Buildings Guide

Aqaba Residence Energy Efficiency

Ultra-Low-Energy Building
Year 2008
Municipality Aqaba
Location Aqaba, Jordan | OSM
State Aqabah Governorate
Area (TFA) 340 m2
Dwellings 1
Cost 453 EUR/m2
Consumption 48.6 kWh/m2/year (primary energy)
Specific Primary Energy Demand in KWh/m2a

The AREE house was built in 2007/2008 to provide a showcase of a high performance building in Aqaba city in the southern part of Jordan. The total energy performance of the building was achieved through three types of measures grouped into passive design elements, material choices and renewable energy installations. The energy performance and associated costs and benefits for each type were modelled to highlight opportunities for low and high income segments of the residential building market in Jordan. The building was developed by the Emtairah Consulting Corporation Amman, Jordan, and was designed by Florentine Visser, a Dutch architect and consultant for sustainable designs, who specializes in hot climate areas. The project was funded by the European Union and was part of the MED-ENEC Energy Efficiency in the Construction Sector in the Mediterranean. MED-ENEC pursues the aim of increased energy efficiency regarding the construction sector in Mediterranean Countries

Overall performance

This ULEB building shows the potential for the savings through passive options. In this case a well planned design and implementation of passive options have made the need for active options almost redundant. ULEB levels, with energy savings of over 84% against a reference building, achieved through passive options alone. The total energy consumption of the Aqaba house is 3205 kWh per year (simulated data). Moreover, the reduction in water use compared to a conventional building is 51 %.

Cost and effectiveness

The overall costs amounted to 154.000 €. Compared to a newly built conventional building in Jordan, the additional investment cost is approx. 47.000 €. The building was estimated to have a payback time of 3.3 just for the design and construction and 8.6 years with a solar cooling system


Tariq Emtairah -Emtairah Consulting Corp.

Florentine Visser

Engineering consultant
Mohammad Abu-Afefeh

Landscape Architects

Energy consultant
Tala Awadallah, Royal Scientific Society

Construction Manager
Khaled Abu-Aishah

Building basics

Year of completion 2008
Year construction started 2007
Number of units 1
Number of occupants 7 people
Elevation 19 m

Building areas

Residential space 340 m2


Tariq Emtairah -Emtairah Consulting Corp.

Special features

In addition to high percentage of local building materials and integrated water saving devices, the AREE project is characterized by a solar powered cooling system. For this, hot water from solar panels is used as an energy source for an adsorption chiller. Evaporative cooling is used in some outdoor spaces. Ventilation is provided through cross ventilation, inlet subsoil ventilation and wind tower staircase.Other features in the Aqaba house are the water saving devices include low flushing toilets, watertaps (sink, showers) appliances (washing machine) grey water recycling.

The building's structural design is aimed at upgrading conventional wall sections and experimenting with new ideas, keeping in mind the use of locally produced materials as much as possible. The structure is heavy with high thermal capacity combined with an insulation layer of 50 mm mineral wool in the cavity walls of the envelope. The U-values for the wall systems range between 0.4 – 0.5 W/m²K. The windows are made of steady steel frames with good weather stripping and double glazing. Extra effort has been put into high-quality construction detailing and execution to prevent air leakage. The ground floor living area has a green roof, which serves as terrace garden on the first floor. This garden roof also functions as an extra thermal mass, and has a positive effect on the indoor climate of the living room beneath. External shading is also used for the walls to prevent absorption of heat into the building mass. Due to the construction in an earthquake susceptible zone structural beams were needed at each level. These needed to be wrapped with insulation to prevent thermal bridging which was difficult for the construction team. Careful supervision was need through out the building process by the contractor and architect to assure this as this is not common practice in Jordan. The roof in addition to its insulation is shaded by the solar heating panels so as to reduce solar heat gain by the thermal mass. Part of the roof was also used as a roof garden to offset heat gain.

