Israeli Eco-Home Wins Big At International Solar Decathlon In China

By Sophie Imas, NoCamels August 18, 2013 Comments

Known as the “Olympics of Sustainable Architecture,” the Solar Decathlon is a biennial international design competition which challenges collegiate teams to design, build and operate solar-powered, net zero energy-consuming houses that operate in an affordable and attractive manner.

This summer, with their first time participating in the international Solar Decathlon, the Israeli team came in fourth place overall and second place for architecture and structure of their solar-powered eco-home.

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Incorporating values of environment, community, society and Israeli culture, the team hoped to develop and display a method of planning and design in which buildings could easily be subject to change, with the potential to be deconstructed, taken apart, modified and, more importantly, recycled. The team hoped to raise awareness of all these elements and better incorporate them into Israeli architecture.

Using ancient architecture for modern technologies

Team Israel brought in the old with the new – their design was based on the “Four Room Israelite House,” an ancient building structure found in the region from 3500 years ago, with rooms built around a central courtyard. These ancient building traditions already used solar passive design, which means they took advantage of a building’s site, climate, and materials to minimize energy use.

Their home, “All [e] Land” (a play on the term “The Holy Land”), was designed for optimal solar power and integrated technological elements such as photovoltaics, solar thermal collectors and building-integrated PV, together with vegetation. Alongside these modern technologies, the team also included distinctive cultural features, such as a “mashrabiya” (a type of oriel window enclosed with carved wooden latticework) which had both a functional and aesthetic significance in the design of the home.

The design provides an area for home-grown food and herbs, using recycled water. The team explained: “Furniture is designed to be multi-purpose, combining several functions, including storage. It is produced from sustainable and long-lasting materials such as bamboo and fiber-cement boards.”

“Using a modular approach, the structural elements, are covered by panels, which can be easily and affordably replace, so the basic investment in the house will be long-lasting, while the look can be updated with materials to suit all budgets.”

Supporting the local industry

The Israeli team also prioritized the use of solely environmentally-friendly materials throughout the house, in everything from the frame structure to the furniture, which were provided by Israeli companies specializing in renewable energy technologies.

The incorporation of Israeli technologies in the home allowed for them to be showcased in the sustainable energy industry throughout the competition. “I hope that this project will allow for more Israeli technologies to be advanced all over the world,” Shlomo Walk, chief scientist of the Energy and Water Ministry, told The Jerusalem Post.

The sustainable home has been two years in the making. The team was supported by approximately two dozen Israeli firms, whose renewable technologies were integrated into the house. The project also received much support from the Environmental Protection Ministry and the Energy and Water Ministry.

The team was comprised of 30 students, hailing from the Shenkar College of Engineering and Design’s department of interior and built environmental design, the College of Management Academic Studies’ department of interior design, Tel Aviv University’s Porter School of Environmental studies and the Neri Bloomfield School of Design. The students were led by architects Doctor Joseph Cory, a faculty member at Shenkar College and owner of Geotectura – Sustainable architecture, and Chen Shalita, owner of Alfa Sustainable Projects.

In the overall competition, the team came in fourth place behind the Australian University of Wollongong team, the South China University of Technology team and the Swedish Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenberg team. In the architecture and structure competition, the Israeli team came in second place only to the University of Wollongong team.

The Solar Decathlon was hosted at the Peking University from August 2nd through August 13th. It was sponsored by China’s National Energy Administration and the United States Department of Energy. The 22 participating teams came from a total of 35 universities in 13 countries across the globe.

Photos: Team Israel, Solar Decathlon China 2013

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