by Isaac A. Meir and Yair Etzion
Center for Desert Architecture and Urban Planning

and Prof. David Faiman
Center for Energy and Environmental Physics



Desert regions are characterized by relatively harsh environmental conditions: wide temperature fluctuations between day and night, hot summers and cold winters, extreme daily and seasonal variations in relative humidity, very strong sunlight, dry spells interspersed with cloudbursts causing flash-floods, lack of vegetation and monochromatic scenery - all of which affect man and the built environment. A lack of attention to these special constraints can adversely affect the design of buildings and clusters, making them uncomfortable (thermally and otherwise), and creating, among other things, a heightened demand for energy input to improve the microclimate.

The energy crisis of the 1970's brought to the world's awareness the need to conserve nonrenewable energy reserves. Furthermore, the increasing awareness of environmental quality issues emphasizes the need for more efficient use of natural resources. Many studies carried out and methods developed in recent years can promote the appropriate design of buildings and settlements. Such design, better adapted to the natural environment, may help improve microclimatic conditions within the built space. These issues are of relevance and great importance to Israel, whose arid regions cover more than 65% of the country's area. In the past, development and construction processes in the Israeli desert were influenced by various constraints, which usually did not permit reference to climatic problems. The knowledge accumulated since then on the subject of bioclimatic design, as well as the massive immigration witnessed during the early 1990s, are creating a new opportunity to develop Israel's desert, to satisfy the needs of the population while conserving energy and turning settlement in the Negev into a model to be emulated.

This guidebook, "Energy Aspects of Design in Arid Zones", deals with building design and techniques which permit energy conservation and which are appropriate for different areas in the Negev: the Negev coast, the Negev lowlands, the Negev highlands, and the Arava. The guidebook consists of three parts, each one dealing with a different design level.

The first part is an introduction to the desert and its various characteristics, climate, thermal comfort and appropriate design.

The second part of the guidebook discusses the individual building in all its aspects and the subjects: thermal insulation, thermal mass, solar penetration, air infiltration, natural ventilation, as well as elements of the structural envelope. Methods for mathematical and empirical calculations, design and evaluation of the thermal performance of the components of the structure are also presented.

The third part deals with various aspects of urban design, including different approaches to the design of buildings and neighborhoods to create public areas protected from climatic elements. This section discusses, among another matters, the criteria for site selection, typologies of buildings and open spaces, and different methods for protecting the built environment from dust and sand storms, sun, wind and rain. The Appendices at the end of the guidebook include data on solar angles, shadow lengths and varieties of desert vegetation.

The guidebook is designed with a standard format, wherein each page is divided either into three columns: text, notes and references, and illustrations; or into two columns: text and examples. This format permits a better understanding of the material and its background and a quick and convenient approach to additional sources and reading material.

The guidebook deals with theoretical material (climate, thermal comfort, basic concepts in building climatology) and in design subjects, from the level of the building cluster to the level of building details. The extensive and varied areas dealt with in the guidebook are aimed at turning it into a tool to be used by different professional groups: architects, urban and regional planners, policy makers and students.

The guidebook was written by Arch. Isaac A. Meir and Dr. Yair Etzion, both from the Desert Architecture Unit, and Professor David Faiman of the Center for Energy and Environmental Physics, all of the Jacob Blaustein Institute for Desert Research, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. Its preparation and publication was financed by the Division of Research and Development of the Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure, encouraged by Dr. Abraham Arbib, Director of Division of Research and Development. Arch. Nathan On-Bar, and Eng. Nahum Granot - consultants of the Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure on matters of construction and buildings - accompanied the writing of the guidebook from its inception, and contributed to its final form. Arch. Daniel Shen, Director of the Technical Section of the Ministry of Housing, Southern District, contributed his experience and judgment. We thank each and every one of them for their help.