By Jim Peckham
Whenever building a new facility, church leaders and church building committee members share a common concern regarding stewardship: balancing building needs with adequate funding.
The solution to this dilemma usually comes down to a short-term decision based on the “lowest bid.” This option offers a strong argument when justifying most building decisions — but, as many worship facilities have found out, it might not be the smartest long-term answer.
With a growing emphasis on creating energy-efficient structures, stewardship has expanded to include more than initial building cost. Today, a new facility’s long-term cost of operation and environmental impact should be considered as part of the overall building plan.
While adding this level of planning might create concerns surrounding initial building costs, the ultimate result is a facility that costs less to operate — and maintain — while using less energy and creating a cleaner environmental footprint.
What makes a building “green”?
Experts refer to energy-efficient structures as “green” or “sustainable” buildings. Organizations such the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) have set up programs, such as LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), which provide benchmarks and certifications for energy-efficient structures. While earning LEED certification might be of value in specific situations, what might be of more value to a new church facility it to use LEED requirements as a planning tool.
To reach this end goal, it is critical to start with the commitment to make a project energy-efficient. Building committees should discuss sustainable objectives with the design / build team even before project design begins. Key decisions — architectural design, material choices and mechanical systems, such as plumbing and heating — will have an impact on the sustainable results.
Some recommendations for building efficiency
To better plan for sustainability, it is helpful to break the project into two main elements: (1) the overall building, which impacts structural design, floor plan, roof and wall material; and (2) internal systems, including HVAC, lighting and plumbing.
The overall building. When considering the best approach for the new building, one of the first decisions should be what material will be used for the main structure. Typically, the choice will be either wood, masonry or steel. Each material has advantages and drawbacks. While wood and masonry have been traditional choices, steel has become a preferred option because it offers a combination of advantages, including adaptability, durability and economy. Given the fact that steel structures can include virtually any exterior treatment — including block, brick, stucco, wood, glass or metal — architectural appearance is not an issue.
Further, steel roofing with today’s “cool coatings” can reduce energy use and (with the long-term finish warranties) also reduce maintenance. Studies have shown that steel roofing will last two to four times longer than alternatives such as built-up roof or asphalt shingles.
Steel structures can reduce heating and cooling costs when high-performing insulation is included on the project. Most communities have adopted more stringent building codes that require high “R factor” performance. Products such as our company’s proprietary ThermaLift Insulation System can deliver thermal performance up to R 34, which meets or exceeds energy codes for the United States and Canada.
Internal systems. Once plans are made for the overall structure, focus can be directed on interior systems, including electrical, mechanical and plumbing.
Structural choices can affect the long-term performance and life-cycle cost of the building. For example, daylighting with products such as our high-performance PrisMAX skylights in the roof design might cost a little more initially; however, the energy and cost savings delivered by reduced lighting demand over the life of the building are significant. Couple the daylighting with control monitors to minimize electric demand — and using high-efficiency lighting, such as LED fixtures — increased life-cycle savings are generated.
Choosing to use higher levels of insulation will pay bigger dividends if high-efficiency units are chosen for furnaces and air-conditioning. Include monitors and programmable thermostats, and the payback will be even greater.
Indeed, stewardship goes beyond finding the lowest cost: it begins with getting the commitment to thinking long-term. With careful planning, the approach will benefit the church family — and the overall environment — for years to come.
Jim Peckham is Manager of Marketing for Memphis-based Varco Pruden Buildings, a division of BlueScope Buildings North America, Inc. Varco Pruden markets its products through a network of more than 1,000 authorized builders within the United States and Canada.