A History of JRC's Green Building

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The Path to Sustainability

About two decades ago, (1998), it became apparent that our then current building desperately needed a facelift and significant repair. So, in 2000, the JRC Board created the Building Task Force to evaluate the situation and recommend a course of action. This task force determined it was not worthwhile to invest 1.5 million dollars to remodel our old building, and recommended exploring the possibility of relocating or rebuilding.

A synagogue of dreams

A feasibility study determined that we could expect to raise 4 million dollars for this endeavor, and a Capital Campaign committee was formed to begin to raise money for an as-yet unknown future project. 

An in-depth investigation of available sites and buildings for relocation in and around Evanston led the Building Task Force to further conclude that a more appropriate solution would be to tear down our existing building and rebuild on the same site.

A community-wide survey helped us to understand our members wishes and dreams for both a physical structure and the important on-going life within it. Conversations about sustainable building began community-wide by the Environmental Concerns Task Force, and extensively at the board level as well. Architects were interviewed and we hired our top choice. Focus groups and interviews with all JRC committees, JRC staff and other interested parties provided input for assessing our particular needs for a potential new building. A Jewish values-based decision making model was used through which the JRC Board voted unanimously to build our new facility at the highest feasible level of LEED certification for green architecture.

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Making it Happen

Proposals, changes, compromises, more proposals, more changes and more compromises ensued to produce a working plan. We interviewed contractors and solicited bids. We realized that we were over-budget, so the RP committee was formed to recommend how to balance the total cost of the project with our financial resources. We made cuts, raised more money, and made more cuts. We secured a bank to loan us money. A contractor was selected and we entered into final negotiations over price. A total project cost of 10 million dollars was budgeted.

A transition team was formed to handle the logistics of securing temporary quarters. They assessed our space requirements, found facilities to fill our interim needs, negotiated leases, and physically moved and set up our operations in three separate locations.

Breaking New Ground

We broke ground in October 2006. As we watched our new structure take form, we continued to raise money and evaluate our LEED status. We handled over 130 change requests, worried, lost sleep at night, stayed in budget, and struggled to open on time. When our building neared completion, our transition team came into action again. planning, preparing and physically moving us into our new home.

Coming Home

In 2008, we moved into an award-winning, Platinum LEED certified building and became the first house of worship to achieve that distinction. Now we want to share what makes it so cutting edge, and hopefully inspire others to create ecofriendly worship environments.

A Space for Tikkun Olam

Our commitment to Tikkun Olam – Hebrew for “repairing the world” – informed the design of this brand new 31,600 sq ft space. You can read about our congregation's commitment to and process of creating a sustainable shul in Rabbi Brant Rosen's Construction Diaries.

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