Soon-to-open Staenberg Family Complex was created with energy efficiency in mind


A great deal of existing construction is being retrofitted for energy efficiency and sustainability but costs are often high, sometimes prohibitively so. New construction is where green ideas can be implemented most effectively — and most affordably. The new Jewish Community Center building is one example of what can be done going green from the ground up.

“There is always a happy balance between what we can do from a budgetary standpoint and at the same time remain green,” said Matt Wever, senior director of facilities at the JCC.

The new Staenberg Family Complex on the I.E. Millstone Jewish Community Campus in Creve Coeur marks its grand opening on May 3. The new complex features a variety of environmentally friendly improvements over the old building. In fact, among them will be the fate of the old building itself.

“When we take down this facility you’ll see a lot of concrete and a lot of block so what we’re trying to do is crush that and use it for fill,” Wever said.

Old copper and wooden gym floors will also be recycled. Meanwhile, soil removed from the new site will find its next life as part of a project to expand the JCC’s ball fields, in an effort to both increase green space and reduce landfill content. The construction of the building will utilize locally produced materials wherever possible to cut down on transportation costs.

But that won’t be the only change outdoors. The new JCC will also employ water-efficient landscaping techniques, known as xeriscaping to help reduce the need for irrigation and protect topsoil better from erosion. Much of the foliage will be native to the region.

“We’ve hired a landscape architect in order to do more natural plants — plants that are conducive to this area,” Wever said.

Water is a focus inside as well, where restrictors will help reduce usage in showers and conservation-friendly sink and sensor-controlled toilet fixtures will be present in the restrooms. Water heaters in the building are 98 percent efficient.

Although the main gym and group exercise facilities will have standard maple floors, faster-growing, more renewable bamboo was used for the flooring in the Pilates and yoga rooms.

When it comes to lighting, the facility is fully equipped with motion sensors and high-efficiency T8 or T5 fluorescents, features Wever expects will eventually pay for themselves. Similar lighting measures were put in place during a $4 million revamp of the Marilyn Fox Building, completed last fall. Despite the addition of 15,000 square feet of usable space during the Fox remodel, utility costs actually dropped.

“I think for us the Fox building was certainly a good case study,” Wever said. “It validated some of the things from the planning process and we knew it was the right route for us to go. We did expend some money but if we could save thousands of dollars in utility costs each month it is certainly going to help us as an agency.”

Another lighting innovation in the Staenberg facility will not involve man-made light at all. Light-harvesting techniques and a “clear-story concept” design in the atrium will allow natural sunlight to reduce the need for power.

“In the gym area — and some of these other areas — rather than the lights being on at 100 percent all the time, they will go down to say 40, 50, or 60 percent depending on the amount of light coming in from the outside,” Wever said.

Heating and cooling is another major area of focus. The roof of the facility will be well insulated and feature a white coating to reflect the sun and keep cooling costs down. No CFC-based refrigerants will be used in the air conditioning system. In another innovation also used originally in the Fox Building, heat loss in the main gym will be minimized through the use of thermal equalizers, large, low-power blowers used in high-ceiled structures to push rising warm air downward.

Even the pool will feel a bit different. A new ultraviolet system to control bacteria will reduce the need for chlorine by up to half.

“During certain times of usage such as the summer, you will definitely notice a decrease in the effect that chlorine has on the pool,” Wever said. “It will be a more pleasant environment. Certainly when people open up their eyes in the pool without wearing goggles they will notice the effect.”

A LEED accredited professional was used in the design process, although the building will not be LEED-certified. The price tag was simply too high.

“The life expectancy for the building is 30 to 40 years,” Wever said. “It would’ve taken us more than 30 or 40 years to recover the costs that we would’ve had to incur.”

Still, the JCC worked hard to make the facility environmentally friendly in keeping with the values of a Jewish agency.

“As much as possible we are doing all that we can to make this a green building,” Wever said. “Certainly we were on a very tight budget with this facility. We had to keep costs in mind but at the same time things that made sense where we could recover those costs within a reasonable amount of time, we did expend money to be able to bring some green elements into it.”

Michael Staenberg, president of the JCC’s board, concurs.

“Anybody can build a building but it’s the sustainability and maintainability of what we’re doing that’s key,” he said. “That was our commitment and our goal.”