Green building code to be upgraded to int’l standards

The NIS 2.5 million cost of the update process is being funded by the Environmental Protection Ministry.

By EHUD ZION WALDOKS
October 14, 2010 06:21
3 minute read.
LEED Gold certified IBM Haifa building

311_IBM Haifa building. (photo credit: Courtesy)

The country’s green building code, which has lagged behind international standards, will be brought up to speed during the course of a revision process that will last until March, the Standards Institution of Israel announced Wednesday.

Standard 5281 is a voluntary building code for constructing resource efficient buildings that emit less greenhouse gases.

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Compared to international standards like the American Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) or the British Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM), 5281 is limited in scope and more lenient in its requirements.

However, as per the direction of Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan (Likud) the five-year old standard will be brought up to speed.

British company British Research Establishment, which wrote the BREEAM standard, has been contracted as consultants to the process. They are already hard at work on their analysis and are expected to offer their initial insights in the coming days. They will be meeting with Israeli experts in December to hammer out the changes.

Buildings are massive users of resources and emitters of greenhouse gases. A third of greenhouse gases are emitted from buildings – primarily offices. Worldwide, 30 to 40 percent of energy is used by buildings as well as 17% of fresh water, 25% of wood harvests and 40-50% of raw materials.

A green building can reduce those amounts by anywhere from a half to a third.

There are green building standards in over 20 countries around the world.

Experts have likened green building standards to the nutritional information on the side of a box of food or the energy efficiency listings on appliances.

The standard and the process show exactly how a building uses its resources.

Israel’s ecological footprint per person is akin to that of the United Kingdom, so green buildings make sense in the Israeli context as well.

Green building standards take into account everything from the direction of sunlight on the building, to bike rooms and showers, to sophisticated control systems for heating, air conditioning and lighting.

Renewable sources of energy like solar panels and wind turbines are also included. The LEED and BREEAM systems provide highly detailed checklists that contractors must meet in construction. Green building also takes into account the full lifecycle of the building – from its construction to its destruction.

LEED is updated every two years, but 5281 hasn’t been updated since its inception in 2005. One of the major issues that will be addressed in the update process is how to make the green standard, or at least parts of it, mandatory for all buildings. The direction now is to make at least some aspects mandatory even if the updated standard itself will still be voluntary.

In England, for instance, all buildings must meet basic green standards, but BREEAM is still a voluntary accreditation system.

The updated standard will apply to many more types of buildings than just residential and office buildings. It will include schools, community centers, hotels, hospitals and more. Accreditation courses will also be offered to architects and contractors, the Standards Institution said.

In Israel, businesswoman Shari Arison’s Shikun & Binui has pledged to build all of its new buildings according to Standard 5281.

So far, few green buildings have been built in Israel. Intel’s new building in Haifa is a certified LEED Gold building – as well as 5281 – and another office tower in Tel Aviv is set to break ground next year. In general, the construction industry is very conservative and change is not easy to inculcate. Nevertheless, green building is expected to pick up in Israel much as it has in other Western countries. Despite public perception that green building is much more expensive, it is only 2-5% more expensive than a regular building and will save a lot more money in the long-run because of its efficiency, experts contend.

The revision committee is headed by Environmental Protection Ministry director-general Yossi Inbar and includes representatives from the Interior and Construction and Housing Ministries, the Standards Institution of Israel and the Israel Green Building Council. The NIS 2.5 million cost of the update process is being funded by the Environmental Protection Ministry.


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