Is there such a thing as a “green” shopping mall? What’s the difference between a “green” mall and the ordinary kind? Like the proverbial child asking the first of the Four Questions on a Passover Seder, I asked Benny Halif, project manager for the construction company overseeing the Ir Yamim project, why this particular mall would be different from all other Israeli shopping malls.The project in question is Netanya’s Ir Yamim (Sea City) shopping mall, now under construction at the entrance to southern Netanya’s new Ir Yamim residential neighborhood.“The Ir Yamim Mall is considered to be the first ‘green’ mall in Israel. It is being built with glass skylights in the upper floors to let it utilize natural lighting during the daytime. The airconditioning system will be more energy saving and the water from its cooling coils will be used for irrigating the lawns and gardens that will surround the mall,” he says.Halif adds that the building housing the mall is designed to absorb less of the sun’s heat during the day, and that most of its windows will not face the intense afternoon sunlight, which has been a problem for other area malls.Halif says that the mall is a “first” for this Netanya and justifies the new Ir Yamim neighborhood in which it is being built. “There are too many malls now in Israel and many do not match this quality of design and function,” he says.The Ir Yamim neighborhood marks a new era for residential neighborhoods in this coastal city of nearly 200,000. Although still not completely developed, the Ir Yamim neighborhood already includes a number of high-rise apartment buildings of 20 stories or more, and when completed, will also have at least three beach-front hotels.“A study was made regarding how much traffic is anticipated to flow into and out of Ir Yamim when the mall is completed. As a result of this study, extra entry lanes into the neighborhood were planned in order to accommodate this increased traffic flow. The parking lots for the mall were also planned in advance, with parking spaces for 1,550 cars available, most of them underground. The main entrance to the mall, on Zalman Shazar Street, is located on the mall’s eastern side, in order to face away from the afternoon sun,” Halif adds. Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan, who spoke at a green business conference in Netanya last spring, said that a number of commercial business projects in Netanya, as well as municipality ones, are now focused on being more “green.”Erdan said that the World Bank is involved in raising funds for environmental improvements, which could help long-term green projects (including commercial ones like the Ir Yamim shopping mall). The mall had been planned for the new Ir Yamim neighborhood for years before construction finally began in 2009.“I am sure that the future will be much improved regarding environmentally friendly development projects, and not only on a pure economic basis,” he said at that time.Yeruham Ish-Gur, a former secretary for the Israel Green Building Association, who assisted with the environmental planning for the project, said the new environmental standards now being used came into effect “only about a year ago.”Before that, he says, “Many such buildings were constructed according to standards that had changed little since original building codes came into being in the early 1950s.”“The new environmental parameters are definitely being integrated into the construction of this building,” he says. These include energy-saving lighting and specially constructed “thermo walls,” as well as insulation to keep buildings cooler in the warmer months. He says that the new, energysaving lighting is only now being used due to its increased availability and lower cost.However, he notes that “it’s really difficult to know how much energy will really be saved until the building is completed and studies are made when the mall is open and in full operation.”As part of the Ir Yamim mall’s energy-saving features, special florescent lighting is being installed that is more energy efficient than incandescent bulbs. New LED lighting (light-emitting diodes), which consumes less energy and last longer than older types of lighting, is also being used. “We thought about using solar panels to provide electricity, but came to the conclusion that presently solar panels are not advanced enough,” says Liora Rinat-Engel, who along with Gabi Gal is one of the two project architects from the Moore Yasky Sivan (MYS) architectural firm involved in designing the mall’s unique features, including landscaping.“We are landscaping this mall with 25 dunams of special greenery that do not require large amounts of water. This includes planting trees like palm, carob, tamarisk and sycamore. These trees need less water than other species. In other words, our aim is to provide ample greenery for the mall and use less water,” she says.Rinat-Engel, who has been with MYS since 2007, is also involved in designing other green malls. One is the 75,000 sq.m. Neot Hamidbar mall in Beersheba, the other a 60,000 sq.m. mall in Sofia, Bulgaria. The Ir Yamim mall will be 80,000 sq.m.Rinat-Engel says that collecting rainwater for irrigating the greenery will be done through the use of special collection pools, which will afterwards “return this water to the ground.”“We designed the building to take into account the heat caused by intense sunshine and have incorporated a balance between natural and artificial lighting. Window glass used in the building is a specially designed ‘low heat glass’ that will absorb less heat from the sun. No glass paneling or mall entrances are on the western side of the mall, where the sun’s heat is more intense in the afternoon,” she says.Heat reflection is also the reason for the unique white paneling that covers the outside of the building.Landscaping around the mall has been designed to keep the mall at a reasonable distance, up to 70 meters, from nearby residential buildings – the closest distance being 30 meters.“We also have designed an eight meter strip of land as a barrier to minimize land-digging use [during construction],” says Rinat-Engel.Samir Halaby, the project’s maintenance manager, took me on a tour of the unfinished building, scheduled to open its doors to the public in mid- March. After donning hard hats, Halaby showed me various sections of the mall, including the location of the food court, skylights on the two upper floors and the location of a large supermarket.“The supermarket is on the bottom floor, and the exit for shopping carts is also there so as not to interfere with shoppers on the higher floors,” Halaby said. He showed me an area located off the food court that is planned as an amphitheater for various events.“The north side of the building will shade this area during daytime hours,” he said.MYS architect Lior Rinat-Engel added: “This amphitheater will meet up with the tayelet [promenade] green belt, that when finished, will run from the center of Netanya all the way to the sea. The mall building is designed to shade the amphitheater as well. The amphitheater backs onto Netanya’s new sport and tennis center located just north of the mall.”Besides the amphitheater and the usual shopping mall amenities such as food courts and popular department stores like Hamashbir Lezarchan, Bennington, and The Gap, the mall will also have a health club and a special parking area for bicycles near the main entrance. Around 100 stores and food vendors will be located at the mall when it opens its doors next spring.The construction company involved in the building of the mall, Shikun & Binui, part of the Arison Group, is involved in a lot of green-building projects, says Rinat-Engel. As a result, there is now a new philosophy involving the integration of more “green” ideas into the building of large projects like office parks and shopping malls.“We have learned a lot from other shopping mall building projects regarding the need to build more ecologically friendly buildings. This idea is also being taken into account when designing other projects, especially ones like the Neot Midbar mall being built in water-scarce locations like Beersheba,” Rinat-Engel says.