Logan Taylor

The Demonstration House in Riyadh shows that building to LEED Platinum standards is achievable in a challenging environment.

Building to a superior level of performance, such as LEED standards, is a challenge in Saudi Arabia. In addition to hot, dry and windy desert conditions, the Kingdom’s residential construction culture is unfamiliar and untrained in modern building practices; by extension, the local manufacturing and supply chain isn’t equipped to deliver products that support high-performance building. Meanwhile, deep government subsidies for energy and water undermine incentives to build homes to a higher standard of resource efficiency.

But an 800-square-meter Demonstration House in a commercial business park in Riyadh provides the local and regional building industry and its supply chain a glimpse of what can be accomplished with collaboration, thoughtful design and an integrated systems approach to housing performance.

Built as part of a three-building campus supporting Home of Innovation™, a regional growth program initiated by Saudi Basic Industries Corporation (SABIC), the Demonstration House become, in 2015, the first single-family home in the Middle East to earn Platinum certification under LEED for Homes.

All photos copyright 2016, courtesy of SABIC. Part of a three-building, LEED-certified facility in Riyadh (top feature image), the Demonstration House (above) shows that building to LEED Platinum standards is achievable in a challenging environment.

Among its accomplishments:

  • A 38 percent reduction in overall energy use compared to villas of similar size, thanks to an airtight (< 1.0 ACH) thermal shell of insulated concrete forms and high-performance fenestration, a structural system supported by proper building orientation and deep roof overhangs that helps control solar heat gain. 
  • A pair of four-ton, variable-speed heat pumps and a single mini-split unit to regulate indoor comfort. A robust fresh-air ventilation and filtration system maintains healthy air quality.
  • A 28-kW solar array on the roof, as well as a pair of solar thermal collectors to further reduce energy demand from the local power grid. The House is designed to achieve a net-zero energy balance.
  • A combination of low-flow plumbing fixtures, faucets and appliances and grey/rain water reclamation for the irrigation of native, drought-tolerant landscaping deliver a 40 percent reduction in potable water use, addressing Saudi Arabia’s extreme scarcity of fresh water resources.

“These accomplishments prove that we can achieve the highest levels of building performance in one of the harshest climates in the world,” said Abdullah Al-Refaie, program director of Home of Innovation. “Such an accomplishment can only be achieved through collaboration among all members of the project team.”

SABIC leveraged many of the 45 global, regional and local companies participating in Home of Innovation to refine the concept and outfit the house with innovative yet commercially available high-performance solutions. A global design-build team, including local project management and construction labor, collaborated from the beginning.

“We were confident that the House would achieve LEED Platinum,” says Mario Seneviratne of Green Technologies in Dubai, UAE, which served as the certified Green Rater and worked closely with IBACOS, a housing innovation consultancy in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to deliver integrated systems and construction quality assurance. That collaboration helped the house earn 114 out of a possible 136 credits under the LEED for Homes rating system.

To educate the local and regional building industry on the concepts and systems used to achieve such a performance standard, the house features a Performance Zone converted from two secondary bedrooms and a shared, working bathroom. The exhibit space features the core systems of Structure, Water, Air, Energy and Control articulated with graphics, interactive digital displays, videos, mock-ups and display products. One wall of the bathroom was left open to showcase its water-efficient plumbing system.

The Home of Innovation is available for scheduled tours by request.

Learn more about The Home of Innovation