How building greener homes in Saudi Arabia could benefit the environment and well-being of homeowners

Special How building greener homes in Saudi Arabia could benefit the environment and well-being of homeowners
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Updated 11 May 2024
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How building greener homes in Saudi Arabia could benefit the environment and well-being of homeowners

How building greener homes in Saudi Arabia could benefit the environment and well-being of homeowners
  • Poor insulation of buildings and an overreliance on air conditioning is contributing to waste and environmental harm
  • Green building materials, energy efficiency, and water conservation techniques could make homes more sustainable

RIYADH: The concept of sustainable living has gained significant traction in recent years as individuals and communities strive to reduce their environmental impact.  

In Saudi Arabia, where rapid urbanization and economic growth have led to increased energy consumption and waste, the importance of adopting green living practices cannot be overstated.   

The first thing that people should be aware of is electricity consumption and energy conservation. By investing in solar technology, homeowners can reduce their reliance on non-renewable energy sources and lower their electricity bills in the long run.  

According to Thaer Qasem, senior energy engineer at SETS Saudi Arabia, a leading multidisciplinary engineering and consulting firm, Saudi Arabia’s residential sector consumed more than 47 percent of the total electricity produced in 2022.

Home cooling accounts for the largest share of that residential consumption and may reach up to 70 percent of that share, while lighting and other household appliances account for the rest. 




By choosing green building materials, homeowners can not only lower their energy consumption and carbon footprint, but also create healthier living spaces for themselves and their families. (Shutterstock)

“When designing or buying a new home, it is important to consider the insulation levels of walls and windows,” Qasem told Arab News. “The choice of building orientation can also increase natural light and help reduce heat absorption. 

“To add value to your home, you may want to consider incorporating renewable energy systems like solar thermal units to heat domestic water and PV systems to generate electricity. 

“Other techniques include purchasing equipment with a high-energy efficiency label and setting the AC temperature to at least 23 C.” 

He added: “Smart home appliances and tools also provide excellent tools for conserving energy, allowing us to better monitor and control our usage and energy efficiency.”   

Integrating smart home technology for monitoring and controlling energy usage allows residents to optimize their energy consumption and identify areas where efficiency can be improved. 




Integrating smart home technology for monitoring and controlling energy usage allows residents to optimize their energy consumption and identify areas where efficiency can be improved.  (Shutterstock)

Proper insulation, sealing, and the use of efficient HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) systems are also essential in preventing energy waste and maintaining a comfortable indoor environment, especially during the sweltering summer months.

Similarly, using recycled glass in countertops or tiles not only diverts waste from landfills but also reduces the energy required to produce new materials.  

Also, selecting building materials with low volatile organic compounds can help maintain good indoor air quality, which is particularly important in a region like Saudi Arabia where individuals spend a significant amount of time indoors due to extreme temperatures. 

By choosing green building materials, homeowners can not only lower their energy consumption and carbon footprint but also create healthier living spaces for themselves and their families. 

Khalid Al-Harbi, an architect based in Riyadh, said a common misconception around sustainability is that it relies solely on the energy systems, equipment, and material choices used in the building. However, he believes a good design is an efficient design.  

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“A well thought out architectural design that studies the needs of the users and considers the environmental factors will significantly reduce the cost and energy use of the building,” Al-Harbi told Arab News.

“Through studying the solar orientation of the sun in both summer and winter, we can decide on the most efficient placements of the windows and the shading systems needed such as exterior screens, outdoor shades, curtains, and so on, throughout the building.” 

He continued: “We must also understand how the users will use the building and consider their need for natural lighting, as well as their privacy. We manage to achieve a good balance between maximum amount of natural light and privacy by incorporating inner courtyards, skylights, and windows with screens.” 

Clay walls have emerged as a popular choice for eco-conscious homeowners due to their numerous benefits, including natural insulation properties, humidity regulation, and sustainability.  

According to Adam Weismann, founding director of Clayworks and Claymoon, a business that has participated in numerous projects in Saudi Arabia, including the Red Sea International Airport and the King Faisal Cultural Center, clay is a sustainable, non-toxic alternative.




A view of a traditional Arab mud brick village in Al Majmaah, Riyadh province. Clay walls have emerged as a popular choice for eco-conscious homeowners due to their numerous benefits, including natural insulation properties, humidity regulation and sustainability. (Shutterstock)

“From a sustainability perspective, clay has a very minimal carbon footprint because it is a pure substance with no chemicals,” Weismann told Arab News. 

