Is Israel finally ready to embrace green building? If a meeting at the Knesset
of all the relevant parties is any indication, it seems so. The Knesset Caucus
for Quality headed by MK Ze’ev Bielski (Kadima) discussed green building
Standard 5281 on Wednesday and efforts to update it.
RELATED:Knesset asks for plan to fight garbage burning Haifa U. experts: Nature will restore wildlife
Green buildings use
fewer resources than regular buildings while utilizing natural light and other
location factors to their fullest. Green buildings use 30 percent-50% less water
than regular buildings and as much as 50% less electricity.
Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan pointed out during the discussion,
“Green building is not just a tree huggers’ gimmick, it’s a powerful tool.
Buildings use 60% of electricity and produce about a third of
Green buildings make for healthier surroundings and studies
have shown that people who work in them are more productive as well.”
government recently approved the national plan to reduce emissions. A major
component of that plan is to encourage green building.
now, green building has failed to take off here. Although Standard 5281 has been
in place since 2005, only seven buildings have been certified. By comparison, in
the UK, 12,000 buildings have been certified by the BREEAM (BRE Environmental
Assessment Method) green building standard, which is still largely voluntary,
while another 20,000 buildings have registered to be certified, BRE consultant
Chris Scott said.
BRE developed BREEAM for the UK in 1990 and has since
adapted it for Spain, the Netherlands, Scandinavia, and the Middle East. Scott
and his colleague, Chloe Murphy, are consulting to the Standards Institution of
Israel (SII) about updating 5281.
Standard 5281 is expected to be fully
updated by July 2011, Environmental Protection Ministry Deputy Director-General
for Planning and Sustainability Galit Cohen said. The ministry is funding the
update process out of its budget and received additional funding under the
recent government decision regarding the national plan to reduce
Some NIS 16 million will be used for a pilot project in 2011,
NIS 7m. via the Construction and Housing Ministry for retrofitting existing
buildings, another NIS 16m. for a survey of existing buildings, NIS
for training, NIS 5m. for energy audits, and NIS 2m.-NIS
for education and awareness raising, she said.
standard is currently voluntary. There is some debate as to the best method to
encourage the use of green building standards.
BREEAM, for instance,
according to Scott, was promoted as a voluntary standard in close conjunction
with the construction industry.
BREEAM, however, emerged in a bottom-up
process whereby contractors started building green buildings in the 1980s and
design teams wanted recognition of their efforts, which led to the creation of
BREEAM, Scott explained.
Here, however, the process is decidedly top
As Erdan put it, “there’s been a market failure [regarding green
building]. Those that build the buildings don’t have to live in them and pay
utility bills. The contractors don’t have any vested interest in building
according to the standard.
We need regulation and we need
He added that he was pressing the Industry, Trade and Labor
Ministry to adopt the standard as a mandatory one.
Contractors & Builders in Israel Vice Director- General Eran Nitzan said
later in the meeting, however, that his association was fully behind the new
standard and wanted to see “thousands of certified buildings.”
added that the key to success was “developing a reasonable
Speaking to The Jerusalem Post after the meeting, Nitzan
elaborated as to why his association was suddenly in favor of a green building
standard after letting 5281 languish practically unused for five
“Green building is a developing movement. It’s a growing trend
worldwide and it’s going to be one here. In order to be a leading player in this
field, we need to be involved in green building,” he said.
Murphy told the Post after the meeting as well that involving the construction
industry at every stage is absolutely critical.
“It’s important to engage
the industry. Otherwise there could develop a fear factor since the contractors
are the ones being affected financially,” he said.
“Constant communication is critical. You can’t alienate the
BREEAM is routinely updated, Scott said in his presentation to
the caucus, and all of the relevant players sit on the committees, including
representatives from the construction industry.
Murphy also said that she
thought everyone here was very enthusiastic about developing a working green
building standard this time.
“This time around, everybody really seems to
be behind it and they all come across as incredibly passionate,” she
One potential drawback to the widespread adoption of green
building, nonetheless, is the added expense.
SII coordinator of
environmental issues Dr. Nitzan Eyal said the added expense was just 3%. He said
the standard was gaining steam and that more than 60 buildings around the
country were in the process of being certified. Entire neighborhoods were being
planned as green neighborhoods, he said.
However, Scott and Murphy both
said that at the beginning, green building would probably be more expensive
until green building materials could be certified and green consultants trained.
In the UK, though, there were places where green building was found to be no
more expensive than regular building, Murphy said.
During the meeting,
the contractors association’s Nitzan suggested a few financial
“Financial assistance should be given to people who want to
live in green buildings,” he said, “Tax breaks on development taxes for green
building should also be instituted, as should a government fund to offer
subsidized loans to those who buy a green apartment or house.”
suggested training additional agencies or companies to evaluate buildings
instead of just the Standards Institution of Israel.
Erdan suggested to
Bielski that he attempt to get incentives for green building included in the
“A developer that builds according to 5281 could, for
instance, be awarded more area for building,” he said.
The revision of
Standard 5281 will extend beyond office buildings to residential and public
buildings as well. Israel Union for Environmental Defense head Amit Bracha
pointed out that the 4,200 resource-guzzling schools across the country were a
prime target for retrofitting and new schools should be built using green
The Israel Green Building Council, an NGO, has been working
on a report highlighting incentives to encourage green building. Keren Schvets
suggested tax incentives for materials, loans and consultants.
recommended making the lower levels of the standard mandatory.