Israel's first 'living' building inaugurated

Not only was building constructed with recycled materials, it's designed not to disrupt natural flow of life at site.

January 26, 2010 23:39
2 minute read.
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat inaugurates the Gutman

barkat speaks 311. (photo credit: Ehud Zion Waldoks)

Just below the Knesset in the heart of Jerusalem, there's a small spot of nature where birds and birdwatchers can gather. The Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI) has operated a bird research center there for the past 16 years.

Between the Knesset and the Supreme Court, there's a newly refurbished birdwatching hide, a research center and now a brand new "living" visitors center. Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, Deputy Mayor Naomi Tsur, Prof. Yossi Leshem and many other SPNI officials inaugurated The Gutman Visitor Center on Tuesday morning.

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As national bird expert Leshem remarked, "There are now three major buildings on this hill. The two secondary ones are the Knesset and the Supreme Court."

In keeping with SPNI's mandate to protect the environment, the new building is unique in that it is a "living" building. Not only was it constructed with recycled materials for the most part, it is actually designed not to disrupt the natural flow of life at the site. There are holes in the stone walls, which are made from extra stone from a nearby building site, so animals and birds can make burrows. There's even a family of rare porcupines living behind the air conditioning vent, SPNI's Amir Balaban said on a tour of the building.

The building also has a "living" roof.

"The roof is a 'living roof,' and not a 'green roof.' What is a green roof? It is a roof of plants that require watering. A living roof is comprised of native Middle Eastern flora which bloom according to the seasons and do not require any watering," Balaban enthused.

Inside, the center provides maps, books, merchandise and houses art exhibits.

The refurbished birdwatching hide, made possible by the Beracha Foundation, now allows watchers to observe the birds in their natural environment, while staying out of the elements themselves. Pictures of the birds which one might see are placed above the observation hole for easy reference.

The research center is one of the natural spots that the Jerusalem SPNI plans to oversee and protect. While the organization encourages urban development rather than expansion into open spaces, it is also keen on preserving these little slices of wilderness in the city - even ones right next to the Knesset.

Despite the stormy weather, there was one uninvited but welcome guest to the ceremony and dedication - a bright blue-tailed kingfisher.

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