Saudi Arabia 

Saudi Arabia is a country in western Asia spans over the Arabian Peninsula and is the second largest country in the Arab world. The geography is dominated by the Arabian desert and several mountain ranges, volcanic lava fields and highlands. The country has desert-like hot and dry temperatures with summers rising up to 54 degrees and winters dropping below 0 degrees. This makes the built environment in the country oriented to counteract its harsh climate. 

Sustainable architecture in Saudi Arabia - Sheet1
Saudi Arabia_©
Sustainable architecture in Saudi Arabia - Sheet2
Saudi Arabia map_©, 2021

Traditional Sustainable practices in Saudi Arabia 

Traditionally, buildings in Saudi Arabia were constructed of vernacular materials that were locally available and produced in-situ such as limestone, coral, stone and wood. The buildings used to have thicker walls and roofs that provided thermal insulation during extreme summers. Use of wind towers, courtyards and fountains were employed for cooling and daylighting. The vernacular architecture focused on sustainable, passive low-energy strategies that reduced air conditioning and lighting loads on the building. 


To sustain life on earth is to maintain it. Continuous work towards its usability and maintenance will allow for its existence. The concept of sustainability works on these principles. The idea is to design not just built environments but breathable and liveable ones. These environments must not just cater to the people but also to the surroundings. Sustainable development is defined as “development that meets the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. This development recognises the connections between the environment, economy and the society and takes a holistic approach to create solutions that minimise the negative impacts. As much as the building industry contributes to global warming, it also plays a key role in achieving sustainable development. This can be achieved through energy efficiency methods, sustainable design solutions and renewable energy technologies.  

Past two decades have seen quite a rise in the population and growth of the country. The country also came to a realisation that to be able to accommodate growth they have to switch to more sustainable approaches in the construction industry. The government started paying significant attention to sustainability and trying to achieve it through economic and social developments in the country. According to the energy information agency, the country’s per capita Co2 emissions increased between 2006 and 2010 and per capita fuel consumption increased too due to increased urbanisation and excessive use of electrical appliances that demanded much more electricity. 

Sustainable architecture in Saudi Arabia - Sheet3
Per capita Co2 emissions for Saudi Arabia and global figures_©

Building Green Cities in Saudi Arabia 

The Green building sector began in Saudi Arabia when it got its first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified building in 2009. The first project to be LEED certified was the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) in Jeddah. Since then, the country has been investing into green building projects. 15% of green building projects of the Arab world were being implemented in Saudi Arabia. Projects like the Riyadh metro, Sabb headquarters, King khalid international airport, Pepsi Cola Mega plant are all green building projects. The country has secured the highest concentrations of gold and Platinum LEED- certified buildings in Saudi Arabia. 

The country looks ahead of its time. They have proposed a vision for 2030 that focuses on high quality and affordable housing, green and environmentally friendly urban landscaping. The kingdom is stepping forward to promote mega projects, events and initiatives that support the green building sector. The NEOM is a vision 2030 initiative that is building a megacity powered by renewable energy. In addition to that, the country is also building the Aramco’s King Salman energy Park (SPARK) making it the first LEED pre- certified industrial city in the world. The city is designed for efficient and sustainable operations in an integrated energy hub. It is planned to include an industrial area, dry port, logistics zone, engaging residential, commercial and educational areas. The planning is done in a way to practice sustainability right from the beginning to the completion of the project. 

Riyadh project

Sustainable architecture in Saudi Arabia - Sheet4
Riyadh project _©

Riyadh is the capital city of Saudi Arabia. The green Riyadh project is amongst the 4 projects that are launched by the Two mosques King Salman that supports the vision of 2030 green city plan. The project includes planting 7.5million trees across the city within parks and gardens, schools, healthcare and public facilities. The first phase of the project includes planting of 31,000 trees around 144 km of roads in Riyadh. A total of 10000 shrubs will also be a part of this project. New irrigation networks are being laid out to suffice the water needs of the project by using recycled water and waste water to water the trees. Selected tree species would be used to survive the harsh climatic conditions of Riyadh. These trees will also increase the per capita share of green spaces within the city from 1.7 sq meters to 29 sq meters and a total of 9% increase in green space in total. The outcome would lead to improved air quality and reduced temperatures in the city. The project will also promote a healthy lifestyle which is a part of the vision 2030 plan. 

Sustainable architecture in Saudi Arabia - Sheet5
Riyadh project _©Riyadh Xpresss

Image reference 

  1. (n.d.). saudi arabia – Google Search. [online] Available at:  [Accessed 29 Jul. 2021]. 
  2. (2021). [online] Available at:  [Accessed 29 Jul. 2021].
  3. (2021). [online] Available at:  [Accessed 30 Jul. 2021].
  4. Riyadh Xpress. (2020). Riyadh Green Project launched with 48 major and 3,250 residential parks. [online] Available at:  [Accessed 30 Jul. 2021].


  1. Alpin Limited. (2019). Green Building in Saudi Arabia: What the Industry Looks Like in 2020. [online] Available at:  [Accessed 30 Jul. 2021].
  2. Riyadh Xpress. (2020). Riyadh Green Project launched with 48 major and 3,250 residential parks. [online] Available at:  [Accessed 30 Jul. 2021].

Shreya M Jain is currently studying in 4th year of architecture. She believes that architecture is a reciprocation of one’s thoughts and feels that it creates a dialogue between people and its surroundings. Through her writing she wishes to share how time and space can create meaningful impressions in an individuals life.

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