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Ross Barney Architects - Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation Synagogue Print E-mail
Thursday, 20 March 2008 03:28

Expected to be one of the first synagogues to obtain a LEED Platinum certification, this project located in the city of Evanston, Illinois,
has just been inaugurated in February.

The new synagogue for the Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation replaces the old building at the edge of a residential area, across from a city park and the tracks of the Skokie Swift commuter train. The design balances the limitations of a small site with an ambitious program that uniformly promotes its worship, educational, and community objectives.

All material are courtesy of the Architect

Jewish_Reconstructionist_SP.gifEvanston’s zoning ordinance, limiting building height and lot coverage, impacted the final building program and design solution.  The congregation originally identified 42,000 square feet of dedicated space to serve their needs.  The design met these needs in 31,600 square feet of flexible and convertible space.  The use of spaces from week to week, hour to hour, were traced over the building levels to find the best balance of all needs.

The project demolished the existing 21,400 square foot synagogue and constructed a new 31,600 square foot facility on the same site.  The new building has three floors containing the Congregation’s offices, early childhood program, and chapel on the first floor; their education offices, classrooms and library on the second floor; and the sanctuary, social hall and kitchen on the third floor.
The new facility includes spaces for worship and social events, as well as classrooms for Early Childhood, Religious, and Adult Education programs. The building includes space for the Congregation’s staff, a large teaching kitchen, the youth group, arts and crafts, and library with a media center and language laboratory.

Jewish_Reconstructionist_cover.jpg Organized to create communal spaces, the design reflects the Congregation’s character of a multigenerational group for whom the building is home.

Several ideas were formulated to make a sustainable transition from old to new.  The new building is built on the foundations of the old.  Rubble is placed in wire cages to create “gabion” walls to retain the edges of gardens and children’s playgrounds. The memorial trees that shade the existing building were cut down and reconstituted as paneling on the Ceremonial door in order to preserve the memory of those associated with their planting and care. The Congregation has placed, throughout the building, their collected words – lyrics, testaments, calls for protest – to be added to and to be enshrined in the building as a permanent testament of the Congregation’s work.  Art has been commissioned to contain the Torah scrolls and other ceremonial features.

Jewish_Reconstructionist_02.jpgSustainable Design

The plan to achieve a platinum rating required careful consideration of sustainable strategies, and a comprehensive, holistic approach to the building design.  The process included integration of site design, architectural planning, building materials, natural and mechanical ventilation, natural and artificial lighting, and HVAC and lighting controls.

The Congregation’s commitment to Tikkun Olam - to “repairing the world” –manifests itself through an assertive demonstration of sustainability and ethical architecture.  Using sustainable materials such as fly ash concrete, wood, and glass, and through strategies such as light harvesting and water conservation, the building was designed to achieve a LEED Platinum rating, as mandated by the Board of Directors. The congregation intends to be a leader within the larger community demonstrating the benefits of sustainable building design.

Sustainable Features

The building design incorporates a large number of products manufactured with recycled materials such as concrete with flyash, synthetic gypsum wallboard, structural, reinforcing and miscellaneous steel, exterior and interior metal studs. building insulation, steel doors and frames, countertops, toilet partitions, ceiling tile, carpet, playground mulch, reclaimed brick and limestone fill the gabion site walls.

Jewish_Reconstructionist_05.jpg The bimah is designed with over 1000 square feet of reclaimed black walnut from urban forests.
Four (4) crimson maple trees on the site, that could not be saved, were cut down and milled and clad the ceremonial door into the building.

The new synagogue features products made with rapidly renewable materials, including cabinets and shelving made with Dakota Burl, a board made from sunflower hulls and carpet with fibers made with bio-based polymers.

Overall, the new building was constructed with more than 40% regionally manufactured materials.  The one notable exception is the Jerusalem Stone used on the entrance wall, Chapel and Sanctuary.  The material was chosen for its spiritual and special connection to Judaism and Israel. The stone represents less that 1.5% of the total construction costs.

HVAC Systems
The HVAC system employs a number of strategies to reduce energy consumption and improve the indoor environmental quality. The Sanctuary was designed with displacement ventilation. Each space has a dedicated variable air volume (VAV) box controlled by occupancy and CO2 sensors. The system is designed to be responsive to the almost daily variations in the building’s operation.  The congregation expressed a strong desire to integrate natural ventilation into the new building.  To accomplish this goal, there are operable windows in all perimeter spaces. 
Natural Lighting
The interior lighting incorporates the use of architectural planning and the latest technology to reduce energy consumption and improve the quality of the indoor space.  The building plan places more than ninety percent of the occupied spaces on the exterior with access to daylight and views. To complement the natural sources, the artificial lighting in the Sanctuary is both dimmable and controlled by photocells. In the classrooms, the lights are controlled by occupancy sensors and are dual switched. Finally, more than ninety percent of the fixtures shall use T5 fluorescent lamps, and over fifty percent shall be indirect/direct pendants.

A long list of sustainable features used in the design and construction of the new synagogue. We just are mentioning a few: Reflective roof to mitigate the heat island effect, stormwater detention system to ease impact on natural environment and municipal systems, exterior light fixtures with full cut-off optics to mitigate light pollution, solar powered light fixtures to illuminate the parking lot, energy efficient design saving 40% over baseline, certificates for wind power, occupancy sensors for control of artificial lighting

Indoor Environmental Quality were enhanced by increased ventilation effectiveness, displacement ventilation in Sanctuary, and access to daylight and views for over 90% of the spaces.


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