Green bank nears completion of exterior construction

Alexandria Johnson

An environmentally friendly bank in Skokie, designed by Evanston architect Joseph Behles, is nearing the conclusion of its exterior construction this month.

Construction began at the site of the future First Bank & Trust branch, 4007 Dempster St., in mid-April. The project faced some initial delays after garbage was discovered from other demolition sites, said Joan Yohanan, First Bank & Trust corporate secretary. Hurricane Irene also postponed the process of receiving materials by boat, she added.

“We’re journeying along, and our goal is to get it (completed) by the first week of December,” Yohanan said.

The first branch of First Bank & Trust was constructed in Evanston more than 15 years ago. The company Behles+Behles completed its architectural work for that branch as well as for each of the bank’s subsequent branches – all located in the Chicago area.

“We’ve had an ongoing relationship with them since they first started,” architect Joseph Behles said. “They’re a great client, and they always are committed to doing not only excellent work but now excellent work that is also sustainable. I think it fits real nicely into their mission of being a community-oriented organization.”

The building aims to be LEED Gold certified and will use heat from inside the earth through an energy-efficient geothermal heat loop system, Behles said. He added the exterior will feature oxygen trellises with plants and vines around the building.

The construction will use locally sourced materials, many of which are produced from recycled content. The community will also notice less water pollution due to the building’s surrounding landscape, Behles said.

“The bank’s really taken a leadership role in trying to suggest that if you be careful and plan appropriately, you can limit your consumption of non-renewable resources,” Behles said. “You can reuse previously employed resources, and you can tread much more lightly on the environment.”

To complete an environmentally sustainable project like this, a lot of collaboration occurs between the architects, owner and contractor, Behles said. He said the bank has shown a financial commitment to the project by proceeding with the paperwork required to create a LEED-certified building.

“You can’t produce a LEED-certified project without a lot of work on everyone’s part,” Behles said. “There’s a lot of work for everyone, but we’re at a point where there’s a much greater benefit.”

Skokie has been working toward making buildings more sustainable in the city, and the new First Bank & Trust will act as an example for other buildings to come, Yohanan said.

“There’s been a lot of buzz about it – a lot of excitement,” she said. “We are hoping that it will encourage other businesses in Skokie to build green themselves.”

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