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Housing problems in Saudi Arabia: Challenges facing sustainable housing in the region Essay


Several sectors such as the government, public, and the housing industry may offer strong support to enable Saudi Arabia achieve sustainable housing and elevate itself into the next generation of living in terms of housing. However, currently public support is not strong enough, which may be caused by factors like poor understanding of the language and deficiencies in public awareness.

Archibuigi stated that the “sustainability or sustainable design is simply a rephrasing of some of the forgotten values of traditional architecture and urbanism” (177). This paper aims to scrutinize the levels of public awareness of sustainable housing in the region of Saudi Arabia. The paper also aims to proffer some of the solutions to these challenges that are faced by the populace. While addressing the plight of the people of Saudi Arabia, the idea of sustainability is set to go a long way in enhancing their lives.

In as much as the infrastructure will be enhanced by the adoption of sustainability, the actual process of endearing the concept to the people starting from the people right up to the governing body may encounter a few obstacles, which may slow down the process. Only when the idea is fully accepted will the country realize the full impact the sustainability has on its economy.

Many developing nations such as Saudi Arabia have recently experienced a quickened rate of urbanization, making the opening of the theory of sustainability an inevitability since there are hardly any resources (Smith 198).

There is quite a big number of sustainable methods that can be used such as passive solar design, ventilation, and natural light as well as the complete use of the design of the site. Many reports have been written by hundreds of researchers in a bid to understand the realization of the prospective of sustainable housing in Saudi Arabia.

However, most people interviewed during the studies, more than a half of the total number of interviewees had a total lack of understanding of sustainable housing. The studies came up with the recommendations that people of Saudi Arabia ought to be educated on the advantages of sustainable achievement compared to their existing infrastructure as well as the new ones in terms of housing. The best forum for educating people, according to most researchers, is the local media, which most of the people have easy access to.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is one of the most rapidly developing nations in the region of the Arabian Gulf. The last two decades have seen it expand quickly, and the estimated number of people living in the region is around 25 million (United Nations Human Settlements Programme, Global Land Tool Network 27).

With land space of around two million square kilometers, Saudi Arabia covers quite a vast area (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development 131). The number of houses owned by people in the region is about 1.5 million and the number of houses that have been leased is around the same figure of 1.5 million (United Nations Human Settlements Programme, Global Land Tool Network 27).

Several reports from UNICEF among other human rights organizations indicate that almost 82 percent of the population is urbanized. With such a high rate of urbanization in the country, it is not surprising to find out that there are severe challenges that the region is grappling with. One of the main challenges that comes with the rate of urbanization is the cost of living at the present time.

Although, like in many other places, the main challenge that the people in Saudi Arabia may encounter is the costs of living, which encompasses the costs of construction, as well as the cost of maintaining the living standards, Saudi Arabia faces a number of other challenges that may not be common for other regions around the world. They may be considered unique, since the conditions are found in this region.

Climatic challenges

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia endures climatic changes, which bring about diverse environmental challenges to the people who reside in the country. With harsh climatic conditions that comprise desert conditions and excessive temperature disparities, which vary from 51.1 °C to -11°C, the climatic conditions in Saudi Arabia pose a serious challenge to housing and development that is hardly found elsewhere (Girard 365).

Apart from this, the problem associated with water is also one of the main challenges that the country faces. Hutchins proved “many Arab countries are reliant on non-renewable groundwater supplies to augment their scarce water supply in order to respond to growing demand” (219).

Challenges of rapid growth

Laws and rules that govern the idea of sustainability ought to be enacted through various departments in the government and the same bodies of the government must implement the ideas. This is more so in countries that are developing just like Saudi Arabia, and that are going through a high rate of growth as well as ratio of factors like urbanization.

However, economics is not the only issue at hand in Saudi Arabia as well as in many other developing nations (Roseland 210). The rate at which the limited resources are disappearing is a key factor that must not be overlooked. The full implementation of solar deigns and natural light as well as ventilation and site design will go a long way in achieving sustainable housing.

Challenges of privacy

Most people in Saudi Arabia face the greatest challenge of violation of their privacy. This is especially common in the city of Riyadh. With the lack of properly structured building codes, it is common in Riyadh to find people who have put up a high rise building in the area where there are low-rise homes of a private nature.

The laws do not prohibit this making it difficult for the developers of low-rise homes to work efficiently. The challenge of privacy plays a major role in the issue of sustainability since in the past there was hardly any sort of unwanted invasion of privacy as opposed to the present days.

Together with the fact that there are strict regulations in terms of religious inclinations, this would be one of the greatest challenges. Due to the fact that the city is so cosmopolitan, it will be quite typical to find people from different religious faiths living in either the high-rise or the low-rise buildings that may be situated next to each other.

This may lead to one or another feeling uncomfortable with the other peering over their fences while they carry out any sort of acts that can be required of them by their religion. Pinderhughes states, “The proximity of multiple-story complexes to these homes creates social and religious conflicts of privacy widely practiced in the MENA” (243).

