Through a combination of applied research, architectural design, and educational outreach, the Desert Architecture and Urban Planning unit addresses the issue of building in the desert - particularly the Negev Desert of Israel.
Researchers identify, study, and formulate solutions to specific problems of desert habitation, which stem both from natural conditions, such as resource availability and climate, and from human issues which take on special significance in an arid environment: thermal comfort, energy consumption, construction technology, urban form and regional development.
In addition to research, the staff engages in the design of selected architectural projects. These innovative works allow the expertise accumulated to be applied to actual design problems. Completed projects are utilized for monitoring and analysis, and for demonstration of the possibilities of bioclimatic architecture in the desert.
The publication of research findings and exhibition of architectural projects are part of the ongoing effort to disseminate knowledge about desert architecture to both practitioners and the general public. Other means include professional consulting, academic instruction, international conferences and professional seminars.
The Desert Architecture and Urban Planning unit is part of the Blaustein
Institute for Desert Research (BIDR), which is located at the Sede-Boqer
Campus of Ben-Gurion University
of the Negev (BGU) in the heart of Israel's arid southern region. The unit is part of The
Department of Man in the Desert, together with the unit for Social
Why Desert Architecture?
the environmental implications, man s dependence on non-renewable energy
resources continues to increase. In Israel, the equivalent of some three
tons of oil per person is expended in a single year - and as in most developed
countries, some 40% of this energy is consumed for heating, cooling, and
making buildings habitable. When the energy costs of building construction
and materials, on the one hand, and urban transportation, on the other,
are added to this basic load, it becomes clear that most of society s energy
use is influenced by architects and planners.
The burden of resource
use in buildings or urban settings can be minimized in many ways, and
the first requirement is a basic understanding of climate and local conditions.
This "bioclimatic" approach to architecture may be applied in the desert as
elsewhere, and its pertinence is in fact amplified:
characterized as an "extreme" environment, the desert makes considerable
inputs of natural resources, such as water and energy, necessary to provide
acceptable levels of human comfort.
opportunities for utilizing "natural energies"- solar radiation, night
ventilation, evaporation, or nocturnal sky radiation - are among the many
passive systems and design strategies whose effectiveness is especially
pronounced in an arid climate.
With sparse population and low
rates of development, arid regions have typically received little attention from
planning professionals. This means that standard building methods are predominantly
adapted for non-desert conditions. However, overcrowding in the heavily populated
centers of many countries is causing intense pressure for the development of
"peripheral" regions such as deserts - and accomplishing this in a sustainable
manner is an imminent challenge.