying reason is that the land use provisions do not provide the provision for the creation of sidewalks and the available space is consumed by vehicles.

It is also evident that people from both sides of the streets find their interactions very difficult because of the way the city is designed. The land use method leaves a sense of lack of the life of communal life among the users of the buildings.

Social problems

The resulting effect of the buildings is that is closely and irregularly designed have been enormous. The results have been to loss of communal life and the disruption of the way families interact with each other. It is evident that less home ownership has been the results of the poor land use policies and enforcement (Nuissl & Rink 2005). That has led to the poor ownership and poor integration of families living within the city structures. It has been shown that when the ownership rate is high, the quality of life improves and when the ownership is low, the quality of life is also low.

However, an assessment of the social impact of the areas where people congregate for prayers shows less interactions occur and less communal life being experienced. The people and the children now live in isolation because the places where people come together are only for prayers and time taken to interact and socialize does not allow for the people to develop a strong communal fabric. The resulting impact of the lack of communal life makes the contributions from others in the design and planning of the city a difficult problem (Nuissl & Rink 2005).

Economic problems

The economy of the city depends on different factors that include the effects of the bylaws and the land use laws. An assessment of the impact of the laws shows that they have a profound impact on the property values. A research conducted to determine the value of the property because of the current land use laws shows that most of the single family properties led to a loss by 30% of the value of the buildings. In addition, it was established in the study that certain plots that could accommodate high rise buildings increased in value by 35%, making the distribution of property value uneven and unfavorable to certain family structures (Durieux, Lagabrielle & Nelson 2008). In addition, the cost of vacant houses has lowered by 20%.leading to a depreciation of the properties. Typically, the enactment of new bylaws has created discrimination for many of the plot owners and has sparked a negative attitude towards the laws and a difficult problem to implement the laws (Durieux, Lagabrielle & Nelson 2008).

The Environmental Impacts of Urban Sprawl

The study provides a clear indication that planners and policy makers on the land use rules and policies enact the requirements without the due consideration of the Environmental Impacts of Urban Sprawl (Al-Ibrahim 1991). The gap in knowledge that is associated with Urban Sprawl is considerable and demands to be investigated and to be brought into the academic literature (Al-Ibrahim 1991). Different researchers have identified different elements associated the environmental impact of urban sprawl and classified some of them into water, air, energy, and land use. However, land use cannot stand alone as the most critical factor that impacts on the environment if the other variables such as water and energy cannot be assessed (Al-Ibrahim 1991). To address the issues, the study investigates the impact water and energy issues have on the environment and one of the components is air.


Air is one of the components that are used by the people and for industrial and other uses that require good quality air (Andrulis & Siddiqui 2011). It has long been established that emissions from the use of vehicles due to the consumption and burning of fuel and other industrial uses have been identified as the greatest sources of pollution emissions into the atmosphere. Here the pollutants from the emission have a strong link with the sprawling of the cities and the after effects of the emissions (Andrulis & Siddiqui 2011).

The studies reveal two important issues that town planners and laws should bear in mind. The first one is that instead of focusing on the indicators such as mileage of the vehicles that use and burning fuel that is the main source of the gases that pollute the environment, the creation of laws that define the planning and arrangement of structures in the cities is important in determining the right arrangements and designs that lead to low emissions (Durieux, Lagabrielle & Nelson 2008). It has been suggested that planning policies that advocate for high density buildings leads to lower emissions and better quality of air (Hasse & Lathrop 2003). Here, the motion that focuses in the use of cars with low emissions does not provide a comprehensive answer to the emission problems.

The position taken above is supported by the current discoveries of the effects of greenhouse gasses on the environment that were caused partially by the poor implementation of lad use methods and laws. Here, the studies on greenhouse gas effects show a clear connection between the human made greenhouse gas effects and the environment. The results have shown a strong link between the island effect and the urban heat island effect because of the transportation effects that elevates the local temperatures of the city of Riyadh (Durieux, Lagabrielle & Nelson 2008). It has been established that poor planning and design of the infrastructure leads to high island effects and high temperatures and the consequences of the increase in temperatures.


Land is the main problem because it is on which several activities such as construction that includes the erection of buildings and roads constructions occur. The construction process reclaims virgin land and leads to the destruction of the natural features that occur on the land (Jenks, Burton & Williams 1996). The problem with the efficient use of land is echoed among policy makers and town planning people who share the responsibility of resulting effects of the policies on land use. City planners in Riyadh need to consider the critical factors of scenario planning, and the focused growth and management strategies for optimal use of the land resource. Different models can be used to explain efficient planning and land use methods that could lead to optimal use of the existing land for the assurance of the mitigation of the adverse effects of poor land use problems (Jenks, Burton & Williams 1996).


The problem of water in any cities is the source of many conflicts in many households. Jassim and Coskuner (2007) explored studies on water and established that water is a resource that must be used carefully and planning should factor effective water management and distribution strategies. Here, modern developments have been identified to be the cause of hydrological problems that include water quality pollutions, increase in surface running water, urban water balance, and watershed issues.

James, Troped, Hart, Joshu, Colditz, Brownson, Ewing and Laden (2013) contend that the loss of ecological water and other wetlands because of the use of poor land for building without observing the appropriate land use policies and regulations is a critical problem with sprawling cities. The urban development and sprawling of the city of Riyadh has a profound effect on the sources of water and the preservation and conservation methods and policies. Most of the sources of water that is sourced from the aquifers has reduced because of lack of policy enforcement ion where to make the constructions that leave the sources of water undisturbed (Heim 2001).

Burgess’ Concentric Zone Model and other models

One of the proposed models in the study that has successfully shown how land use can be used effectively is the Burgess’ Concentric Zone Model (Dabbaghian, Jackson, Spicer & Wuschke 2010). The model shows a strong link between the social issues and the available land space.

