Student Dormitories at the Sede-Boqer Campus

The student housing complex at Sede-Boqer was designed as a direct architectural response to the desert climate in the Negev highlands. A major goal was, through manipulation of the building's form, to minimize the extreme climatic stresses and exploit the natural energies that characterize the region.

The building cluster contains four blocks of attached row houses, organized around a small central courtyard and narrow walkways. This compact composition is intended to minimize exposure both in and out of the actual building. Each unit is insulated rather than exposed to the east and/or west, leaving north and south facades open to sun and wind when desired. All pedestrian paths are shaded in the summer by deciduous-vine covered pergolas and maintain a minimum width required to preserve winter solar access to the northern units.

Both the overall form and detailing of the building aim to minimize the burden of intense overhead radiation in the summer. The triangular envelope, firstly, encloses a larger useful volumne with less exposed surface area than does a conventional rectilinear shape. Also the steep slope of the tilted walls deflects high-angle radiation and reduces heating of the surface.This reduction is emphasized by lightweight shading devices which keep the entire envelope shaded from direct radiation throughout the critical summer months. The building's heavy construction of precast concrete panels and full contact with the earth provide thermal mass to stabilize temperature swings, and the mass is further protected from heating by a layer of expanded polystyrene insulation. In order to remove heat that has accumulated during the day, the reliable drop in evening temperature is exploited for cross-ventilation. Operable panels in the building's upper flat ceiling, which is heavily insulated and covered by a lightweight shading structure, bring prevailing winds through the building by way of north-facing louvers; when outdoor air is still, the flow is reversed and heat is vented upward by natural convection.

During the winter months, the building envelope functions as a classic passive solar greenhouse, admitting low-angle sunlight under the shading devises and through large south-facing glazed areas. Well insulated from the outside, the concrete mass stores converted heat and slowly reradiates to the interior at night. In addition to the operable louver panels, special insulated curtains can be closed over the glass-wall to prevent conductive heat loss. In order to insure solar access throughout the winter to all units, the northern rows are raised on a podium and set back behind an entry patio. An accessory advantage to the steeply tilted wall is realized by installing solar collectors flat against the surface, whose angle is perpendicular to the midwinter sun's noon altitute. As the water tank is hidden within the upper triangular structure, the entire solar water heating system is integral and continuous with the building form.