New research in Israel to transform old buildings into living ecosystems

A discussion with Professor Hadas Mamane ahead of the 2020 Boris Mints Institute Conference

Professor Hadas Mamane, head of the Environmental Engineering Program at the Faculty of Engineering at Tel Aviv University (photo credit: Courtesy)
Professor Hadas Mamane, head of the Environmental Engineering Program at the Faculty of Engineering at Tel Aviv University
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Conference to be held Thursday at 16:00 Israel time - click here to register and watch live
“Technology is not a magic bullet that will always solve any problem,” says Professor Hadas Mamane, head of the Environmental Engineering Program at the Faculty of Engineering at Tel Aviv University
Mamane will be presenting at the Boris Mints Institute 2020 Research Conference this Thursday, July 9th on new initiatives in Israel using green technology to solve real-world problems. “Our research team merges technologies to be human-centered, which means that the technologies are developed when looking at real challenges that people face in their communities”, she explains.
This year’s Boris Mints Institute conference, entitled ‘Israeli Innovation for a Better World,’ will focus on the themes of creating a greener future and tackling social inequality. The conference, which will be broadcast on Thursday, at 16:00 Israel time (click here to register and watch live) provides a platform to world-leading researchers who are working with the Boris Mints Institute at Tel Aviv University to solve major global challenges.  
Professor Mamane will be presenting on the development of a new project, dubbed ‘The Green Wall,’ which will create a sustainable ecosystem for waste, energy and water using Tel Aviv University’s Naftali building. Under her direction, a plant or ‘green’ wall, over 30m in height, will be constructed on the outer wall of the building. It will act as a living laboratory to analyze the uses of grey water (wastewater generated from sinks, showers, baths, and washing machines) in absorbing carbon dioxide, as well as the effects on heat transfer and energy generation within the building. 
Professor Mamane explains that while the concept of adding plants to building walls is not most often used for new buildings, the idea of retrofitting a green wall on an older building is unusual. Adding to the complexity of the project is the usage of grey water from the building’s sewage system, which requires re-calibrating the building’s water system to separate grey water from sewage. 
According to Professor Mamane, “There are many green walls around the world, and also in Israel, but this will also be a platform for research so that students can research a wide range of factors. We can examine if changing the plants’ composition can purify the water better than mechanical treatment. We want to use the biomass to generate energy, and we also want to add a green roof and examine different solar-based technologies. The idea is to create an external living lab, that the students can come, ask research questions, and we can guide them towards finding a solution.” In essence, she says, “the building itself will become both a research laboratory and the subject of study itself”.  Professor Mamane says that construction of the green wall is expected to take a year, with the initial research phase running over five years.
This place-based green research at Tel Aviv University will complement Professor Mamane’s ongoing work focused on communities in India, particularly meeting the challenges of sewage treatment, and contamination of water after flooding. “In every place, it is important to learn the culture and practices and how people relate to the water that they are drinking, before trying to intervene with technology. Once we understand how they view the water,  then we need to understand if intervention should be done via technology or education, or through other means. The Boris Mints Institute is looking for genuine solutions to global challenges, which can relate to water, energy, poverty – all challenges that we need to look to try to find ways to address them on a global level.”
The Boris Mints Institute is a part of the School of Social and Policy Studies at Tel Aviv University in Ramat Aviv and was founded by Dr. Boris Mints in 2015 to encourage research, planning, and innovative thinking in order to promote a significant positive change in the world. The Institute is focusing on delivering strategic policy recommendations and detailed blueprints for implementation to decision-makers worldwide, based on research conducted by the finest researchers and students in five research labs: Inequality, Renewable Energy, Sustainable Development, Water and Conflict Resolution. For more information about the Institute, please click here

This article was written in cooperation with the Boris Mints Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions to Global Challenges.