Congregation Beth David Synagogue

Passive Solar Straw Bale Construction

“The architects also drew inspiration from the site itself. As well as creating a building that utilizes the sun and wind for light, heating and cooling, its flowing quality expresses their understanding of the site as a place of wind and birds. Even the shape of the sanctuary, inside and out, brings to mind the sweep of wind and birds in flight.”

-Leslie Cohn, Beth David Design Committee


-Passive solar design for natural ventilation, passive heating and cooling and daylighting.

-Straw bale construction to conserve resources and divert waste.

-Stained concrete radiant floor slab.

-Native & drought tolerant award winning landscaping.

-Solar Electric photovoltaic system for clean & renewable electricity production.

Client: Congregation Beth David

Completion: November 2006

Project Type: Assembly

Architects: Ken Haggard, Polly Cooper, Richard Beller

Exterior Design

Outside the entry plaza’s four olive trees mark a landscape of native plants requiring minimal water, behind a 10′ high landscaped berm that serves as a protective screen from wind, traffic noise, and glaring lights as well as providing a need to slow down before arriving at the entry.

The entry plaza is crowned with a trellis representing the traditional priestly benediction. An area to the south is reserved for an olive orchard that will screen the overflow parking. Parking is available for 183 cars and 12 bicycles.


Interior Design

Inside the sanctuary, chapel, social hall, lobby, library, conference room, classrooms, full kitchen, youth lounge, gift shop and administrative offices total 16,190 square feet.

The design emphasizes maximum flexibility. The sanctuary seats 337. Capacity is expandable to 460 with removable soundproof partitions. The social hall is expandable for social gatherings, conferences, dining, concerts and classes.

Accessibility features include wide corridors, gentle ramps and lever door handles to accommodate people with disabilities.

Finish materials used include non-toxic paint and carpeting, recycled newsprint insulation, handtroweled strawbale walls, and “Pyrok” acoustical ceiling treatment.

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