Openings were carefully placed to maximise cross ventilation with for example windows and doors opposite each other. Both the internal doors and external windows have small openings included to allow cross ventilation when closed. Narrow vertical windows are used throughout the building. The shaded windows allow little direct sunlight to enter the building during the hot months. Eastern and Western windows ere avoided. The only exception to the use of the small windows is the large window that runs over the two stories on the southern façade. This window serves as a sun collector during the winter months and is shaded via a wooden lattice in summer. The design incorporates movable vertical sliding shades and fixed shading elements for the windows. In all windows foam strips were used to ensure air-tightness.

Type of construction Heavy
A/V ratio 0.43 -1
Average U-value of building 0.540 W/m2K
Thermal bridging Detailing for thermal bridging was carried out throughout the project.
Shading Venetian shading elements

Ground floor
U-value 1.200 W/m2K
Total thickness 40.00 cm
Total area 135 m2
Material Thickness Thermal conductivity λ
Floor finishing with gravel 10.00 cm 1.700 W/mK
Reinforced concrete slab 10.00 cm 2.300 W/mK
Lead concrete 5.00 cm 2.000 W/mK
Base concrete 15.00 cm 1.280 W/mK
(From outside to inside)
External walls
U-value 0.360 W/m2K
Total thickness 51.00 cm
Total area 448 m2
Material Thickness Thermal conductivity λ
Straw Plaster 3.00 cm 0.500 W/mK
CHB with Perlite 15.00 cm 0.300 W/mK
Air cavity 10.00 cm 0.024 W/mK
Insulation layer 5.00 cm 0.036 W/mK
CHB with Perlite aggregate 15.00 cm 0.300 W/mK
Cement plaster with straw 3.00 cm 0.500 W/mK
(From outside to inside)


U-value window 3.16 W/m2K
Total area 66 m2
Glass infill None
Coating/Tint None
Solar heat gain coefficient 0.50
U-value glass None W/m2K
U-value window frame None W/m2K

Passive strategies

  • Orientated to minimise solar gains
  • Compact building form
  • Buffered floor plan layout
  • Natural ventilation
  • Stack effect for ventilation in stair well

The Aqaba house was designed with an optimum in terms of natural cooling. For this reason although there is a solar-driven cooling system this is more for extreme temperature periods in the summer as well as for experimental reasons within the project. The Solar absorption system is mainly responsible for the hot water system in the building.

Indoor design temperature summer 26 °C
Indoor design temperature winter 20 °C

Heating system

Cooling system

A solar-driven adsorption cooling system is installed on the top roof. The solar hot water matrix delivers domestic hot-water, heating and energy for the adsorption chiller, which delivers cooling at a high efficiency rate. The adsorption chiller is more energy efficient than the more common absorption chiller, since it can provide cooling with a water input temperature of 65 instead of 90°C. It also is more environmentally friendly, since it uses silica gel and a zeolite coating technology rather than ammonia. It also minimizes crystallization of water in the system, and thus requires less maintenance.

 An underground cooling system is incorporated in the floor of the living area, and for evaporative cooling of incoming air a water fountain is installed outside the kitchen window

1 individual cooling system installed:
Type Solar adsorption cooling
Cooling capacity 20.00 kWth
Annual final energy consumption 6400 kWh/year

Hot water system

The solar hot water matrix delivers domestic hot-water, heating and energy for the adsorption chiller, which delivers cooling at a high efficiency rate. 

A flat plate solar collectors system (35.2 m2 collectors) for domestic hot water and solar cooling provides 100% of household needs. The system is composed of 11 panels, each with 24 evacuated tubes. These solar collectors are placed on the main roof. Each panel is 2 m x 1.6 m in cross sectional area, and occupies a roof area of 2 x 1.50 m. There are 3 rows of panels. One row of 5 collectors faces the Southeast, and is tilted at an angle of 6 degrees. Each of the other 2 rows of 3 collectors faces the southwest, and is tilted at an angle of 17 degrees. This is to maximize the benefit of solar energy throughout the year. The collectors are placed in a manner so as not to shade each other during the summer or winter, and also to provide maintenance space in between. In order to prevent overheating, the collector fields have pressure valves that feed back into the hot water tank, and also a heat dissipater with an outlet to the roof floor. These solar panels also serve as a basis for the building's cooling system.

