Green Construction to Become Mandatory in Israel From 2021

Long voluntary and used mainly in wealthy cities, the savings and environmental benefits will now reach everyone

Green housing project in Karkur, 2014.
Eyal Toueg

After 15 years of delays, Israeli construction will soon begin a green revolution. Mandatory standards for environmentally friendly construction developed by the treasury’s Israel Planning Administration are due to go into effect soon.

The standards, which will be implemented in stages, will apply to residential and office buildings as well as to hotels. They mandate that buildings be insulated and that the designs be efficient and cost-saving, in part by taking advantage of light and heat from the sun to save electricity.

Also, plumbing and heating systems must use energy-saving technology, and buildings must include waste-recycling facilities.

Buildings account for 40% of all energy used in Israel, which has committed to reduce greenhouse gases. Still, the green construction standards that were adopted in 2005 have remained voluntary. When they were applied, it was as a luxury for wealthier homeowners, who enjoyed the resulting savings in electricity and water bills.

“Making the green standard mandatory for all buildings in Israel is nothing less than ending a historical injustice of many years,” said Galit Cohen, an official at the Environmental Protection Ministry. “Making it mandatory will lower the cost of living for the residents of the Galilee and the Negev” in the country's outskirts.

The Environmental Protection Ministry estimates that today only about 35% of new buildings in Israel meet green standards. The Forum of 15 – which groups Israel’s socioeconomically strongest cities such as Tel Aviv and Netanya – requires green construction. But most construction in the last few years has been in the outskirts.

“This initiative isn’t important just in connection with climate change and the need to build with materials that are safer and less costly for households. Above all it’s a social undertaking,” the planning administration said.

“The market already makes available green construction materials, and there are contractors who know how to build correctly, but the green projects are all located in well-off communities. They’re developed for those who have means. People from lower socioeconomic groups don’t benefit.”

The green standards will be introduced gradually. Buildings will be awarded one to five stars based on standards; at the start, they will only be required to meet the one- and two-star level.

New residential projects of 10 stories or more seeking a building permit starting on July 1, 2021 will have to meet at least the one-star standard. The requirement will be extended on January 1, 2023 to all residential projects ranging from six units to 10 stories. Two years after that, all projects seeking permits for residential buildings of 15 stories or more will have to meet the two-star level.

As for office buildings, hotels, hospitals and other nonresidential structures, green standards will go into effect on July 1, 2021 at the one-star standard.

One reason the building industry says it has been slow to adopt green building standards is the cost. But a study by the Israeli Green Building Council found that while the extra cost varies by how high a standard is used, in Israel the average cost is only 1% to 5% more for office, residential and hotel construction.

The Environmental Protection Ministry estimates that the green standard will raise the cost of each new home built by 5,000 shekels ($1,460).

For home buyers, the higher cost is offset by savings later. The ministry estimated in 2017 that the average family living in a house meeting green standards can save 1,000 shekels annually on electricity costs.

It reached its estimate by taking electricity bills from comparable buildings that in each of 12 cities surveyed met green standards or didn’t. The estimate doesn’t include other savings such as more efficient water usage.

“Adoption of the rules and green building standards could achieve savings of 20% to 30% on energy usage in buildings and reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the cities,” said Dalit Zilber, the planning administration’s director.