Historic Synagogue Upgrades, Restaurant Tracking, and Water Baseline Update

The August Pittsburgh 2030 District Partner Meeting took place at Rodef Shalom, a historical gem designed by Henry Hornbostel around the turn of the 20th century. During our visit, we learned about and toured the facility, got updates from the Pittsburgh 2030 District team, and heard the interesting findings of an in-depth restaurant energy assessment.


After Pittsburgh 2030 District Director Anna Siefken provided an overview of District progress, upcoming events, new Property Partner commitments, and Northside planning, several speakers provided unique insights.

Here’s what we learned:

Becca Ackner, Operations Director at Rodef Shalom, summarized Rodef Shalom’s 150-year history, current state, and future improvement plans. While the main sanctuary was completed in 1907, the building was expanded in 1938 and again in 1956, to reach its current size of around 100,000 square feet. With a sanctuary for Jewish high holidays and weddings, two leased spaces, several event halls, an industrial kitchen, classrooms, and offices, occupancy varies widely. The Congregation has taken steps to manage its variable energy demand more efficiently. Here are the steps they took during a renovation in 2000:

  • Digitized and centralized HVAC controls are now accessible from a desktop computer.
  • Scheduling system matches calendar events to conserve energy
  • Fresh air demand controlled by CO2 sensors meets occupancy demands.
  • This investment in control systems paid back in just over a year!

Additional improvements include:

  • Variable speed pumps on air handlers
  • Oversized main chiller reprogrammed to reduce maximum demand
  • Installed an electrical capacitor, reducing demand by 5.5%

Rodef Shalom’s future plan:

  • New Associate Garden Director will revamp the Biblical Botanical Garden, one of only a few in the country, to reduce water use
  • LED lighting retrofit in one event space
  • Replace the two 1938 steam boilers with more efficient hot water boilers
  • Approach upcoming projects through a green building lens


Bob Rosenthal later took us to the heart of the synagogue to admire their sanctuary as well as their 80-year-old steam boilers and 100-year-old fan. Replacing their boilers with newer, more efficient models is part of their 17-year building improvement plan.

Isaac Smith, Pittsburgh 2030 District Building Performance Analyst, shared an update on the Pittsburgh 2030 District water baseline. All buildings reporting water consumption in the Pittsburgh 2030 District are compared with similar buildings based on a regional baseline. This baseline has changed to reflect our expanded data set, incorporating 174 buildings from our expansion into Oakland last year. Look for an upcoming revision to the water baseline document coming in the next few months.

Quinn Zeagler, Pittsburgh 2030 District Specialist, summarized key takeaways from this summer’s The Race to Zero Energy: Reaching 2030 Goals professional education series. In June, we learned about technologies and products shifting the energy efficiency market. In July, we learned about renewable energy and how buildings can invest in solar, geothermal, and wind energy systems to produce their own electricity and reap long-lasting energy cost savings. While the solutions we have learned about are interesting, financing is almost always the limiting factor. Our final event addressed financing strategies.

Kevin Ketchman, PhD Candidate at University of Pittsburgh, shared insights from a recent, in-depth energy assessment at an Oakland restaurant. Cooking and refrigeration make up a majority of energy consumption in restaurants, compared to office buildings where the main consumers are space heating and ventilation. During the assessment, Kevin and his team installed Plugwise monitoring devices on electrical appliances to track plug load. They also monitored the natural gas meter with a camera to track consumption over time. Comparing energy use to the occupancy pattern throughout the day, one would expect energy use to be related to occupancy.

Curiously, Kevin and his team found that energy consumption stays relatively constant despite large changes in occupancy; the restaurant used about as much energy during a lunch rush (with 70 customers) as they did during a lull (with under 10 customers). They conclude that understanding the consumption rates and power modes of appliances and equipment can help restaurants to scale back energy use during slower periods.

Each month, the Pittsburgh 2030 District holds a Partner Meeting convening Property Partners, Community and Resource Partners, sponsors and other stakeholders to discuss the latest relevant happenings and information for the city. Meetings are held in a different location within the District’s boundaries in Downtown, Oakland and the Northside, giving building owners and facility managers the opportunity to share their successes and challenges. Additional speakers present industry information and updates on a variety of critical topics. It’s a closed-door, monthly forum where partners learn from each other with peer-to-peer dialogue and plan collaboratively for a sustainable and efficient future.

The Pittsburgh 2030 District’s goal is to have 100% property participation in the District’s Downtown and Oakland boundaries. Join us! Visit our FAQs for more program information and our contact page to get a hold of us.

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