1 individual hot water system installed:
Type Evacuated Tube
Annual final energy consumption 210 kWh/year

Ventilation system

Ventilation was through natural ventilation which was assisted through stack ventilation in the stair well. In addition an evaporative cooling pool is located below the kitchen door entrance which opens to the north, taking advantage of the northern breezes and cools them further as they enter the building. Subsoil cooling is also used to cool the air entering the building. The subsoil pipes capture the cool air at the building's northern façade and take it underground, where it is further cooled by the subsoil temperatures, and leads them to an outlet in the living room.

1 individual ventilation system installed:
Type Natural

Power generation

Detailed information on installed power generators not known.

Energy efficient lighting and appliances

Energy efficient lighting and appliances are selected based on the best available options in Jordan. Philips Electronics – the international Dutch-based company - supported AREE with a state-of-the-art portfolio of lamps, gear, optics, luminaries, and controls. The objective of the lighting design was to create the most energy-efficient solution for the building, and to achieve significant reductions in energy consumption, CO2 emission, and other harmful substances. A selection of controls has been used in the building to help reduce the cost of energy and maintenance. For example, in the bedrooms, study, kitchen, family area, and corridors, the system ensures that light is controlled according to the amount of daylight available. The controls allow lights on the window side of the room to adjust automatically as the amount of daylight in a space decreases or increases, all without disturbing the occupants. This solution ensures comfortable lighting levels. The application of this system results in substantial energy savings at the window side (up to 70%), and it can always be switched off when the spaces are not in use.

The energy costs of the building are a fraction of that of a comparable building. Energy consumption levels are 84% less, with 100% savings for heating and 90% for hot water.

Primary energy consumption 16525.00 kWh/year
Primary energy consumption (ref. building) 103338.00 kWh/year
Specific primary energy consumption 48.60 kWh/m2/year
Specific primary energy consumption (ref. building) 303.90 kWh/m2/year
Differentiated specific primary energy demand and production

Accumulated specific primary energy demand and production

The investment costs for the realized building (standard finishing) amounted to 155 000 Euro. This investment represents an increase of about 48 000 Euro compared to a conventional building (standard materials). This amounts to a building investment costs of 452,9 €/m2 (reference case: 315,0 €/m2

The running costs for the building is a fraction of that of a comparable reference building with savings of over 85%.

It can be concluded from these calculations is that investments in passive design elements and improved building materials, alone, yield good pay-back potential over the life time of the project. The incremental costs are around 11 per cent more than the conventional and the pay-back period in this case is about 3.3 years from the energy savings. This compares well with recent trends in high performance buildings across Europe where on average the incremental costs add up to 10% for buildings with less than 45 Kwh/m2a of total primary energy use for space and water heating and electricity (Hastings, 2007). In the case of Jordan, however, for a broad dissemination of the realized scenario (with solar cooling installation) building costs and payback have to be further reduced.

Envelope costs 126000 EUR
Systems costs 28000 EUR
Total investment costs 154000 EUR
Cost: 453.00 EUR/m2
Total differentiated annual costs 8414 EUR
Specific differentiated annual costs 24.70 EUR
Yearly energy costs 530 EUR/year
Dynamic payback time 15 years

Investment cost

Absolute building investment costs

Specific building investment cost

Annual Costs

Absolute annual costs
Specific annual cost


Real interest rate 0.03 %
Local Currency JOD
Currency rate to EUR 0.99000 (Sept. 8, 2008)

Energy prices

Electricity 0.0810 EUR/kWh

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