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.
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 Studies.
Why Desert Architecture? Despite the environmental implications, mans 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 societys 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:
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.