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AMEC instrumental in winning certification for worlds first LEED Platinum religious center

01 June 2009


Chicago, Ill. (1 June  2009) AMEC, the international engineering and project management company, was instrumental in gaining the first top-level green building certification – known as LEED Platinum – for a house of worship in the world.

The U.S. Green Building Council granted its Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum designation to the Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation’s (JRC) new synagogue in Evanston, Ill. The synagogue also has been recognized as one of the 10 greenest building of 2009 by the American Institute of Architects’ Committee on the Environment.

Melissa Ling, an industrial hygienist and senior scientist in AMEC’s Chicago office, brought her experience on prior LEED projects such as the World Trade Tower 7, New York Transit Authority, Humana Healthcare, and Exelon Energy to assist JRC in the difficult task of preparing the construction team to meet the strict air-quality concentration criteria set by LEED.

The JRC’s original facility was demolished and redesigned into a much larger 31,600-square-foot synagogue that achieved the top professional standard for sustainable design in the construction industry. Demolition rubble was “recycled” as filler in the basement of the old facility, since the new three-story structure was built at ground level.

The new synagogue contains many green features, including exterior siding from cypress reclaimed from mushroom houses in Canada, black walnut panelling from storm-fallen trees, solar tube skylights, six-inch-thick insulation containing fiberglass recycled from glass jars, and office cabinets and shelving manufactured from waste sunflower seed husks. Heating and cooling air diffusers were located in the lower portion the high-ceiling sanctuary walls so that only the bottom seven feet of the room would be warmed or cooled.

The LEED rating system judges five environmental categories: Sustainable Sites, Water Efficiency, Energy and Atmosphere, Materials and Resources and Indoor Environmental Quality. It is a rigorous system requiring creative integrated design, detailed record keeping and a demanding submission process. There are four levels of LEED certification, with Platinum the highest, requiring 52 LEED points. In the end, JRC earned all 53 LEED points for which it applied.

“Melissa Ling’s innovative problem solving and her holistic knowledge of building systems and industrial hygiene resulted in achievement of one of the final points that helped boost us to the Platinum level,” said Helen Kessler, the project’s LEED consultant and president of HJKessler Associates. 

Typically the LEED indoor-air requirement is met by flushing the building with outdoor air. However, since the building was scheduled to be completed at the end of January the amount of energy that would be needed to heat the cold Chicago air became a financial obstacle. Ling was able to obtain the indoor environmental quality credit through an alternative protocol by proving through rigorous testing that the quality of the indoor air quality was superior to that of the outdoor air.

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