“Additionally, from a toxicity perspective, there is nothing that clay can truly release into the atmosphere. Thus, using it is a highly healthy and beneficial solution.”  

Saudi Arabia is renowned for its clay houses, which fit seamlessly with the Kingdom’s natural aesthetic. Traditional architecture has long used sun-dried clay blocks, which remain cool during hot weather and release heat during the late hours when the temperature drops. 

“Since not everyone lives in a large home, apartments can also use clay walls and ceilings,” said Weismann. “Paint would be completely omitted and clay would typically be used instead. It has all the advantages of that, including helping to absorb toxins. 

“However, on a broader level, simply considering the materials you’re using and what you’re doing creates a small safe haven inside a larger apartment building where perhaps not as much thought was put into the materials.”

DID YOUKNOW?

• In 2022, Saudi Arabia’s residential sector consumed more than 47 percent of electrical output.

• Home cooling accounted for the largest share of that residential consumption.

• Air conditioning alone may soon account for 70 percent of consumption.

Weismann also proposed using clay under flooring with clay boards, which could be fitted with pipes carrying cool water, as an environmentally friendly alternative to air conditioning.

“Consequently, the building is being cooled by the cold water you are pushing through. That’s something I’d really like to explore in Saudi Arabia because I believe it would be beneficial for an eco-friendly home or apartment,” he added. 

In addition to using sustainable materials, implementing energy-efficient strategies is key to creating eco-friendly homes in Saudi Arabia. 

One effective approach is the installation of solar panels or solar water heaters to harness the abundant sunlight in the region and generate renewable energy for household needs. Saudi Arabia has an abundance of solar energy due to its hot climate. 

“However, a government incentive is needed to push people towards incorporating solar panels in their homes,” said Al-Harbi. “Many countries offer subsidies to their citizens where they help with 30-70 percent of the cost of solar systems. 

“The incentive programs are usually done with tax credits, lowering bills, low interest loans, etc. We’re confident that these types of programs will soon be implemented in the country.”

Part of the battle will be changing consumer behavior. Qasem believes raising awareness among families, including children, is essential to make effective energy savings. 

“Various easy methods make a big difference,” he said. “Turning off lights and AC when not needed, closing the windows and doors to conserve energy, using the washing machine at full capacity only, and using sunlight to your advantage are just a few.”  

When it comes to constructing eco-friendly homes in Saudi Arabia, the choice of building materials plays a crucial role. Opting for sustainable materials such as bamboo, recycled glass, and reclaimed wood can significantly reduce the environmental footprint of a home. 

For instance, bamboo is a fast-growing renewable resource that can be harvested without causing deforestation, making it an ideal alternative to traditional hardwoods.




Opting for sustainable materials such as bamboo, recycled glass and reclaimed wood can significantly reduce a home’s environmental footprint. (Shutterstock)

According to Al-Harbi, what makes a material sustainable is its abundance in nature and the size of its carbon footprint — the amount of energy and carbon emissions required to produce and transport it.

“While bamboo is a much more sustainable material, the use of local materials might be a more eco-friendly option,” said Al-Harbi. 

“We are hoping that with the industrial boom the country is going through, we will see more local factories that produce recycled materials — glass, aluminum, and plastics — and eco-friendly building materials like glass wool, made of recycled plastics, and sheep wool insulation. 

“We would also benefit from finding innovative solutions to reuse materials from buildings that were recently demolished, instead of all the materials going to a landfill.”

Another aspect to consider is water efficiency. Water scarcity is a pressing issue in Saudi Arabia, making its conservation a critical aspect of green living.

Adopting water-efficient practices such as installing low-flow fixtures and water-efficient appliances can significantly reduce household water consumption.  

“Most of the water conservation solutions come from increasing the awareness of the users to how much water they’re using,” said Al-Harbi.

“Metering devices that monitor the consumption of water might be very informative to the residents about how much water they’re using. Of course, using water-efficient fixtures and appliances will also help with reducing the water consumption as well.”  

These simple upgrades not only help conserve water resources but also lower water bills for homeowners. Investing in rainwater harvesting systems for irrigation and non-potable water needs can further reduce reliance on municipal water sources.

By capturing rainwater and using it for landscaping or other non-drinking purposes, homeowners can contribute to water conservation efforts and reduce the strain on local water supplies.




Drought-resistant plants such as these are now widely used for landscaping in Riyadh. (Shutterstock image)

Choosing drought-resistant plants for landscaping reduces the need for irrigation, promotes biodiversity, and enhances the overall sustainability of the home, while also preserving precious water resources for future generations. 

