An Israeli team will participate for the first time in the qualifiers for the Solar Decathlon, a prestigious international competition for planning and building homes operating on solar energy.
The biannual event was first staged under the aegis of the U.S. Department of Energy in 2002. Each decathlon is contested by 20 teams from around the world. Israel is attempting to secure a place in the 2013 decathlon, set to be held in China.
The idea of starting an Israeli team came from Dr. Joseph Cory of Shenkar College and architect Chen Shalita. The two are working to build a team comprised of leading students in architecture, design, engineering and business administration from every academic institution in Israel.
In two weeks' time, they and several other lecturers will hold a summer course dedicated to building the team, studying the winning projects from previous years and planning how the Israeli project will be run over the next two years. All participants will be required to finance their share of the planning and building themselves, though the Shikun & Binui company will fund the initial preparations.
Cory termed the contest the environmental equivalent of the conquest of outer space. "It allows architects to finally plan for future needs, not for the world of yesterday," he said. "Bringing Israel into the race would boost the construction industry and the status of planners, and in the long run would make it possible to set a standard for buildings that are energy-efficient, economical and easy for the general public to maintain and purchase."
The project submitted to the decathlon must be a small house operating on solar energy and producing more energy than it consumes. Projects are rated on planning quality, energy efficiency and construction costs. The contest site eventually becomes an exhibition, with last year's event in Washington attended by over 300,000 people. The German team has won first place in the last two decathlons.
Cory said his first goal is to get onto the list of 20 teams taking part in the contest. He has so far recruited Shenkar's Interior Building and Environment Department and Tel Aviv University's Porter School of Environmental Studies.
He said he hopes that someday, a similar contest will be staged for the countries of the Mediterranean basin, "with a Moroccan team competing alongside an Israeli one."
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