Kfar Saba: One of the greenest smart cities you’ve never heard of?

Wed, 2015-04-01 06:00 -- Doug Peeples

Speaking at a smart cities conference last year, an Israeli Energy and Water Ministry official declared that the primary goal for smart cities should be to accommodate the needs of all citizens rather than be a collection of smart technologies. In other words, a holistic approach.

What Eddie Bet-Hazavdi was getting at is smart cities are not all about technology. Quoted in The Jerusalem Post, he explained that a strategy for creating a true smart city needs to address energy, water, environment, communications, quality of life and emergency preparedness.

It’s possible that Bet-Hazavdi may have had Kfar Saba in mind. The city with a population of over 100,000, located in Israel’s Center District in the Sharon region, has taken many ambitious steps to overcome challenges and accommodate its citizens.

It should be noted that Kfar Saba was judged one of Israel's top 10 green regions for 2014 during the conference. The cities were judged on their efforts in energy efficiency, reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, green buildings, environmental education, sewage treatment, public transportation and more.

First things first
Like many other parts of the world, Israel has a water shortage problem, particularly for agriculture. Kfar Saba's solution was, with the help of private industry, the construction of a biofilter system to purify its polluted storm water runoff so it could be used for irrigation. The project, the first in Israel, has been considered a success and repeated elsewhere in the country.

Schools, public spaces are a part of the plan too
The city is also greening its schools, in more ways than one. The Green School, for example, is heated and cooled by geothermal energy. And environmental education has become a part of the curriculum for area elementary schools to encourage students to appreciate the benefits of sustainability and environmental stewardship.

The city also has a green neighborhood project underway – and its technology park is home to numerous companies involved in areas closely aligned to smart cities development, such as an award-winning developer of energy management systems for industrial and commercial enterprises as well as an innovator in LED street, residential and office lighting. The city also has a Recycling Park, intended as an open garden space with plenty of room for children to play and learn. When officials asked residents what they would like to see in their city, one overwhelming response was that they wanted to see more outdoor activities and leisure opportunities. The park is one example of the city’s response.

"I am proud of what the city of Kfar Saba is doing to be a smart city and green city in Israel. For several years, we have set the environment at the forefront of urban activity -- assimilating new technologies, reducing our carbon footprint and promoting environmental education," said  Kfar-Saba Mayor Yehuda Ben-Hamo. "And we have developed an advanced application that promotes the values of sustainability and a supportive community network." 

And another first
Kfar Saba also is the first Israeli city to have been recognized by Local Governments for Sustainability as a green city for its accomplishments and planning. Examples of those include:

  • Establishment of a green city administration to handle all urban planning
  • A management plan for solid waste separation and treatment
  • Mandatory energy efficiency standards for all new building construction
  • A plan for additional green space development
  • A plan for bringing environmental education into educational, sports, cultural and other activities

There is, of course, more to the story. But a key takeaway is that the city’s all-encompassing strategy for sustainability and livability seems to have consistently taken into account what its residents want.

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Doug Peeples is a Portland, Oregon-based writer specializing in technology and energy. Follow @smartccouncil on Twitter.

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