By incorporating green building materials, energy-efficient strategies, and water conservation techniques, individuals can contribute to sustainability efforts and create healthier, more efficient living spaces.

However, Al-Harbi believes achieving a fully “sustainable building” is extremely difficult and rare. He said: “Unfortunately, the materials and technologies we currently have in Saudi Arabia, as well as the codes and zoning restrictions, do not allow us to design green homes yet.”

As the demand for sustainable practices continues to grow, it is essential for homeowners in Saudi Arabia to prioritize eco-friendly choices in their homes to mitigate environmental impact and promote a more sustainable future. 

Embracing green living guidelines in homes in Saudi Arabia is not only beneficial for the environment but also for the well-being and finances of homeowners.
 


Pilgrims reminded of benefits provided by Tawakkalna app during Hajj

Pilgrims reminded of benefits provided by Tawakkalna app during Hajj
Updated 13 June 2024
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Pilgrims reminded of benefits provided by Tawakkalna app during Hajj

Pilgrims reminded of benefits provided by Tawakkalna app during Hajj
  • The services it provides include alerts for pilgrims, a distress call function, weather updates, help to determine the direction to face the Kaaba for prayer, and prayer timings
  • The app provides support for seven languages: Arabic, English, Filipino, Indonesian, Bangladeshi, Urdu and Hindi

MAKKAH: Authorities have reminded pilgrims that the Saudi Data and Artificial Intelligence Authority’s Tawakkalna app provides access to several digital services that can help them during Hajj.
The app provides support for seven languages: Arabic, English, Filipino, Indonesian, Bangladeshi, Urdu and Hindi. The services it provides include the latest information and alerts for pilgrims as they perform Hajj rituals; weather updates for Makkah and Madinah provided by the National Center of Meteorology; readings from the Qur’an; help to determine the qibla, the direction to face the Kaaba for prayer; and prayer timings.
Pilgrims can also use Tawakkalna to display their digital Hajj card (Nusuk), while Hajj workers can access entry permits for holy sites. A “rituals” section gives pilgrims with Hajj permit the option to obtain a permit for Umrah, and provides other services such as a “Help Me” section, a distress call function, and a way to check volunteers’ credentials.
Authorities said the app has 32 million users, provides 315 electronic services, and can be used in more than 77 countries. The annual Hajj pilgrimage will begin on Friday, June 14 and continue until Wednesday, June 19.


Saudi leaders send condolences to leader of Malawi over death of vice president

Saudi leaders send condolences to leader of Malawi over death of vice president
Updated 13 June 2024
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Saudi leaders send condolences to leader of Malawi over death of vice president

Saudi leaders send condolences to leader of Malawi over death of vice president
  • King Salman: We express to your excellency and your friendly people our deepest condolences and sincere sympathy
  • Deaths of Saulos Klaus Chilima and the others were confirmed on Tuesday when the wreckage of the small military plane in which they were traveling was discovered

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s King Salman sent a message of condolence and sympathy to Malawi’s President Lazarus Chakwera following the deaths of Vice President Saulos Klaus Chilima and nine others in a plane crash.

The king wrote: “We received news of the death of the vice president of the Republic of Malawi, Mr. Saulos Klaus Chilima, and his companions, and we express to your excellency and your friendly people our deepest condolences and sincere sympathy.”

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman sent a similar message to the president, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

The deaths of Chilima and the others were confirmed on Tuesday when the wreckage of the small military plane in which they were traveling was discovered in a mountainous region in the north of the country. Contact with the aircraft had been lost the previous day. The victims also included former first lady Shanil Dzimbiri, the ex-wife of former Malawian President Bakili Muluzi, and three military crew members.

  • With AP

Egypt’s president prays in the Prophet’s Mosque ahead of Hajj

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi prayed at the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah on Thursday. (SPA)
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi prayed at the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah on Thursday. (SPA)
Updated 13 June 2024
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Egypt’s president prays in the Prophet’s Mosque ahead of Hajj

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi prayed at the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah on Thursday. (SPA)
  • The annual pilgrimage starts on Friday and El-Sisi will be taking part this year

RIYADH: Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi arrived in the Saudi city of Madinah on Thursday and prayed at the Prophet’s Mosque, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

El-Sisi was received by Prince Salman bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz, the governor of the Madinah region, and a number of local officials on his arrival at Prince Mohammad bin Abdulaziz International Airport.

The annual pilgrimage starts on Friday and El-Sisi will be taking part this year. 


