Please allow me to brag just a bit about my synagogue, Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation, which is currently constructing a brand new building in Evanston, IL. We’re looking to earn a gold rating with the US Green Building Council, which would make it the “greenest” synagogue in the country!
Here’s a recent Chicago Tribune article describing our project:
October 27, 2006
Temple Plans Eco-Friendly Makeover
An Evanston congregation hope to become the nation’s first “green” synagogue.
By Deborah Horan
Tribune Staff Reporter
By building a new home with salvaged brick, low-flow toilets and solar-powered lights, the Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation in Evanston hopes to become to first certified “green” synagogue in the nation.
Congregants said they drew from Jewish teachings on respecting God’s creation when they decided to construct the $6.5 million house of worship according to U.S. Green Building Council “gold status” specifications.
“Anything we can do to help the environment is in our best interest and in our children’s best interest,” said Alan Saposnik, the synagogue’s board president.
The congregation held a groundbreaking ceremony Sunday to celebrate ambitious plans to replace an older synagogue at 303 Dodge Ave. with the new one at the same spot. The old synagogue is being demolished, and the green-friendly one is slated for completion by the end of 2007.
During a recent sermon titled, “Walking the Walk: The Sacred Art of Energy Conservation,” Rabbi Brant Rosen told the congregation that God created the world to be inherently sustainable and that sustainability depends upon human behavior.
“To put it simply, the future of our world is up to us,” Rosen said, according to a transcript.
Sapsosnik said the new synagogue will feature energy-efficient boilers, heavy insulation, flourescent lights inside the synagogue and solar ones in the parking lot – all designed to reduce energy consumption by about a third from the usual standards.
Sensors will automatically shut off lights if they detect no movement in a room. Large windows will maximize natural light, and a white roof will deflect sunlight to reduce dependancy on air conditioning in the summer, Saposnik said.
The landscaping won’t require permanent irrigation, and about 80 percent of the building material will come from recycled sources, including old bricks from the demolished synagogue. Architects plan to use recycled cypress wood to build the facade.
“We want to use material that might have gone into a landfill,” said Michael Ross of Ross Barney Architechts, which designed the new synagogue.
Each element of the desgin that conserves energy earns points toward Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification, said Helen Kessler of HJ Kessler Associates, a consultant working with the synagogue.
A score of 39 qualifies a building for gold status; a score of 52 confers platinum status.
The synagogue went for gold because many of the features that would have counted toward a platinum rating – such as a geothermal heat pump system – were too expensive, Kessler said.
In January, the synagogue became the first in the nation to register with the Green Building Council to become LEED certified. Only one place of worship – the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Wooster, Ohio – has earned gold status, according to Caitlin Bennett, a council spokeswoman.
The council will not grant certification to the synagogue until it can inspect the building after completion, Bennett said. But according to the design, it is on track to earn 40-odd points, Kessler said.
Few non-profits and places of worship seek LEED certification because going green can be expensive, Saposnik said. The green-friendly features of the Evanston synagogue, for instance, will add $650,000 – roughly 10 percent of the building’s total costs.
The synagogue received a grant of $105,000 from the Illinois Clearn Energy Community Foundation to help defray those costs, said Bob Romo, program officer at the foundation.
The synagogue will have to raise enough money to foot the difference.
The congregation expects to recoup some of the expense through lower heating, air conditioning and electricity bills.
Jesse Greenberg, a domestic affairs associate at the Jewish Community Relations Council in Chicago, said he doubted many synagogues would seek to become green enough to qualify for LEED certification.
But, he said, his organization has started an envirnomental awareness campaign to encourage synagogues to do what they can to conserve energy by installing flourescent lights, carpeting and new windows.
“It really comes from our sacred texts, the Torah and the Talmud,” Greenberg said of his council’s environmental push.
The campaign, only three months old, includes a flier with a slogan taken from Ecclesiastes to drive the point home: “See to it that you do not destroy my world, for if you do there will be no one else to repair it.”
“Our Jewish values (encourage) us to take care of our environment,” Greenberg said.