In Tel Aviv’s Rehov Hamasger, there are no green spaces. Here the motor vehicle
rules supreme, a perpetual traffic jam chokes the street and the air is yellow
with pollution. On one side of the road, new luxury cars are displayed in
glittering, glass-fronted showrooms. Opposite are the car graveyards, towering
piles of scrap metal. The side streets are a maze of car repair shops and sleazy
When I go in search of a cafe, I find only a gas station: in
its forecourt, uniformed workers are busy feeding hungry cars with gasoline and
Rehov Hamasger is hardly a place one would associate with concepts
such as “green,” “ecology” or “the environment.”
Unlikely as it may seem,
however, Rehov Hamasger is home to the avant-garde of Tel Aviv’s green
Right here in this polluted industrial zone, Azouri EcoTower
– the city’s first green office tower – is under construction. Developed by the
Azouri Brothers and designed by architect Keren Yevdub, stage one of the
EcoTower will open in January 2011.
Brothers Ronen and Alon Azouri are
proud of their project and hope it will spark a green revolution among Tel
“EcoTower is immensely important for the greening
of Tel Aviv,” Ronen Azouri emphasizes, while acknowledging that it was a
challenge to construct a green building in the White City.
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difficult to convince all of our technological partners that this was a good
idea,” he says. “But each of us brothers has a personal love for nature, and
that spurred us on.” Green or sustainable buildings – environmentally
responsible, resource-efficient structures – are already common in cities around
the world, but EcoTower is the first one of its kind in Tel
Absolutely everything about this 20-story tower has been
meticulously planned: construction materials, energy and water consumption, and
even the health and well-being of the people who will work there.
buildings use (and waste) an enormous amount of energy, particularly because of
artificial lighting and climate control. EcoTower incorporates several
cutting-edge green technologies to reduce energy consumption. Photo-voltaic
cells on the roof will generate electricity (“with love from the sun,” smiles
Azouri); a green air-conditioning system will save energy, “smart” windows will
let in daylight but keep out heat, and a water recycling system will save
millions of liters of water a year – very important as Israel faces a serious
Providing consultancy to the Ecotower project is British
mechanical engineer Guy Battle, founder of the carbon and sustainability
consultancy dcarbon8 Deloitte. Driven by growing consumer pressure to green up
their acts, companies are making sustainable buildings a mainstream concept,
“Consumers are more active and aware of green issues,”
Battle explains. “So brands are paying a premium to be green. These are the
sorts of people Ronen Azouri wants to bring to EcoTower.”
are a response to a serious global problem, says Battle: According to the Living
Planet report, Western lifestyles are literally costing the Earth as we consume
the planet’s natural resources at a dangerously unsustainable rate. The
“ecological footprint” – the number of hectares of land each person requires to
grow food, develop materials and dispose of waste – of Western nations is many
times higher than that of developing countries.
Where is Israel on this
scale? Our ecological footprint is 5.5 hectares per person, half as much as the
“That’s still not good,” says Battle. The earth can only support
around 2 hectares per person.
While green buildings are an important step
in reducing energy consumption and carbon emissions, they bring great benefits
on a very local scale, too. Both Battle and Azouri agree that an important
aspect of green buildings is the improved quality of life for those who work in
“It’s not just about the environment,” Battle
“There are social and economic factors at work here. It’s
about managing world expectations on the scale of individual cities and
Many of us spend almost as much time in the office as we do at
home. Although we try to make our homes as comfortable as possible, we often
don’t or can’t do the same with our offices. Harsh artificial lighting, lack of
control over room temperature, poor air quality, cramped spaces – all of these
can affect productivity and even our health.
address these issues. “Green buildings are healthier buildings,” says
A central feature of green buildings, including EcoTower, is the
physical comfort of the people who will work in them.
“To ensure comfort,
you need to take into account light, heat, sound and air quality,” says Battle.
It is ironic that many of the technologies we consider improvements over nature
– electric lighting instead of sunlight, air-conditioning instead of a natural
breeze – actually make us feel unwell and reduce our productivity.
the artificial lights and introduce a window, and employees are more productive.
They feel better, too.
Another way to make people happy is by allowing
them to open the windows of their offices to control the ventilation. This
simple act also saves energy (and money).
“Does Israel really need
air-conditioning 12 months a year?” asks Battle. “Can’t you just open the
window?” Controversial questions, indeed.
Azouri adds that EcoTower will
have two botanical gardens, on the fifth floor and the roof, intended as “relax
and breakout” spaces. Secure bicycle storage areas will provide an incentive for
employees to cycle to work or to local meetings – Azouri stresses that Rehov
Hamasger’s central location is ideal for this.
“I already walk to most of
my meetings in the area,” he smiles. “Well, except maybe in July and
With all these benefits, is it surprising that companies in
cities like London, Madrid and Melbourne are demanding sustainable buildings?
The trend has – just – reached Israel: This year, Intel’s new green building in
Haifa was awarded a Gold rating by the American LEED (Leadership in Energy and
Environmental Design) scheme.
Despite its desire to be a modern city, Tel
Aviv is lagging behind. Azouri and Battle say that EcoTower is an important
first step for the White City.
“EcoTower has been a massive challenge,”
“And it is also a major success.” Can EcoTower start a green
building trend in Tel Aviv? Azouri believes green issues are becoming an
important economic force here.
“EcoTower will be a gathering point for a
new community of green-minded businesspeople,” he says.
signed up to move into EcoTower include John Bryce and Mercedes
Green homes are coming to Tel Aviv, too. Among the many new
residential blocks planned for south Tel Aviv is an ecological apartment
building on Rehov Akiva Eger. Like EcoTower, this new green residential tower
will include smart lighting and water recycling.
“The switch to green
building happens in stages,” says Battle. “It takes courage to take the first
EcoTower has taken that crucial first step toward making the White
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