Greening efforts

By David A. Price

Incorporating a few environmental touches can help cut energy costs and promote sustainability.

When Piñon Hills Community Church opened two years ago, the church incorporated five leading sustainability features — environmental touches that conserve water and electricity while limiting exposure to pollutants. A lot of this is using the right equipment, such as plumbing, heating and air-conditioning systems and lighting.

Environmental sustainability is an idea whose time has come. The manufacturing industry has been moving aggressively in this direction for some time. The products are out there. I see an opportunity for churches to educate the public by using these new materials and technologies.

This higher standard is reflected in multiple ways at Piñon Hills church. Its insulated “cool roof” membrane helps reflect solar heating, which minimizes the heat-island effect and energy losses through the roof. The development of the buildings also has been minimized, with more than half the acreage dedicated to open space.

Sustainability features for the church include:

  • More than 50 percent potable water savings through the use of high-efficiency plumbing.
  • More than 70 percent of building electricity is offset by renewable, energy-based green power, while energy efficiency in the concrete tilt-up building is 25 percent above codes.
  • All storm-water runoff is retained and filtered on-site using structural best management practices.
  • Compared to local zoning requirements, at least 50 percent more dedicated, vegetated open space is available.
  • Environmentally preferable materials for inside spaces means less pollutant exposure for employees, children, members and visitors.

Bicycle access
To promote alternative forms of energy, the building has bicycle access and a parking lot with preferred spaces for fuel-efficient autos, such as hybrids or electric vehicles.

Storm-water runoff is modulated and filtered through pervious landscaping and open spaces. More than 90 percent of the runoff from impervious areas are contained through a pair of infiltration basins and is filtered before on-site infiltration.

These runoff plans emphasize the site’s water efficiency goals. Through native plantings and low-flow irrigation systems, the church realizes a potable water irrigation savings of 60 percent compared to baseline default water usage. The bathrooms utilize water-efficient plumbing fixtures, resulting in potable water savings of 50 percent. These features include ultra-lowflush urinals, low-flow water closets, low-flow lavatory faucets and low-flow showerheads.

The buildings have an energy-efficient envelope and air conditioning and heating systems that are designed to be 25 percent more efficient than industry standards.

Meanwhile, the interior lighting power density measures less than one watt per square foot. Additional lighting controls, such as nighttime timers, are used in non-critical areas.

The worship center employs thematic lighting and audio-visual equipment, using as much Energy Star-eligible equipment as possible. Located in Farmington, NM, Piñon’s development encompases 53,000 square feet in two buildings — a worship center and administration/adult ministry/youth center.

Why sustainability?
Such energy-sensitive touches are part of a master plan for churches to grow organically, within the realities of economic and operational constraints. The need to project a vision that stirs the hearts and minds of its members is paramount. It is a process that requires creativity, collective energy, teamwork, sharpened management and organizational skills. To do it right, a church will have to step out of the box it sometimes inhabits.

This includes maintaining a comprehensive vision with the development of church campuses. Often completed in phases, church campuses are usually subject to the pressures of program needs, scheduling demands and budget limitations. In such environments, expedient decision-making can lead to random juxtaposition of buildings and disconnected open space.

But using open space and landscaping as afterthoughts damages their value.

David A. Price is president of David A. Price Architects, Tustin, CA.


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