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The Increase in Religious Environmentalism

A church in Queensland, Australia, has 24 solar panels bolted to the roof in the shape of a Christian cross - this now known as the “solar cross.” It was mounted in 2009 on the Caloundra Uniting Church. Are you ready to learn? If you are thinking of building or renovating, you have an opportunity to make a difference with your choices and actions.

What does it mean to build green/sustainably?

The United Nations Brundtland Commission has defined sustainability as “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” 

Why should you think about green building?

Bible recognizes humanity as one of many parts of creation. Being the chosen group, we are bestowed with a unique fundamental responsibility, to take care of the earth, to till and tend it. 

The new pope has recently reminded us of teachings of 13th century nature lover - Saint Francis of Assisi. Pope John Paul II had also taught us "not to behave like dissident predators where nature is concerned, but to assume responsibility for it, taking all care so that everything stays healthy and integrated, so as to offer a welcoming and friendly environment even to those who succeed us.”

In addition to the religious teaching, there is an ethical side to green building. By reducing pollution, these methods of building and maintenance protect the health and well-being of the young, the old and the poor - the populations that would be harmed the most from toxins in buildings and environment.

If you are to adopt this philosophy, what would its implementation look like and what is involved? 

In brief, green building strategy integrates the building life-cycle and all factors that go into the design, construction and operation of any building project. 

The basics: There is no federal definition of “green building standards.” And, since there are no guidelines, many trade organizations have worked to create their own certification programs. LEED is one such program. LEED came to life from collaborative efforts of a scientist, Rob Watson, and a real-estate developer, David Gottfried. They wanted to establish Green Building as a way to build with full environmental consciousness, for long-term cost benefits. Today, the directors of the LEED Program are predominantly engineers, architects, developers, real estate executives, chemical industry officials and building product manufacturers. One medical doctor representing physicians also sits on the board. So, LEED is a voluntary standard, and it provides very useful guidelines for building green.

To ensure healthy indoor air quality, you also need to plan for the most efficient heating and ventilation systems, such as solar panels, geothermal wells, window placement and building orientation. The LEED version 4 that is under discussion has a good set of criteria for commercial interiors. 

The details (with some examples):
Sustainable Sites and Integration with surroundings:
• Neighborhood development location
o Help create compact, walkable, vibrant, mixed-use neighborhoods with good connections to nearby communities
o Imperiled Species and Ecological Communities protected
o Wetland and Water body Conservation
o Agricultural Land Conservation
o Floodplains avoided
o Reuse of rainwater planned
• Surrounding density and diverse use
o Conserve land, protect farmland and wildlife habitat, preserve open spaces - build in areas with existing infrastructure.
o Consider walkability, and transportation efficiency and reduce vehicle distance traveled.
o Mix of uses for built structures
• Access to transit
• Bicycle facilities
• Reduced paved areas/use of porous surfaces
• Native plants and low water use landscaping
• Reduce heat islands
• Reduce light pollution, specifically sky glow and light -trespass—improve nighttime visibility by avoiding glare, minimize building and site light trespass onto neighboring property, and reduce skyglow, which increases visibility of the night sky.
Water Efficiency:
• Outdoor water use reduction
• Indoor water use reduction (Watersense fixtures, Water-free urinals)
• Building-level water metering
Energy & Atmosphere
• Advanced energy metering
• Renewable energy production
• Building-level energy metering
• Optimizing energy performance
• Demand response
Material and resources
• Construction and demolition waste management planning
• Building life-cycle impact management
• Sourcing of raw material – local sourcing
• Long term commitment – use of green products
• Storage and collection of recyclables
Indoor Environmental Quality
• Low emitting materials – use zero or low VOC paint, waxes, adhesives, sealants, composite woods etc.
• Thermal comfort - Design heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) systems and the building envelope to promote occupants’ productivity, comfort, and well-being.
• Interior lighting - reduce the amount of light produced inside the building during nighttime hours, and automatically close shielding on all fenestration to prevent light from exiting the building
• Maximize use of daylight
• Acoustic performance - minimize background noise from mechanical equipment and install enough sound-absorptive surface materials to keep reverberation to low levels.
• Environmental tobacco smoke control

When you are building green, you will focus on being energy-efficient while using the least polluting materials, and your ultimate goal will be to preserve the natural environment.

The design will take advantage of natural lighting, using methods and equipment that allow you to take advantage of natural resources for heating and cooling your buildings. Install motion-sensor lighting, collect rainwater to irrigate native plants garden on the property, install and use low-flow toilets and water-free urinals. 

On the maintenance side, you will not only recycle paper, you will compost waste and discourages use of one-time use items on premises – look at biodegradable alternatives.

This may not be the cheapest way to build and maintain your church property, but you will realize savings in lower utility bills if you do and your congregation will be serving a higher purpose.

When you build or renovate remember: You have responsibility toward present and future generations, a duty of compassion and care towards the earth and stewardship of this planet of which we are a member.

This article is courtesy of BabyChangingStations.com, authorized distributor of green products manufactured by Koala, Bobrick, and Falcon Waterfree Technologies.

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Religious Product News