digital edition

Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation

Evanston, Illinois

Repairing the World: A LEED-Platinum synagogue uses passive strategies to achieve greater-than-expected energy savings.

By Allyson Wendt

Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation. Evanston, Illinois
Photo © Steve Hall/Hedrich Blessing
Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation. Evanston, Illinois

Rate this project:
Based on what you have seen and read about this project, how would you grade it? Use the stars below to indicate your assessment, five stars being the highest rating.
----- Advertising -----

LOCATION: Evanston, Illinois (southwestern shore of Lake Michigan)

GROSS SQUARE FOOTAGE: 31,600 ft2 (2,935 m2)

COST: $7.3 million

COMPLETED: February 2008

ANUAL PURCHASED ENERGY USE (based on utility bills):
52 kBtu / ft2 (590 MJ / m2), 61% reduction from base case

16 lbs. CO2 / ft2 (80 kg CO2 / m2)

Assembly, daycare, library

NC Version 2 Platinum

Monthly Energy Use

OWNER: Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation
LANDSCAPE: Oslund and Associates
ENGINEERS: EYP Mission Critical Facilities (MEP); C.E. Anderson & Associates (structural); Infrastructure Engineering (civil)

SITE WORK: GroundScape Kids rubber mulch; Barco Products Wave Bike Rack
CURTAINWALL: 6600 Series, CMI Architectural Products
GLAZING: PPG Solargray & PPG Solarban 60
SKYLIGHTS: Solatube International
DOORS: Horigan Urban Forest Products (reclaimed maple milled from site); United Woodworking (sanctuary/chapel, red oak); Algoma Hardwoods (classroom/office, red oak with FSC cores)
ROOFING: TPO membrane from Firestone
LIGHTING: T5 fixtures from Cooper Lighting, SP I Lighting, Cole Lighting, and Focal Point
PARKING LOT LIGHTS: Se’Lux Sonne, solar powered
WATER CLOSETS: Sloan Dual-Flush flushometer
LAVATORY FAUCETS: Moen metering 0.25 gpc
AIR-HANDLING UNITS: McQuay Vision modular AHUs
CHILLER: modular system from Airstack

Tikkun olam means “repairing the world” in Hebrew. Most often used to refer to doing something for the public good, it became the inspiration for the design of the synagogue for both the congregation and the project team, led by Ross Barney Architects, as they designed the LEED-Platinum building. The result, according to AIA Top Ten jury member Bill Leddy, FAIA, is “a beautiful, simple, elegant link between religious values and sustainable values.”

Having a client with such clear goals was useful, says Carol Ross Barney, FAIA. “It was beautiful to take on a project and to be able to guide it with a single principle.” With a limited budget, achieving LEED Platinum wasn’t easy. “We had to make sure we got the best technologies for the budget,” Ross Barney says. “It’s a very sensible building.”

Local ordinances limited the size of the building, which would sit on the same site as the smaller synagogue it replaced. Originally imagining a 42,000-square-foot building, the project team mapped hourly usage patterns and increased the flexibility of indoor spaces to arrive at the final 31,600-square-foot program. The result is a deceptively simple cube with spaces that can be used for many different purposes.

A smaller building had other benefits, both inside and out. Creating an electrical and plumbing core in the middle of the building pushed occupied spaces to the exterior walls, making both daylighting and passive ventilation easier. An open staircase along one side of the building provides an atrium where air can move from the ground floor up, exiting through an exhaust fan at the top of the staircase, promoting airflow. The stair also serves as a thermal buffer that moderates temperatures inside the building. Operable windows in the classrooms are located at the bottom and top of exterior walls, again promoting the upward flow of air. To augment these passive strategies, low-velocity displacement ventilation was used in the top-floor sanctuary. Elsewhere in the building, variable-air-volume devices have controls in each room so occupants can regulate ventilation rates.

High-performance glazing and walls with high insulation values (R-28) minimize heating and cooling loads. A high-efficiency (94-percent) gas-fired, condensing boiler provides heat and hot water, while an air-cooled, modular chiller with a 14-to-1 turndown ratio cools the space. A building automation system monitors the climate inside, indicating when natural ventilation will suffice; at those times heating and cooling systems turn off, and the windows in the staircase atrium open. Occupancy and daylight sensors control the lighting, enhancing energy efficiency.

According to Ross Barney, the building automation system allows them to keep a close eye on the building. “We are able to monitor small items that make a big difference in how the building operates,” she says. By observing each individual room, for example, the project team discovered a “short circuit” in the air-intake system that it was able to correct. The ongoing commissioning process has increased the performance of the building, which is using over 35 percent less energy than expected, despite increased members. The team attributes some of these unanticipated energy savings to a shortcoming in the energy simulation, which failed to account for the thermal buffer effect of the unconditioned stairwells just inside the glazed walls. But congregational involvement in managing energy use is no less important, says Ross Barney. A committee at the synagogue collects and reviews the performance data and continues to work with the project team to fine-tune the building.

Outside, the smaller size of the building allowed more room for stormwater management. Using pervious materials on 43 percent of the site allowed the team to reduce stormwater runoff by 25 percent. Underground cisterns collect rainwater and release it slowly into the ground to avoid overload. As part of their commitment to tikkun olam, members of the congregation saved existing plants, replanting them once the project was done. The rest of the landscape was planted with native and adapted species. Four maple trees from the site that could not be saved were milled and used for the building’s ceremonial entrance.

The project team wanted to stay away from complicated green strategies, and kept the building’s shape, circulation, and materials straightforward. This wasn’t always easy. According to Ross Barney, “The biggest challenge was making the building holistic and simple. It’s hard to be simple.”

Allyson Wendt serves as the managing editor at BuildingGreen, LLC.

share: more »

This article appeared in the July 2009 print issue of GreenSource Magazine.

 Reader Comments:

Sign in to Comment

To write a comment about this story, please sign in. If this is your first time commenting on this site, you will be required to fill out a brief registration form. Your public username will be the beginning of the email address that you enter into the form (everything before the @ symbol). Other than that, none of the information that you enter will be publically displayed.

We welcome comments from all points of view. Off-topic or abusive comments, however, will be removed at the editors’ discretion.

----- Advertising -----
Click here to go to product info Page
Sweets, Search Building Products
Reader Feedback
Most Commented Most Recommended
Rankings reflect comments made in the past 14 days
Rankings reflect comments made in the past 14 days
Recently Posted Reader Photos

View all photo galleries >>
Recent Forum Discussions

View all forum discusions >>