The issue reverts to the age-old problem of security with the invasion of people’s privacy. Pinderhughes argues this point and states, “While many of residents of Riyadh enjoyed the living styles of detached single family dwellings, many of the foreign workers would rather live in densely-populated apartment complexes” (243).


The actual use of sustainability to a construction site is a complicated issue apart from using sustainable materials to put up the building. For example, using an environment friendly piece of glass on the roof of an Arabian house where the high temperatures go up to 51ºC is not sustainable (Smith 32).

A number of inventive ideas that may support the concept of sustainable housing, although the citizens of Saudi Arabia have not yet embraced them Archibuigi stated, “Sustainability or sustainable design is simply a rephrasing of some of the forgotten values of traditional architecture and urbanism” (177). Most people are awed by its modernism as well as the general idea that it will be quite costly for them to act as prohibitions for people to embrace the ideas.

However, among most of the housing business experts in Saudi Arabia, understanding of this new theory on sustainable housing and economical improvement is on the rise. A fundamental side in the sustainability outline is the associations among the local governments, schemers and the residency part taking in the decisive arrangement and accomplishment phases (Perlman 114).

It is significant to look into how inhabitants in the expanse look upon sustainability and their enthusiasm to partake in putting into operation the model so that they can know how to have an appropriate control of the segments that are involved into implementing the theory (Perlman 114).

The rate at which the country has evolved in the last century is one of the key factors that may determine the success of sustainability. This is a major challenge, since almost 80 years ago people were living in tents, and they are now expected to switch to high gear and adapt to the modern ways of living at the speed at which it is evolving.

Achieving sustainability

The stakeholders as well as the governments of the developing countries may work in collaboration to ensure that sustainability is achieved in terms of modern housing. Some crucial Saudi developers are checking out sustainable building as a main option, and with ever-increasing political awareness; it will only be an issue of time before green guiding principle becomes compulsory (Girardet 142).

The building industry grumbles about the deficiency of resources to empower the hi-tech transformations requisite for the sustainable application, and that their profits will be reduced (Smith 198). According to De Roo, “a report published by the US Green Buildings Council, a green building on an average saves 70 per cent of electricity, 50 to 60 per cent of water and 36 per cent of energy” (319).

This argument lays the foundation for people in different sectors such as the government, stakeholders, investors, homeowners, and developers in the business of housing to consider actual application of the idea and techniques of sustainability in order to lower the running costs of a building. Some suggestions have been brought forth in a bid to embrace sustainable construction in the city. Some of them include the suggestions to:

  1. Take on a framework for regulation of the sustainable construction projects
  2. Lead the way forward as an example for the rest
  3. Offer funds for training personnel and educating them on the idea of sustainability
  4. Increase the levels of awareness among the political landscape as well as the government officials
  5. Create a government advisor stakeholder council
  6. Embrace all the new niches that are being created by sustainability in terms of the services that are offered as well as the tools and materials that are available
  7. Create markets for the innovative idea of sustainable construction

Many forums can be used to introduce the public as well as all the other stakeholders in the industry to the idea of sustainability. These forums can utilize different methods to raise awareness among the public and encourage commitment to protection of several aspects that are influenced by any sort of construction.

Roseland states governments are the ones to “initiate changes with the development of a legal framework to encourage the application of appropriate standards and procedures. It is known that unless pressured, the construction industry will not introduce the required adjustments” (297). An explanation is to revolutionize the mode of predation of private sector experts and the community as well.

They need to become conscious of the gains and benefits of a built environment, which is safe to both the natural world and to the inhabitants (Roseland 297). Roseland further says, “In most countries, there are financial incentives to retrofitting or building using ‘green’ principles that business owners should take advantage of or soon legislation will force the issue” (297). Most developing nations are yet to embrace the ideas and thus the intervention of a foreign government.

They are yet to take into consideration the scale of the issues that are at hand. The consequences of metropolitan expansion in the third world nations give an idea about sustainable building and sustainable expansion that are not the main concern so far (Nelson 19). Nelson further states “This is a concept managed by professionals in certain fields and only recently have governments begun to pay attention to it, due more to international pressure than to internal conviction” (19).

The differences in the architectural designs and materials go a long way in showing the advantages of embracing the idea of sustainable houses. The idea of sustainability in traditional houses was achieved much more effectually than it is in modern times. The ability of the people to cool the temperatures using mud as insulation is just an example of the notion of sustainability being put to good use back in the day. Natural light was also trapped in ways that are more effective.


Among the most crucial parts of construction when using the concept of sustainability is the site design as well as the layout. With majority of the construction sites starting with leveling of the ground in order to commence work of putting up the structures that they intend to, sustainability calls for more integration of the construction with the existing landscape as much as possible rather than changing the land.

The building is supposed to blend in with the already existing undulations and incorporate all the environmental features that can be maintained. The most environmentally steady improvement is one that perturbs as diminutive of the accessible site as it possibly can (Smith 198). One of the most effective ways of achieving this is by using daylight as a method of sustainable integration in any of the buildings that are being constructed. This is done by using a combination of electricity and natural light in the same place.

Particularly, this can be achieved by using the natural light during the day as much as possible, and using electricity only when it gets dark. Burton indicated, “Day lighting design is the use of good design sense, not the application of technology. It is the pattern of light in the sky told as a story in the building’s form and details” (281).

Solar energy is one of the most effective sources of renewable energy and a good way to diminish the consumption of non-renewable energy. Burton further explains, “The basic idea of passive solar design is to allow daylight, heat, and airflow into a building only when beneficial” (281). Burton explains, “The objectives are to control the entrance of sunlight and air flows into the building at appropriate times and to store and distribute the heat and cool air so it is available when needed” (281).


With one of the highest construction rates in the world, and being a developing country, Saudi Arabia is one of the easiest places where the idea of sustainability can be implemented. This is compounded by the fact that the country is still going under thorough construction in many regions. It may be important to note the use of locally found materials as well as the knowledge used in construction, and this must be taken into consideration.

In order to attain success in projects that incorporate sustainability in the construction that is carried out in Saudi Arabia, the use of natural resources that are available in the region such as solar energy is imperative. The success of these projects revolves around the proper implementation of these sustainable features. The costs of construction ought to be checked so that they do not discourage the locals from indulging in the exercise of construction of buildings.

It is vital for all the localized bodies that deal with engineering as well as the government to work together in order to control and ensure the proper application of sustainability in the country. Another important aspect is the understanding as well as the awareness of the community members about the implementation of the entire concept of sustainability.

Without this, the other bodies used in implementation will actually be helpless. One of the main things that is highly recommended is the enhanced research of public awareness, which needs to be carried out in order to be able to use sustainability in a perspective where most of the people who are involved are the ones renting the premises rather than the owners.

Once they are fully aware of the benefits of sustainability, the owners will have no option but to adopt the concept of sustainability. Sustainability is one of the greatest concepts that ought to be embraced by all developing nations in a bid to ensure that globalization does not overrun their economies, thus rendering them incapable of offering competitiveness in terms of trade and commerce among many other things.

Works Cited

Nelson, Anitra. Steering Sustainability in an Urbanizing World: Policy, Practice, and Performance. Surrey: Ashgate Publishing Ltd., 2007. Print.

Archibuigi, Franco. The Ecological City and the City Effect: Essays on the Urban Planning Requirements for the Sustainable City. Surrey: Ashgate Publishing Ltd., 1997. Print.

Burton, Hugh. Sustainable Communities: The Potential for Eco-Neighbourhoods. Oxford: Earthscan, 2000. Print.

De Roo, Gert. Integrating City Planning And Environmental Improvement: Practicable Strategies For Sustainable Urban Development. Bristol: Alastair Sawday Publishing Company Limited, 2009. Print.

Girard, Luigi Fusco. The Human Sustainable City: Challenges and Perspectives from the Habitat Agenda. Surrey: Ashgate Publishing Ltd., 2003. Print.

Girardet, Herbert. Cities, People, Planet: Urban Development and Climate Change. Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons, 2008. Print.

Hutchins, Christine. Climate Change – Our Warming World: What Can You Do about It? Bristol: Alastair Sawday Publishing Company Limited, 2009. Print.

Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. Innovative Policies for Sustainable Urban Development: The Ecological City. Paris: OECD Publishing, 1996. Print.

Perlman, Cary R. Environmental Litigation: Law and Strategy. Chicago: American Bar Association, 2009. Print.

Pinderhughes, Raquel. Alternative Urban Futures: Planning for Sustainable Development in Cities Throughout the World. Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield, 2004. Print.

Roseland, Mark. Toward Sustainable Communities: Solutions for Citizens and Their Governments. Gabriola Island: New Society Publishers, 2012. Print.

Smith, Brian. Urban Environment in Crisis. New Delhi: New Age International, 2001. Print.

United Nations Human Settlements Programme, Global Land Tool Network. Secure Land Rights for all. Geneva: United Nations Human Settlements Programme, Global Land Tool Network, 2008. Print.

This Essay on Housing problems in Saudi Arabia: Challenges facing sustainable housing in the region was written and submitted by user Alicia Brown to help you with your own studies. You are free to use it for research and reference purposes in order to write your own paper; however, you must cite it accordingly.

Alicia Brown studied at the University at Buffalo, State University of New York, USA, with average GPA 3.27 out of 4.0.

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Brown, A. (2020, January 20). Housing problems in Saudi Arabia: Challenges facing sustainable housing in the region [Blog post]. Retrieved from

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Brown, Alicia. "Housing problems in Saudi Arabia: Challenges facing sustainable housing in the region." IvyPanda, 20 Jan. 2020,

1. Alicia Brown. "Housing problems in Saudi Arabia: Challenges facing sustainable housing in the region." IvyPanda (blog), January 20, 2020.


Brown, Alicia. "Housing problems in Saudi Arabia: Challenges facing sustainable housing in the region." IvyPanda (blog), January 20, 2020.


Brown, Alicia. 2020. "Housing problems in Saudi Arabia: Challenges facing sustainable housing in the region." IvyPanda (blog), January 20, 2020.


Brown, A. (2020) 'Housing problems in Saudi Arabia: Challenges facing sustainable housing in the region'. IvyPanda, 20 January.

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