A neighborhood planned for arid conditions in Israel's Negev desert.
Ha'aretz newspaper reported last week that Israel's parliament, the Knesset, plans to promote financial incentives for green construction. Israel already has a progressive taxation policy on imported vehicles, with less polluting vehicles such as hybrid sedans subject to lower taxes than more polluting models. Now the idea is to reduce the energy usage of Israel's building stock, which, according to a report prepared by the Knesset, could account for up to 40% of the country's energy consumption.
The Treasury's committee on green taxation will be charged with creating incentives to encourage greener construction methods through subsidies and tax benefits. A representative of the building contractors' organization suggested granting increased building rights to contractors (in other words, allowing contractors to add floors beyond what existing zoning allows) for environmentally-friendly buildings. Both the contractors and government officials agreed that a single regulating body needs to be set up to deal with the issue, in order to handle the proposed incentives more efficiently.Israel already has a "green building standard" in place which works something like LEED does in the USA, but is completely voluntary and does not include any financial incentives. The standard was launched in 2005 and covers issues like energy, water, land, waste and transport.
Though the concept of green building is still somewhat of an esoteric one to the average Israeli home-buyer, and awareness among building contractors is not much better, various green building projects have been undertaken in recent years as environmental awareness has developed. Here is a partial list compiled by Israel's Ministry of Environmental Protection. Ironically enough, one of the biggest "green" building projects planned for the near future is a controversial army training base in the south of the country. Opposed by all of the major green organizations due to its proximity to a toxic waste dump, the base would reportedly be built according to green building principles, designed to be energy efficient and suitable to a desert climate.
In other sustainability news from Israel, the government plans to publish a tender next month for a 250 megawatt solar power plant. Although Israeli companies have built several solar power plants outside the country, the new plant would be the first of its kind in Israel, where the sun is almost never in short supply.