Ecological award-wining building in Arab Israeli town of Sakhnin combines environmental elements used in traditional Arab construction hundreds of years ago -
Ecological building methods incorporating elements like thermal insulation, power saving and water circulation, usually entail increased costs, but in the Israeli Arab sector a new solution was found by using traditional building methods.
The Arab sector has been adopting modern building methods in recent years. A recent conference in the northern Arab town of Sakhnin focused on how traditional and modern methods could be combined.
The conference was hosted in Towns Association for Environmental Quality-Agan Beit Natufa, which is housed in a green building.
The green building project was designed by architect Abed el-Rahman Yasin according to energy saving architectural principles, and using local building materials.
Today it is used mainly as an educational center and research and implementation center for green building technologies.
The green building is considered a success story, and offer an especially efficient thermal insulation and low energy consumption. Soon after it was built, the designers' accomplishment was recognized by the Union of the Mediterranean, winning the first prize in a competition on energy conservation in building.
In addition to honors, the Towns Association also received a grant of NIS 500,000 (roughly $130,000) to invest in developing new energy efficient elements such as a wind turbine and solar panels. Today the building features 20 different energy saving elements, most of them are based on traditional Arab building methods.
The Arab sector today is less prone to use the traditional methods used by our fathers, but our objective is to restore those methods," said Dr. Husein Tarbiye, of the Town Association of Beit Natufa. It appears that every element in traditional Arab building has a purpose, said Tarbiye, but today it is more difficult to find buildings that incorporate these methods, since most engineers are looking ahead to implement modern building methods.
"Our fathers were right," continues Tarbiye. "Just look at the old mosques and palaces without electricity. They are still very tempered." According to Tarbiye, the traditional building elements are now advocated among engineers and contractors, and they are not stopped at the sector but presented to Jewish contractors and costumers as well.
One striking symbol of traditional Arab building is the patio, which has important role in preserving energy. The patio helps cool the air inside the building by allowing a better circulation of air.
Large doors to the patio help control the air circulation in different hours of the day. Windows facing the patio create pleasant sitting places, and add more circulation options. A water fountain at the center of the fountain contributes to the cooling effect of the patio, on top of its decorative appeal.
Another unique element to traditional Arab building is the fanning chimney that moves cooler air into the rooms, the higher the chimney the cooler its effect, sprinkled water inside the chimney adds to its natural air conditioning ability.
The tall windows in the building are not a design error but have key role in enhancing air circulation.
The insulation in the house is made out of local materials including locally chiseled stone, plaster and straw. The use of a dome is symbolic of traditional Arab building but it also helps maintaining cooler temperatures inside the building. At the base of the dome, four windows help remove the hot air, allowing cooler air enter the room.
To save power use in the building, the engineers put special hatches in the ceiling to increase natural light inside the rooms. A special sphere like device allows the light to enter the room but stops the rain. Using colorful glass the engineers can control the levels of heat radiating from sun light.
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