Burgess’ Concentric Zone Model

In theory, the model provided zoning strategies that address the effects of sprawling cities using identifiable zones that start with the central business district, the transition zone, residential lower class zones, and residential middle and upper class zones respectively. Dabbaghian, Jackson, Spicer and Wuschke (2010) argue that in comparison with other models such as the down-mid up model, the current model provides a detailed approach that describes the land use methods that are applicable for use in developing countries. It is envisaged in the model that the center of the town should be the oldest part of the city and development follows an outward spiral. The sprawling effects is follows an outward expansion with the newest sections of the city found at the edge of the town (Dabbaghian, Jackson, Spicer & Wuschke 2010).

Here, the layout of the town is explained in the context of a world situation that responds to the social, economic, and environmental factors. It is assumed that as a city grows, the sprawling effect follows the social and economic trends of the city and makes the relevance of the quality of housing and environmental factors better. The model defines the center of the city as one that consists of shops, transport centers, restaurants, and other social service delivery infrastructure and the cost of land is the highest. The central business district does not provide good living conditions even though the place has high rise buildings with a very high concentration.

The transition zone is found at the outer and is next to the CBD. Here, low density structures, car packs, mixed land usage, rapid changes in the structures of the town are evident and old houses thrive in this area. The inner city is composed of old houses and that leads to the inner suburbs of the city and subsequently outer suburbs where sprawling is most evident (Dabbaghian, Jackson, Spicer & Wuschke 2010).

The model provides the ground on which the planners of the city of Riyadh should consider in the enactment of the land use laws and the policies to control land use.


The methodology used in the study was based on content analysis of the secondary sources using Riyadh as the case study to be informed of the sprawling effects of land use in Saudi Arabia. Content analysis is a qualitative research method to analyse existing literature to develop a clear and detailed study of a situation (Chew & Eysenbach 2010).

Content analysis approach provides a clear guideline on the areas to address and the specific elements or components to seek for in the literature (Chew & Eysenbach 2010). The study investigated seeks the principles of sustainable design by covering the key elements of resource efficiency, planning methods, and stewardship. Other elements addressed in the study include the current state of urban planning, the impact of the social, economic, and cultural issues and the impact of land use statues enacted by the ministry of rural affairs MOMRA, the impact of sprawling on the environmental (Chew & Eysenbach 2010). The answers to the research objectives underpin the current investigation on the measures of urban sprawl management in Saudi Arabia, Riyadh case study.


The validity of the current study was based on the assessment of the content of the academic articles used in the study to answer the research questions. Here, the research objectives were formulated that were consistent with the research study and area of research and a model that is consistent with the study were used (Chew & Eysenbach 2010). The coding was done on the elements that were identified in the process of the study to answer the research questions and an interpretation of the results was done to answer the research questions.


The above framework provides a detailed approach on identifying the items of study that appear in the literature according to the objectives of the study with each step crucial in contributing to the study (Chew & Eysenbach 2010).


Objectives Items
  1. Sustainable design and planning
Stewardship, resource efficiency, rejuvenation of infrastructure, policies, regulations diversity, human needs, legal issues, income levels, social mix, sociability, planning, quality of life, political stability, economic stability, integrated policies, culture.
  1. Current state of urban planning
Planning, infrastructure, sprawling, religion,
  1. The impact of sustainable Issues
Environmental, social, economic, cost of construction, pollution, biodiversity, climate, aesthetics of the environment, good quality life.
  1. Impact of land use statues by the ministry of Rural Affairs MOMRA
Pressure on available space, planning, efficiency, poor planning policies, zoning, land regulations, weak law enforcement, law violations. Physical, social, economic problems.
  1. The Environmental Impacts of Urban Sprawl
Air quality, water use, pollution, laws, emissions, land regulations, and indoor island effects.

Discussion and Conclusion

The research has established pertinent issues and trends that are evident in the sprawling of the city of Riyadh in Saudi Arabia that are consistent with the objectives of the study. The study shows that planning and policy formulation and implementation of the planning policies as the key issues that are crucial in determining the effectiveness of land use. The logic is to formulate appropriate land policies that factor cultural issues, economic factors, and environmental factors that are appropriate and consistent with the modern regulatory requirements on environmental planning and the management of natural resources. That is in addition to the use of modern technologies for spatial planning that include spectral angle mapping and the SAM algorithms that are effective for land mapping. It is also necessary to ensure that the low density growth paradigm and development provides a clear indication of sprawling effects and dynamics in land use. Here, it is crucial to decouple the dysfunctional characteristics of the elements of city sprawling with sustainable development to achieve good sustainable development. It is also advisable to use the per capita component to determine the effects of sprawling cities to provide a clear guide on the spatial land patterns and how to effectively use the available land for controlled expansion. However, the per capita measure can only be a strong indicator if the population element and the social issues are factored in the planning process. The use of economic, social, cultural, and environmental indicators can only be compounded with the per capita component of the economic factor to provide a complete explanation of the issue of spatial planning.

The discussion leads to the conclusion that the appropriate model for adoption by the ministry planners and municipal authorities include ensuing public participation in decision making, clear articulation of planning problems, and the use of technical and professional planning methods that are scientifically justified. In addition, professional planners, budgetary considerations, inclusion of the council of elders, integration of culture, and users of buildings should be considered to be core elements in decision making when planning for the expansion of the city. Here, the environmental elements of air and water usage should be considered as critical in the planning process. Here the urban growth management strategies should be informed by diverse examples that have become successful before commencing the development process. In addition, there is a need to make amendments on current land use policies and regulation to reflect the changing environmental laws and the effects of global warming.


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