Mostadam was developed by the Ministry of Housing to improve building standards across the country. One may ask why Saudi needed a building certification scheme while other systems are already in use across the Gulf. Why not simply use the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) or the BREEAM Gulf Scheme that has been specifically customised to address the climate and other sustainability challenges of the region?
These international sustainable building rating systems do not take into account regional differences and microclimates, the ministry representatives claim. Mostadam, on the other hand, has been developed to address Saudi’s unique local climate and environmental characteristics. The code places a premium on locally sourced building materials and designs and recognizes regional differences in construction.
MOSTADAM VERSUS LEED
Mostadam comprises three different rating systems: Residential, Commercial, and Communities. The last one covers public realm developments, such as streets, squares, open spaces, and parks. Each scheme is divided into two phases: Building and Construction, and Operations and Existing.
Conversely, LEED covers all types of construction projects – new buildings, interior fit-outs, core and shell, and operation and maintenance. The scheme encompasses seven different rating systems: Building Design and Construction, Interior Design and Construction, Buildings Operations and Maintenance, Neighbourhood Development, the system for single families and multifamily low to mid-rise dwellings, Cities and Communities, LEED Zero, and LEED Recertification.
Projects assessed under the Mostadam scheme can be rated as Green, Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Diamond, depending on their sustainability performance. For LEED, the rating levels are: Certified, Silver, Gold, and Platinum. Some industry experts claim that Mostadam offers more flexibility, as more buildings can qualify for certification.
Under both schemes, buildings are assessed against a set of sustainability criteria grouped into major categories, such as energy efficiency, water usage, materials selection, local amenities, wellbeing, and others.
The number of points a construction project can earn in a given category reflects its importance. The differences between the two rating systems are visible under the ‘Water’ category. Projects assessed under LEED can earn a maximum of 11 points, while Mostadam awards buildings up to 24 credits. The difference reflects how efficient usage of water is valued in Saudi Arabia, which is mostly a desert country.
LEED is known to strongly promote energy efficiency; up to 35 points are available under this category. For comparison, the maximum number of credits under the Mostadam scheme is 27. Given that Saudi Arabia is one of the oil richest countries globally, the pressure on energy resources is lesser than in other regions.
SAUDI CONSTRUCTION PROFESSIONALS PREFER LEED OVER MOSTADAM
To find out which rating system responds best to the needs of the local market, researchers from Taif University and the U.S. Green Building Council and Green Business Certification Institute in Jeddah surveyed Saudi construction professionals: architects, project managers, sustainability consultants, civil engineers, facility managers, and representatives of other relevant professions.
Of the 1,320 study respondents, only slightly more than half (56%) have heard of LEED and Mostadam rating systems. This result shows that there is still a long way to go for Saudi construction professionals to embrace the principles of sustainable construction.
Even though Mostadam has been designed to address specific local environmental, social and economic conditions, construction professionals still prefer LEED: 57.5% of those surveyed choose the internationally recognised system over the local one.
Such results are not so surprising. Mostadam has been made available only at the end of 2019, and it is still in its infancy when compared with other building rating systems. While several construction professionals have a chance to practice LEED on its projects, Mostadam is still a new and ‘uncharted territory’ for many. This situation could change soon, as nearly 62% of the survey respondents declared a willingness to use Mostadam on their projects. However, it must be noted that almost one-third of them were not sure whether or not they would use it.
Other findings are equally interesting. Nearly 32% of participants were in favour of using Mostadam on new buildings and 56% favoured using it on both new and existing projects. Furthermore, over half (51.6%) believed that Mostadam should be made mandatory for all new buildings.
MEGAPROJECTS EMBRACE MOSTADAM CERTIFICATION
A suit of ambitious sustainable construction megaprojects such as Neom, Prince Mohammed bin Salman Non-Profit City, or Qiddiya is currently under construction in Saudi Arabia. They are all expected to play an integral role in promoting Mostadam across the construction industry. The developers of The Red Sea Project have already committed to obtaining Mostadam Diamond certification for about a quarter of all its buildings.
Among other developments aspiring for Mostadam certification is Diriyah Square, a commercial zone of the Diriyah giga-project on the edge of Riyadh – the project aims to achieve the Mostadam Communities Global rating.
King Salman Energy Park has been recently awarded Mostadam Gold Certification. This innovative industrial city with mixed-use development was recognised for creating a world-class sustainable ecosystem.
It is expected that other flagship developments will follow suit, raising the profile and awareness of Saudi Arabia’s building rating system.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF MOSTADAM CERTIFICATION?
The Mostadam label marks buildings that have been built or are operating to the highest environmental standards and reflect local values. Developers that have Mostadam-certified projects in their portfolio are recognised for promoting sustainable construction in Saudi Arabia. Such commitment creates better prospects for winning state-funded projects at a time when the Saudi government is injecting $ billions into green development. Furthermore, Mostadam-certified buildings often qualify for incentives, such as zoning allowances and tax rebates.
Designed to be water and energy-efficient, such buildings are cheaper to operate and offer a high-quality indoor environment as well as user thermal and psychological comfort. These advantages often result in faster property sales and higher prices, increased lease rates, and higher property values.
At present, Mostadam certification is voluntary. This may change soon, as the Saudi Government has set an ambitious target to become carbon neutral by 2060. For all developers operating in Saudi Arabia and those considering entering this market, Mostadam certification should be a consideration.