The Desert Architecture Unit of the Jacob Blaustein Institute for Desert Research was commissioned by the Israeli Ministry of Housing to design this "Bne-Beitcha" (build your own house) community. The member of the association, which was formed to build the community, consists of people who work in Midreshet Ben Gurion and as faculty in the two academic institutions in Midreshet Ben Gurion:

The first residents entered the new homes at the beginning of 1992. Since then the community is steadily growing.

Many of the members of the community (association) are involved in the research and educational activities in the Midrasha. They are living in the desert environment, learning its secrets and rules so they can pass their knowledge combined with the vision of the "Neve-Zin" community, a true solar oasis in the desert, to future generations.

The community of "Neve-Zin" is located adjacent to Midreshet Ben Gurion (on its eastern perimeter) - David Ben Gurionís final resting place - in the Negev Desert. The community overlooks the spectacular Zin Valley, cut through eons of geological time by r unning water attesting to past climatic conditions that modern inhabitants would find foreign. The Zin Valley - the biblical "Wilderness of Zin" where the ancients traversed, where caravans carried exotic spices and goods from the Near East through the ports of the Southern Levant to eager recipients in the world of the Mediterranean. The area is rich in archeological sites and treasures testifying to a glorious past.

"Neve-Zin" is an extension of Ben Gurionís dream of developing the desert into a place where man can thrive. The desert is frequently perceived as burden draining local resources into "war" against a perceived lifeless intrusion threatening the surroundin g civilization. In reality, with the appropriate care and means desertification can be controlled and the desert can become a contributing component to the local and national economy. "Neve-Zin" and its environs are living evidence of this.

The unique vision of the founders and planners of "Neve-Zin" has resulted in a singular building code unheard of in the State of Israel in terms of its breadth and scope, borrowing elements from a time tested past and the newest innovations that modern ar chitecture has to offer. When the community is viewed from any angle, it is clear that the design aspects of the building code provide for a clarity of perception and purpose. Proper spacing between houses prevents "urban heat island" phenomena while at t he same time affording adequate family privacy.

The vast majority of the homes in "Neve-Zin" are of passive solar design aimed at maintaining comfort conditions in spite of the extreme climate. The area is considered hot and arid in the summer, the winter is cold and temperature variability is high. Th e concept is simple: The structure of the house is built with insulating materials and with the proper mass that would allow for slow exchange of heat between the interior and the exterior of the structure.

The warmth of the "low" sun accentuated in the winter by large south facing windows allowing maximum penetration into the house. (many of the homes are equipped with dark floors thus augmenting the effect.) The heat that was absorbed during the day is sto red for the evening by closing the shutters of the windows, and giving the previously mentioned character of the structure, heat integrity is maintained until the morning. During the summer, the heat of the "high" sun is minimized by closing the white shu tters during the day thus reflecting the heat outwards. The summer evening of the desert are comfortable. The shutters and windows are opened allowing penetration of cool air into the structure. The following morning, the shutters and windows are again cl osed trapping the cool air in the house, thus allowing a comfort level unheard of considering no "conventional" air conditioning is utilized.

Additional information concerning the architectural aspects of the "Neve-Zin" community is provided in an artical published in the Arid Lands Newsletter.

To see some more pictures of the community as it is these days (December 1996) click here. For additional information concerning solar houses just click here.

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Last Update: October 6, 1997.