Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation Synagogue

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Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation Synagogue
The new 31,600 square foot Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation (JRC) synagogue replaces their smaller synagogue, Situated in a mature suburban neighborhood, across from a city park and adjacent to a commuter train. The design balances the limitations of its small site with an ambitious program promoting JRC’s worship, educational, and community goals. It is the first house of worship to achieve a LEED platinum certification. Evanston’s zoning ordinance limited building area to less than the original 42,000 square foot program. Space demand was evaluated hour by hour to find the most flexible balance. JRC’s offices, early childhood program, and chapel occupy the first floor; the religious school and library are on the second floor; and the sanctuary, social hall and kitchen are on the third floor, a strategy that allowed cost effective construction of high volume space for the sanctuary. JRC’s commitment to Tikkun Olam – Hebrew for “repairing the world` – is manifest in the design while demonstrating the benefits of sustainable design. The solution, a precious wooden box, is a visual testament to these values. The wood cladding is recycled cypress harvested from demolished barns. A Jerusalem stone wall anchors the box creating a baseline for all other activities. The processional stair outside the wall provides a meaningful and eventful transition between spaces. JRC’s highly involved, multigenerational congregation is reflected in the informal, non hierarchical community and worship spaces, especially the sanctuary. Achieving Platinum LEED required careful consideration of sustainable strategies, and a comprehensive, holistic approach to the building design. To make a sustainable transition from old to new, the design incorporates the existing foundations and used demolition spoils for engineered fill. Trees that could not be preserved were harvested for use within the building. Construction waste was placed in gabions and used to create site features. 40% of materials are regionally manufactured the deliberate exception is the Jerusalem Stone. Included for its spiritual connection to Judaism and Israel, it represents less that 1.5% of the total construction costs. The building was constructed for a modest budget- $230/sf.


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