King Salman Arabic Language Academy signs deal with Tashkent State University of Oriental Studies

King Salman Arabic Language Academy signs deal with Tashkent State University of Oriental Studies
Updated 13 June 2024
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King Salman Arabic Language Academy signs deal with Tashkent State University of Oriental Studies

King Salman Arabic Language Academy signs deal with Tashkent State University of Oriental Studies

RIYADH: King Salman Global Academy for Arabic Language on Thursday signed an agreement with Tashkent State University of Oriental Studies in Tashkent.

The agreement aims to enhance cooperation in promoting the Arabic language, teaching it, preserving its integrity and supporting its use in alignment with the objectives of the human capability development program, one of the initiatives of Saudi Vision 2030.

The academy aims to fulfill its mission of caring for the Arabic language, fostering pride in it, and enabling its civilizational, scientific and cultural contributions.

The academy implemented Arabic language month in Uzbekistan as part of a series of scientific programs undertaken in various countries.
 


Saudi inventor develops digital solution for lost pilgrims

Saudi inventor develops digital solution for lost pilgrims
Updated 13 June 2024
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Saudi inventor develops digital solution for lost pilgrims

Saudi inventor develops digital solution for lost pilgrims
  • Suliman Saleh Al-Dhalea launches Murshid app to enhance pilgrim safety during Hajj

JEDDAH: With more than two million Muslims expected in Saudi Arabia for Hajj this year, the annual pilgrimage is becoming increasingly hi-tech, with apps to help the faithful navigate Islam’s holiest sites.

In a landmark step to address the issue of Hajj pilgrims who go missing, especially the elderly and those with special needs, Saudi inventor Suliman Saleh Al-Dhalea recently launched a mobile application that offers hope to the thousands of pilgrims who get lost during the Hajj period.

The app, named “Murshid,” which means guidance, connects pilgrims and Umrah performers with guides, Hajj and Umrah companies, volunteers and scouts. Moreover, it promptly deals with requests from people with disabilities and the elderly.

The app has two features — the ability to report lost pilgrims, as well as being able to detect the location and movement of pilgrims to ease the search process if they get lost or separated from their group.

Al-Dhalea, who invented the app, told Arab News that overcrowding often leads to lost pilgrims at Hajj sites, meaning pilgrims get separated from their groups and are unable to rejoin them.

“This project was designed as a result of the difficulty of dealing with the different communities within the holy sites, such as Makkah, Mina, Arafa and Madinah,” he said.

“Our main aim is to know where the missing pilgrim is,” Al-Dhalea said.

He affirmed that with the Murshid app, no one will get lost during Hajj.

“This is to ensure providing the pilgrims who come to Saudi Arabia with distinguished services so that they perform the duty of the fifth pillar of Islam and all its rituals correctly in the best conditions,” he said.

“Though we have many volunteers and scouts helping missing pilgrims find their way, most fail to effectively explain where they are, making it difficult for officials to find them. This new app will help us overcome logistical problems encountered during this busy season,” Al-Dhalea said.

He said the app will be operational this year and that they have already teamed up with five of the largest Hajj and Umrah companies.

“To date we are working with these companies and, additionally, men, women, taxi drivers and other locals can also work with us as guides.”

Al-Dhalea, who is from Qassim, said the invention of the app is not a commercial project, and that he is not concerned with how much money it will make.

“Saudi Arabia’s great efforts toward serving the pilgrims of the House of Allah led me to think of something to stand by my country and also think of a project which could solve some of the problems pilgrims face,” he said.

After helping an Iranian pilgrim and his wife this week, Al-Dhalea told Arab News that his contribution to serving this pilgrim has added a lot to him both personally and practically.

"It was my first case this Hajj; his name is Hossein Almasi from Iran. He got lost in Makkah before the Hajj season started, and it was reported to us through our app. We immediately started searching and found him.

"As soon as we found him, we guided him along with his wife to the Iranian campaign headquarters, and the man was very happy. When he got there, he asked us how much money to pay for this service. We told him it is a free service. He hugged me and said thank you," said Al-Dhalea.

Unsurprisingly, Al-Dhalea’s app for finding missing people during Hajj saw off the challenges of 450 local and international projects for sustainable solutions for pilgrims organized by the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah during the Hajj Expo.

Decoder

What is Murshid?

It is a mobile phone app developed recently by Saudi inventor Suliman Saleh Al-Dhalea to assist Muslims performing Hajj or Umrah in Makkah. The app has the ability to report lost pilgrims and it is also able to detect the location and movement of pilgrims to ease the search process if they get lost or separated from their group.