Our Building

Beth El, Berkeley: Green Building Project List

our building

Click to here to read archival articles and memories of the building process and the move to our new home on Oxford Street.

The essence of our building complex recalls the words of Rabbi Alan Lew, Rabbi Emeritus of Temple Beth Sholom, San Francisco:

“We are formed by the places we inhabit; their shapes become the shapes of our souls.
We strive for a place that says:
‘You are welcome here,
you will find healing here,
you are about to enter a different kind of
place, a holier place, a place of deeper spirituality, a more nurturing
place than the one you are accustomed to occupying at work and on the street.’
But most importantly, it should be a place with God at its center not way up in the distance.”

The most modern and broadly understood notion of Tikkun Olam is that of “repairing the world” through human actions. Congregation Beth El in Berkeley has attempted, in the planning and building of its new home, to take ownership of their part in Tikkun Olam.

Site planning:

  • The overall building form was created to form a sense of "Wholeness" with its site, embracing the land, opening it up towards Codornices Creek which runs through the heart of the property.
  • Site Orientation was set up for future installation of photovoltaic solar roof tiles on south facing roofs.
  • Since the property spans between two major thoroughfares of Berkeley (Spruce &Oxford Streets) the site complex was laid out with complete pedestrian access in mind, both able-bodied and disabled access, equally.

Creek Restoration:

  • A very large process was undertaken for restoration of the open portion of the creek while a "No Build" zone was maintained to allow for the future possibility of opening up the culverted portion of the creek.
  • Since water is inextricably tied to the Jewish faith, spiritually and programmatically, the creek was a welcome inclusion to the overall building design incorporation.
  • The restoration process itself integrated the recycling existing logs and Native planting into its overall plan.
  • Special fossil filter drains were incorporated into the driveway design.
  • A Riparian interpretive area has been begun at the center point of the creek in the site design.

Trees and Plantings:

  • Xeriscape native planting and irrigation principles were the focus of the landscape design.
  • Riparian plantings were installed to reinforce the importance of the creek.
  • Protection of existing on site Oaks was a key piece of the Nursery School yard design.
  • Evergreen plantings around perimeter towards neighbors give year round shielding to them.
  • Deciduous tree bands towards the site's center reinforce the feel of the change of seasons.
  • Tie-in with holiday and educational programs: Tu B'shvat and community planting events.
  • Nursery School vegetable garden integrated into yard design.

Site construction work:

  • All site demolition waste was precisely recycled per Berkeley City Green standards.
  • Delicate balance of cut and fill of soil on site.
  • Re-usable formwork was utilized for concrete basement walls.
  • Permeable pavers were used for the central courtyard.
  • ICF blocks were used for Nursery School perimeter sound walls to eliminate wood usage.

Energy / Utility Usage:

  • The first Geothermal Heating system in Berkeley was created for this project.
  • Radiant Heat was installed for the entire Nursery School Floor.
  • Attic fans and extensive roof venting were incorporated for the Religious School Wing.
  • The entire building was insulated, and all windows were double glazed with integral thermally broken window frames.

Artificial lighting:

  • Daylighting studies were made to make sure there was as much light balance as possible in all public and educational spaces.
  • Fluorescent lighting is pervasive in building with double switching for additional light/energy usage control.

Material Usage:

  • The congregation held a "Rock Party" to move excavated rock from the site for re-use in creating the main courtyard terrace cascade.
  • Fly-Ash concrete was used in all non-visual (structural only) concrete areas.
  • Extensive use of Glue Laminated wood framing members (Truss Joists, LVL's, Paralams &Light gage wood trusses) to reduce overall wood consumption.
  • HardiBoard cementitious (non-wood) paneling and integral color stucco used for all exterior cladding of building.
  • Finger-jointed wood trim used throughout to conserve wood usage.
  • Integral color concrete flooring on all public circulation spaces
  • Renewable cork flooring on Sanctuary, Social Hall and Library spaces
  • Natural Linoleum flooring used in Religious School Hall gallery space.
  • Carpet tiles recycled from another project were used in all Religious School classrooms.
  • Kitchen appliances all as efficient as possible
  • Plumbing fixtures all C.E.C. approved

Indoor Air & "Spiritual" Quality:

  • Low V.O.C. paint / water-based finishes used throughout
  • Tried to eliminate the use of all formaldehyde-borne materials in cabinetry.
  • Elements of the previous synagogue building were re-used in the new building:
  • All Sanctuary furniture re-used mahogany from old building saved by teams of congregants.
  • Rosette window of old building was reinstalled in new Sanctuary
  • Front doors of old building were reinstalled in new Sanctuary Garden as sculpture.