Examples of Sustainable Architecture for Houses of Worship

Projects worldwide are being recognized with LEED certification. LEED is the world’s most widely used green building rating system, and this certification is a recognized symbol of sustainability achievement.

The Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation and Bay Area Chinese Bible Church are two inspiring examples. These houses of worship took measures to incorporate sustainable architecture, all while considering the needs of their communities.

Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation

On September 23, 2008, the Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation (JRC) became the first LEED Platinum Synagogue in the country. As such, they also became established leaders in sustainability in their community of Evanston, Illinois.

About the Synagogue

The original 20,000 sq. ft. structure constructed in the 1950s no longer met the needs of the congregation. It had poor air conditioning, room for only 300 seats, and lacked classroom space.

JRC held discussions with the community to identify and affirm their values, which allowed them to establish a clear path toward bringing those values to life.

In place of the original building now stands a 30,000 sq. ft. three-story building. The first floor houses administrative offices, a 100-seat worship space, an early childhood program, and a classroom for after-school religious programming. On the second floor is a large worship space that can seat up to 600 members and spaces for adult education programs.

What Makes the Synagogue Sustainable

JRC was committed to using reclaimed and recycled materials and forgoing the use of new materials when possible.

Brick, concrete, and welded wire mesh were repurposed from the original structure. In total, the project diverted nearly 98% of all materials from the original synagogue.

Wood was locally sourced and diverted from being put into landfills or mulched. Beams on the second floor were made of Black Walnut from trees that fell during a storm. The ceremonial front door, synagogue walls, and exterior of the structure were constructed using reclaimed Cypress.

Plus, the HVAC system was optimized for maximum efficiency and flexibility. Since the occupancy varies greatly from one day to the next, the mechanical systems adjust to meet the needs of the space. For instance, if the space is only a third occupied, the power supplied will decrease.

Reducing the height of the building to 12-foot and 9-foot ceiling heights also resulted in energy savings.

Bay Area Chinese Bible Church

On May 23, 2012, the Bay Area Chinese Bible Church (BACBC) received the LEED for New Construction Silver certification. It’s one of the largest Asian churches in the San Francisco Bay area.

About the Church

Church members generously funded the entire project in a collaborative effort to create a healthier community space.

Spanning 30,231 sq. ft., this multipurpose community facility serves as a worship center, childcare facility, and a classroom and gymnasium for neighboring K-12 schools. Its worship services are conducted in English, Cantonese, and Mandarin. Fellowship ranges from youth groups to seniors and those participating in global missions, athletic leagues, or the Chinese Language School.

What Makes the Church Sustainable

To earn the LEED certification, BACBC used several notable strategies.

Energy use was designed to be 20% below California Energy Code requirements, resulting in an estimated $41,000 in savings annually. A cool roof is in place, lined with high solar reflectance materials, which reduces the need for air conditioning. The church also offsets energy usage with the purchase of Renewable Energy Certificates (REC).

Achieving energy efficiency didn’t stop there. They took into consideration daylight harvesting, lightning power densities, and HVAC units. Now, the HVAC unit’s air filters fit properly, allowing for better indoor quality. This unit is also programmed to follow a time schedule, so it’s no longer constantly running at full capacity.

In addition, BACBC achieved a 36% reduction in water use, sourced 32% of materials locally, and diverted 95% of their construction waste from landfills.

Transform Your House of Worship With Sustainable Design Solutions

If you’re looking to create an environmentally friendly and energy-efficient house of worship, Mitchell Wall Architecture & Design is your ideal partner. Our dedicated team of professional architects will guide you through the process of incorporating sustainable design solutions. Whether you’re looking to build, renovate, or repurpose a sacred space, we are committed to bringing your vision to life.

Contact us today to start this transformative journey!

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