Of the three themes driving the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030, there is great emphasis on sustainable practices across all sectors of the economy. This is an especially important consideration in the construction industry, which is expected to drive the country’s post-oil economy. Vision 2030 will help support the building of a diverse economy – including, driving tourism, health and education development, manufacturing and trade – through the development of cities throughout the Kingdom. This master plan requires considerable infrastructure, from the construction of buildings to house recreational spaces, schools, hospitals, to roads and transportation required for effective connectivity.
As the Kingdom builds its strategic roadmap, and outlines objectives for Vision 2030, sustainable practices remain a top priority. The means to achieving the latter themes of building a vibrant society and an ambitious nation, include practices which reduce environmental impact across all businesses, while building a country with strong roots and foundations, as an investment towards a solid future.
Subsequently, when it comes to the construction of infrastructure, Saudi Arabia has particular requirements for architectural design that are particularly adapted to the region’s unique climatic conditions. With very high temperatures during the day, and frigid dips overnight, versatile energy-efficient building materials are needed that keep spaces pleasant during the daylight hours, and retain warmth after sunset.
IMPORTANT FACTORS TO KEEP IN MIND WHEN CHOOSING BUILDING MATERIALS
Important factors to consider when construction companies or general contracting companies in Saudi Arabia are choosing between different building materials are their specific properties, and how they are suited to the kingdom’s unique climatic conditions. These properties are:
• Chemical Properties: When considering the chemical properties of building materials, it is important for contractors to factor in the corrosion-resistance of a substance. The external structures of buildings are exposed to environments that are acidic, heavy in salt, or alkali, and building materials need to be able to withstand repetitive cycles of natural wear and tear. Metals for example, are vulnerable to rust, and if protections are not put in place, a structure can start to corrode.
• Mechanical Properties: The mechanical characteristics of building materials indicate how they will behave under different conditions. Abuse-resistance, elasticity, hardness, plasticity, and strength, among other properties, are all important to consider in the construction of a building structure.
• Physical Properties: With building materials like brick and steel, contractors consider the ‘bulk density’, or physical strength of an object. Another is durability, which is an index of a building materials’ shelf-life. The more durable a material is, the more it can weather climatic fluctuations, and thereby, require less maintenance.
• Thermal Properties: The thermal properties of a building refer to its ability to retain and absorb heat, which in turn determines the need for good ventilation and insulation design. This is a challenge in Saudi Arabia due to the drastic daily swing in temperatures, as the thermal properties also affect the strength and thickness of walls in a building’s construction.
TYPES OF BUILDING MATERIALS USED ACROSS SAUDI CONSTRUCTION
Construction companies and those building a home, should know about all the options that can help decide what the best building materials are available to them – from a quality, cost, and regional climatic-needs perspective.
Traditionally cement and steel/ aluminum form the basis of all construction across any site or project. For the sake of clarity, we will discuss them later in the article.
A variety of different building materials are used in the construction of both homes and commercial structures and spaces. Some of the main building materials used in construction are:
Some additional materials like ceramic, stone, slate and glass are also being used innovatively across buildings and structures in finishing effects. These are materials that are able to withstand the daily temperature changes typical to a desert climate, with extreme heat during the day followed by abruptly low temperatures at night.
Types of building materials: Broadly speaking building materials fall into two categories, naturally occurring and synthetic. Today, both kinds are processed and manufactured, respectively, for construction and building applications. Naturally occurring building materials are also considered green building materials because for the most part they are already energy-efficient, which means they have reduced environmental impact and save both customers and contractors money long after the construction process is complete.
Brick is a clay product, made through a process of heating in a kiln. It is a popular choice of construction material, particularly in comparison to wood, because it’s fire resistant. It’s also an advantageous material because it helps to maintain comfortable internal temperatures, with an ability to absorb humidity, as well as, provide cooling effects in hot summer months. Brick building materials also provide insulation against cold in winter months, such as in Riyadh, where winter evening temperatures are known to fall as low as six to eight degrees centigrade,
Brick, however, requires a lot of energy to produce, due to the heat needed to power a kiln. Adobe, is a mud-brick alternative comprising water, earth, and natural fibrous materials, which can be air dried.
Wood is a natural product that is extremely versatile for processing and transforming into various building materials. Lumber from wood, makes boards or planks, that form the basis of many avenues in construction. Wood product are ideal building materials because they are both strong and flexible. In wood processing a number of by-products are produced which can be reconstructed to produce additional useful building materials. These materials are classified as engineered wood, and are excellent for constructing doors, parts of walls, or boards that can be used for other construction needs.
Mud and clay are building materials that probably bring up images of cave people and Neolithic times, but they are very much a part of modern construction companies’ choices. Generally, clay and mud are used to seal building materials together, and they have the added benefit of providing insulation against external environmental conditions. Today, automated compressors are used to pack soil or clay between building materials, whereas in the past, this process was accomplished by hand. Other earthen materials akin to mud and clay are rammed earth, which is a durable mixture of clay, gravel, and sand or straw.
Ceramic building materials are a great way to add character to building construction to both external and internal areas. Contractors can add decorative ceramic tiling to just about anywhere their customers would like, from floors, to walls, to countertops, to ceilings. Ceramics are made from clay, and are delicate, so it is important for a contractor to consult with their customer about appropriate areas for placement and techniques for upkeep, so that tiles maintain an aesthetically pleasing appearance for a long time.
Stone or rock is historically the oldest building material in the world, as it is a sturdy material, and easily available. Rock has proven to have some disadvantages in modern construction. For one it has considerable mass, and given the plethora of shapes and sizes, can be an awkward building material to work with. Locally quarried stone and limestone from Saudi Arabia are energy-efficient options as they gradually absorb heat throughout the day, keeping the indoor environment pleasant and steady, and slowly release it at night, keeping spaces warm for a long duration.
Slate is a kind of smooth rock that can be processed and shaped into tiles. Slate is typically used in roofing building materials, and is durable and attractive in appearance. Slate can also be used as walling stone to cover outdoor spaces and has a number of advantages, including fire-resistance, as well as, being able to withstand weathering from sulphuric acid, and other kinds of environmental pollution.
Glass is a building material used to construct windows, which allow natural light into a finished building. Glass is brittle in nature, and manufactured from sand. Strong and thick varieties are ideal for not only providing visibility, but are also abuse-resistance against adverse weather and environmental conditions. Glass building materials are also at the heart of architectural innovations in the past and today. Despite being delicate and breakable, there are processing methods for strengthening it, and making it shatter-proof which make it a versatile building material. Not only can it be used as a load-bearing building material, but also for attractive fenestrations like stained windows or sliding doors.
TRADITIONAL MATERIALS USED IN CONSTRUCTION
For any construction project, the structure would require the use of two of the most basic, yet important building materials. These are: