Passive Building Energy Saving: Building Envelope Retrofitting Measures to Reduce Cooling Requirements for a Residential Building in an Arid Climate

Mohamed H. Elnabawi, Esmail Saber, Lindita Bande

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In arid climates, a significant portion of the urban peak energy demand is dedicated to cooling and air-conditioning during the summer. The rapid urbanization rates in developing countries, particularly in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), have intensified the pressure on energy resources to meet the indoor comfort needs of residents. As a result, there has been a substantial increase in energy demand, with a 2.3% rise recorded in 2018. Electricity consumption in residential buildings accounted for over 48.6% of the total electricity consumption. The choice of building fabrics used in a residential building can significantly impact the building’s passive performance and carbon footprint. This study aimed to enhance our understanding of how specific fabric details influence cooling energy usage in arid climates. To achieve this, a validation simulation model was initially created as a base case for a residential housing typology in Al Ain, UAE. This was followed by a parametric energy evaluation of various building envelope features. The evaluation was based on the reduction of yearly cooling load energy. The simulation results indicate that incorporating 50 mm of expanded polystyrene insulation into the outside walls significantly reduced energy consumption for cooling requirements in the arid UAE climate. Furthermore, no substantial difference was observed in the various roofing choices, including cool and green roofs, gravels, and sand roofs. Additionally, we concluded that the total solar energy transmittance (g-value) of windows played a more significant role than thermal transmittance (U-value) in reducing solar heat gain within the spaces. These findings should guide strategic decisions on building envelope upgrading for sustainable societies.

Original languageEnglish
Article number626
JournalSustainability (Switzerland)
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2024


  • arid climate
  • building fabric
  • cooling energy
  • housing
  • insulation thickness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computer Science (miscellaneous)
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology
  • Hardware and Architecture
  • Computer Networks and Communications
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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