1 Apr 2014, 9:09 AM
Saudi Arabia is in the planning stages of making more than 90,000 mosques across the Kingdom more eco-friendly, utilizing solar and other renewable sources of energy as part of a bid to put green building on the national stage.
Dubai's first specially built green mosque
The initiative was agreed following a joint meeting between the Ministry of Islamic Affairs and the Saudi Green Building Forum. Faisal Al-Fadl, the secretary-general of the Saudi Green Building Forum, told Asharq Al-Awsat that the decision to choose mosques to make eco-friendly was an easy one: “This was a strategic decision when compared with other buildings, because mosques are buildings which have the most influence on people’s lives due to the large numbers of worshipers who visit them.”
“Green building has qualities that are more pertinent to mosques than other forms of construction, such as in the flow of people through the building, which may cause inconvenience at some mosques. This is a problem we can correct through green building,” he added.
Green building involves using eco-friendly and resource-efficient practices throughout a prospective building’s entire life cycle, from the planning and construction stage to how the building is used and maintained once it has been built.
The Saudi Green Building Forum is an organization established under the power of appointment of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud. The Forum’s official website affirms that “Saudi Arabia is a green building frontrunner and is home to the fastest-growing construction and projects market in the Middle East. Green building design and energy-efficient products and technology are being driven by multibillion-dollar spending from both the public and private sectors—offering unparalleled opportunities in sectors associated with green buildings or green building technology.”
Fadl told Asharq Al-Awsat that green building can reduce electricity consumption in mosques by around 40 percent, and that this figure could decrease by a total of 80 percent if advanced technology is used. He added that mosques could also decrease water use by between 30 and 40 percent by introducing water filtration systems, in addition to reducing carbon emissions by between 30 and 40 percent. He added that introducing air filtration systems would also provide a healthier environment within mosques, reducing the chance of transmitting infections and contamination.
Fadl presented Saudi Minister of Islamic Affairs Sheikh Saleh Al Sheikh with the initiative and its objectives, in addition to the recommendations of the fourth session of the Saudi Green Building Forum. The minister expressed support for what he described as “pioneering national initiatives,” highlighting the work of the Forum.
Fadl affirmed the economic, social and humanitarian importance of making Saudi Arabia’s mosques more eco-friendly, adding that “implementing green building technology in around 100,000 mosques will have a significant economic return in regulating electricity and water consumption.”
“Utilizing suitable materials during construction and restoration serves the environment. Introducing this ‘green’ culture in mosques will also strengthen the green building sector by spreading this culture through mosques via worshipers, who are the gateways to residential areas and commercial facilities,” he added.
Fadl also confirmed that there is an agreement to implement the initiative to transform mosques into green buildings through practical mechanisms to ensure that long-established mosques can become more eco-friendly.