REHOVOT, Israel -- November 13, 1996 -- An environmentally friendly building designed to rely as little as possible on energy from polluting fossil fuels was dedicated this week at Israel's Weizmann Institute.
The Sussman Family Building for Environmental Sciences contains a range of special features that promise to cut electricity expenditure for lighting, heating and cooling nearly in half.
"It is only appropriate that a building for environmental studies should help decrease the use of polluting fuels," said Prof. Steve Weiner, Head of the Weizmann Institute's Environmental Sciences and Energy Research Department.
In the future, the Sussman Building may become a model for energy-saving structures in Israel and other countries where the climate requires both cooling in the summer and heating in the winter.
Through a series of ingenious design elements, the new building's planners managed to turn some potentially energy-expending architectural characteristics into cost-effective benefits.
For example, the spacious roof that would otherwise allow heat to escape in the winter holds a hothouse for plant research, which not only keeps the heat in, but actually serves as a source of warm air pumped into the heating system. In addition, the large roof surface contains numerous skylights that provide natural lighting.
Light also pours into the building's labs and offices through large windows equipped with special sun shades and venetian blinds that act as light shelves to direct the light into different parts of the room, while outside grids cast a shade that prevents overheating. The need for air conditioning and heating is further reduced by thermal insulation in the walls and ceiling fans that create a cooling breeze in the summer and prevent hot air from accumulating at the ceiling in the winter. During summer nights, a special system will let cool air from the outside into the building, thus reducing the need for daytime cooling.
In the laboratories, the fume hoods that remove noxious vapors are equipped with "smart" sensors that switch them to high capacity only when a person stands nearby. The air conditioner, in turn, has "smart" valves that let in fresh air only when the hoods are operating at high capacity, compensating for the air that has been expelled.
A simple but effective design feature also makes for energy-smart personnel: conveniently located light switches turn on the light only in the darkened parts of the lab, while less conveniently located switches turn the light on near the windows, to prevent people from thoughtlessly turning on lights that in daytime are not necessary. As for the electric lights, their effectiveness is enhanced by special reflectors that diffuse light throughout the room. These lights will automatically switch off when the facilities are not in use.
The Sussman Family Building for Environmental Sciences will eventually house about 80 members of the Institute's Environmental Sciences and Energy Research Department. They engage in a wide range of research projects that include preventing water and soil pollution, understanding global climate changes, elucidating the interaction between plants and the environment, and harnessing solar energy.
Funding for the building was provided by S. Donald Sussman, a major supporter and benefactor of the Institute, member of its Board of Governors, and Chairman of the American Committee for the Weizmann Institute of Science.
The building was designed by architects Edna and Raphael Lerman, and Dror Sdomi. Special consultant on environmental architecture was Prof. Edna Shaviv of the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology. Construction was supervised by the Weizmann Institute's Chief Engineer Avraham Dines.
Prof. Weiner holds the I.W. Abel Chair of Structural Biology andheads the Sussman Family Center for the Study of Environmental Sciences at the Weizmann Institute.
A photo of the Sussman Family Building for Environmental Sciences is available upon request.
The Weizmann Institute of Science is a major center of scientific research and graduate study located in Rehovot, Israel.