Buildings are heavy electricity consumers, accounting for some 60% of Israel’s national consumption, with most of the electricity powering air-conditioning and heating systems. But their impact goes much further: according to OECD estimates, the construction industry in developed countries is also responsible for 33-50% of raw materials usage and 10-40% of all solid waste production. Greenhouse gas emissions produced by the construction industry account for almost one-third of all such emissions in Israel*. Forecasts show that population increase and continuing urbanization will only increase the demand for new buildings – and the burden on resource consumption.
Green construction aims to reduce the negative impact of buildings on the environment and on people, by using a systematic approach that includes the planning, construction, operation and ongoing maintenance of buildings. Research in Israel and internationally reveals the numerous benefits of green construction: while certain components may be more costly than standard ones, they lead to operational savings throughout the lifetime of the structure and, within a few years, return the investment. Green construction doesn’t compromise the quality of life or health of people using the buildings. In fact, it actually ensures these qualities, but in alternative ways that economize on resources. Studies show improved health and increased satisfaction of the buildings’ users, as well as improved productivity in structures used for work or study*. The bottom line: using green construction methods improves quality of life, nurtures the environment and, when broadly applied, results in tremendous savings of resources, while improving national resilience.
No wonder, local authorities are working to put green construction on their planning and licensing agendas, hoping to offer residents a better quality of life. Successful implementation requires assimilating this approach throughout all aspects of their operations and it begins with in-depth study and training. This month, we were happy to take part in such training session, when The Israel Green Building Council invited us to tell municipal planners and architects in Um El Fahm about the green renovations at the Beautiful Israel Center.
Making the move to green construction isn’t just about the way we build. It’s also about renovating existing structures to bring them in line, as much as possible with the principles of green construction. That’s what we did at the Beautiful Israel Center and campus in Tel Aviv’s Yarkon Park. After 23 years, it was time to refresh and renew. The recent renovations were based on these principles:
- Reduced energy consumption:
- Energy-saving illumination through optimal location of LED bulbs, along with openings in the ceiling to enable the penetration of more natural light
- Energy-efficient air-conditioning, via innovative ceiling and wall insulation and installation of economical air-conditioning units with individual operation, to heat and cool specific areas
- Producing renewable energy with a photovoltaic solar panel farm on the roof of the building, converting sunlight into electricity.
- Vegetation planted in the roof garden lowers temperatures within the building and further reduces the energy required for air-conditioning
- Re-use and recycling: The use of recycled finishing materials, such as carpets made of 100% recycled plastic, and exploiting old furniture for reuse in offices and at events
- Reduced water consumption:
- Repair of pipes and prevention of leakage
- 85% reduction in the amount of water used in rest rooms via unique flushing devices
- Collection and optimization of air-conditioner water and rainwater for garden irrigation
- Precise, drip irrigation
- Preservation and encouragement of biodiversity and urban nature
- A beautiful, breathtaking garden surrounds the building: its plants attract butterflies, bees and other flying insects; hiding places among its trees and rocks attract small animals, creating a rich and varied ecosystem.
- The center’s roof is also covered in vegetation – the 7 Species Garden.
- Most of the plants in the gardens are adapted and suited to the Israeli climate and the amount of natural irrigation available from rainfall in the area. They’re watered by rainwater during the winter and drippers and air-conditioner run-off during the summer.
- In order to avoid disrupting the harmony of nature, the garden is fertilized with locally-produced compost, and treated with ecological pest control.
You’re invited to pay us a visit!
* Costs and benefits of green construction; Israel Green Building Council, 2014