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Green Knesset Team, Tel Aviv Porter School Explore Environmental Collaboration Opportunities

By Expert Author: Kristle Abalos

Eager to pursue environmental collaborations with Israel's educational institutions, members of the Knesset's management system visited Tel Aviv University's forthcoming green building.

Knesset director-general Ronen Plot and parliamentary management staff spent Thursday afternoon with the leadership of the university's Porter School for Environmental Studies, which will open its state-ofthe- art, LEED Platinum building in mid-May.

As part of the parliament's newly launched "Green Knesset" program, its executives are exploring the possibility of arranging joint research programs on environmental policy and other collaborative ventures with various educational institutions.

Initiated on January 1, under the leadership of Plot and Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, the Green Knesset project aims to transform the legislature into a House that runs on energy-saving principles.

Creating a more sustainable Knesset building will involve, among other plans, covering the building's roof in 3,600 sq.m. of solar panels and revamping the water, air conditioning and lighting systems. Already, two electric vehicle charge spots have been installed, plastic water bottles have been eliminated from committee meetings and the Knesset has committed to increasing its usage of recycled paper.

The new building of the Porter School, which is scheduled to open its doors on May 17, is located about 700 meters above the University Train Station on the university's highest peak.

With a modern glass fa├žade, the building contains seethrough laboratory research cubes and a spaceship-like meeting room called The Capsule, which protrudes from the building's side.

Construction of the new building was financed by Dame Shirley Porter, former lord mayor of Westminster and leader of the Westminster City Council, whose Porter Foundation provided the initial funds for the Porter School of Environmental Studies.

"We feel that by having a building that is highly technical, other people will use this as an example," Porter said during the visit.

Stressing that "Israel has to be a place of the future," Porter said that she constantly feels "a new spirit emerging" in the country.

Despite the major commitment and costs associated with transitioning to sustainable infrastructure, Porter said that government encouragement toward such practices provides a positive incentive to members of the public.

"It is my hope that Israel is going to advance on every aspect of the environment," she said.

As the building she funded nears completion, Porter provided some advice for those involved with transforming the Knesset building into a sustainability hub.

"When you do a project so multi-faceted it takes enormous teamwork - you have to forget all preconceived ideas and move forward," she said.

On a tour of the soon-to-beopen building, Arie Nesher - professional director of the Porter School and architect by trade - showed the Knesset members a wide range of energy saving mechanisms operating all over the building, from solar-thermal air conditioning systems to graduated room lighting based on window proximity.

"Our elevator produces electricity," Nesher said on the tour.

"I hope that the elevators in the Knesset will produce electricity one day."

Like Porter, Nesher said that he hoped this building can serve as a living "study building" for green construction.

Samuel Chayen, spokesman for the Green Knesset project, told The Jerusalem Post that the parliament's managers are "thinking of using the Israeli Knesset as a study building just like this one."

The group already has a similar meeting scheduled with representatives of the University of Haifa and is in the process of arranging meetings with other institutions as well. Invitations have also come from other parliaments all over the world interested in greening themselves, Plot said.

"I think that the Knesset would be a great place for research on issues like environmental management," Chayen said.

Emphasizing the importance of research, community involvement and other joint opportunities, such as green tourism, Nesher said he felt cooperation between the Green Knesset team and the Porter School would be fruitful.

Together, he told the Post, he hopes the institutions could create "a core of innovative technology" that would be a key component of "the sustainable green tourism in Israel."

Praising the Porter School leaders for accomplishing a vision in sustainability, Plot reiterated the importance the Knesset sees in working together with the academic institutions and environmental organizations on achieving a greener future.

"I have no doubt that we need to cooperate with you because the knowledge exists here," he said.

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