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CASE STUDY REVISIT: Examining Performance
Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation

Evanston, Illinois
November 2010
(Originally featured July 2009)
Ross Barney Architects

By Nadav Malin

Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation
Photo © Steve Hall/Hedrich Blessing
Over 18,000 square feet of reclaimed cypress was used for siding on the building.
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Location Evanston, Illinois (southwestern shore of Lake Michigan)
Gross area 31,600 ft2 (2,935 m2)
Cost $7.3 million
Completed February 2008
Program Assembly, daycare, library

Monthly Energy Use   Annual Energy Use  

Owner Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation
Architect and interior designerRoss Barney Architects
MEP engineers EYP Mission Critical Facilities
Commissioning agent Cotter Consulting
Environmental consultant HJKessler Associates

Energy bills and a user survey of the Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation’s synagogue in Evanston, Illinois, show the benefits of careful systems integration during design and comprehensive commissioning. Design-phase energy models, governed by the rules of ASHRAE Standard 90.1, predicted 41 percent savings against the 1999 version of the standard, and 35 percent savings off the more stringent 2004 version. They posted these impressive stats even though their base case was more challenging than expected, because the team concentrated the program into a smaller space than originally intended, and worked with a tight, 12-foot, floor-to-floor height.

Those models didn’t account for some of the more sophisticated energy-saving measures, however, including the use of displacement ventilation in the high-ceilinged sanctuary, modular chillers that operate efficiently in partial load conditions, and the buffer zone provided by the wide ceremonial stairway along the glazed south wall.

Thanks to measures like these, and ongoing, careful management of energy use by members of the congregation, natural gas use is significantly lower than that predicted by the models, and electricity is tracking with the model, in spite of the fact that the congregation has grown and the building is getting much more use than originally anticipated. With the additional occupants, water use has been slightly higher than predicted, but still 37 percent better than the base case.

Congregation members’ overall satisfaction with the building is extremely high, according to a post-occupancy survey. They were most pleased with the air quality, light, and views; noise and acoustics were not as well received.

The congregation’s environmental achievement extends beyond the building’s operations. Inspired by their LEED-Platinum certification, members have worked to encourage carpools and bicycling, minimize paper use, avoid disposable dishes, and use cleaning products without toxic chemicals.


This article appeared in the November 2010 print issue of GreenSource Magazine.

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