Commitment to holistic approach produces inspirational structure
With careful consideration of sustainable strategies and a modest budget of $230 per sq ft, the Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation has achieved a LEED Platinum certification from the US Green Building Council.
The new building housing the JRC is a 31,600 sq ft facility replacing an existing 21,400 sq ft synagogue in a residential area of Evanston, an established Chicago suburb. Ross Barney Architects, with strong experience in community structures, created a design that balances the limitations of a small site with the congregations’ ambitious program promoting worship, educational, and community goals.
Following the clear mandate by the Board of the synagogue to be as “green” as possible, several ideas were formulated to make a sustainable transition from old to new: the new building is built on the foundations of the old; local demolition rubble is placed in wire cages to create “gabion” walls to retain the edges of gardens and children’s playgrounds and the memorial trees that shade the existing building were cut down and reconstituted as paneling on the Ceremonial door.
The JRC spreads over 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. This layout strategy allowed cost effective construction of high volume space for the sanctuary.
A three storey Jerusalem stone clad wall provides a counterpoint and anchor for the box structure as well as a baseline for all other activities. The processional stair located on the outside of the wall provides a meaningful and eventful transition between spaces.
Equipped with solar powered light fixtures, storm water retention system, exterior light fixtures with full cut-off optics to mitigate light pollution, the “wooden box” shaped synagogue is a visual statement of the “green” vision of the congregation.