Hot desert regions, like Saudi Arabia, are very challenging in terms of building energy consumption. The role of the housing sector in the country is critical as it accounts for half of the total national electricity consumption. It is important to apply sustainable energy concepts in this sector, and the application of Zero-Energy Homes (ZEHs) could be an appropriate option in this regard. In ZEHs, the energy demand needs to be reduced significantly before employing renewable energy, and a way to achieve that is through applying vernacular construction techniques and materials. This study aims to investigate the role of courtyard, mushrabiyah and adobe construction for the development of ZEHs in the five main Saudi climatic zones represented by Dhahran, Guriat, Riyadh, Jeddah and Khamis Mushait. A base house is designed, modelled and compared with measured electricity values. The comparison between the base house and the houses adapted with these techniques and materials is undertaken based on the annual electricity demand and the maximum power demand, and findings reveal that mushrabiyah can reduce them by 4% and 3%, respectively, while adobe can reduce them by 6% and 19%, respectively. Courtyards are found to be not helpful in terms of energy saving.
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