Mormons Build Environmentally-Friendly Building in Mesa, Arizona
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, whose members are informally called Mormons, have just opened their second environmentally-friendly meeting house. It is the second of three prototype buildings and is expected to earn sivler LEED certification, as did the first building. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and is earned by creating an environmentally-friendly building according to strict guidelines. It measures performance in sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection, and indoor environmental quality and is difficult to attain.
“For decades we have looked for innovative ways to use natural resources in our meetinghouses that reflect our commitment as wise stewards of God’s creations,” explained H. David Burton, the presiding bishop of the Mormon Church.
The second prototype building is in Mesa, Arizona. It is solar-powered and is designed to produce the same amount of energy over the course of one year as it will use in that same time frame. Studies of the first LEEDS certified meetinghouse shows this is a realistic goal; in twelve months it saved 5,000 dollars in energy costs and reduced the building’s carbon footprint. The building converts solar radiation into electrical current. It also has windows that block 78 percent of the sun’s heat energy, improved insulation, high efficiency furnaces, lighting that is 20 percent more efficient, light switches that turn off when a room is empty, and landscaping and automated irrigation sensors that cut water usage by 50 percent. In addition, internet monitoring allows facility managers to know when there is a problem.
A timeline of Mormon Church environmental practices goes back to the 1950s, encompasses everything from the non-scientific use of verandas and overhangs to reduce heat load to the use of rain water collection and storage to reduce water use in the Pacific . Over the years, the Mormons have instigated a great many environmentally friendly practices based on the needs and local opportunities of the specific building. Following is a sampling of these projects:
In the 1980s, the church began satellite broadcasts of many meetings in order to reduce carbon emissions. They estimated a savings of up to 100,000 gallons of fuel for every broadcasted meeting.
In the same decade, a new chapel in Susanville, California was discovered to have a hidden stream. They quickly made use of the stream to provide geothermal energy for the building. They pumped hot water into the building to provide heat.
The Church office buildings in Salt Lake City also got a water-based system in the 1970s. There, they used four wells to circulate water through a heat exchanging process. It could heat or cool the water. The unique process prevented the need for water purification chemicals and also prevented evaporation loss. The building also has an alpine garden on the roof that uses a recycled river system for watering.
Chapels in Latvia are heated with radiant flooring, which saves 30 percent in energy usage.
Tahiti actually had the first solar-heated Mormon Church meetinghouse. This building was built in 2007.
The Church History Library received LEEDS certification and international attention when it was built in 2009. It reduced allergens inside the building, especially important to workers. Those same filters also protect the records kept in the building. The wood for the buildings came from forests that are responsibly harvested and are replanted. The building contains a recycling collection center. The landscaping was designed to use less water and the insulation allows the building to use less heat or air conditioning.
Mormons believe God and Jesus Christ created the earth as a gift for mankind. He then gave them stewardship over that land, which means we are responsible for taking care of the planet God created for us. Gordon B. Hinckley, a previous Mormon prophet, said,
Here is the Creator of all that is good and beautiful. I have looked at majestic mountains rising high against the blue sky and thought of Jesus, the Creator of heaven and earth. I have stood on the sand of an island in the Pacific and watched the dawn rise like thunder—a ball of gold surrounded by clouds of pink and white and purple—and thought of Jesus, the Word by whom all things were made and without whom was not anything made that was made. I have seen a beautiful child—bright-eyed, innocent, loving and trusting—and marveled at the majesty and miracle of creation. What then shall we do with Jesus who is called Christ?
This earth is his creation. When we make it ugly, we offend him. (See Gordon B. Hinckley, “What Shall I Do Then with Jesus Which Is Called Christ?,” Tambuli, Apr 1984, 1.)
Mormons consider it disrespectful to abuse any gift God has given us and so the Church feels a special obligation in building its many buildings to be mindful of wisely using the resources needed.
Joan Hackley attends an environmentally friendly LDS meetinghouse in Pahrump, Nevada. She loves her new building:
We started meeting in the Manse Street Building late January 2011 – it’s a beautiful new meetinghouse and of course has garnered many wonderful comments and questions from our non-member friends and neighbors. At the open house, many of the details of the building were highlighted and explained. The lights, turn on and off as we enter and leave rooms, and bathrooms, so no light ever stays on longer than needed as people leave that area. The climate control has been wonderful! We are never too hot or too cold, like in the older building! Audio and Visual connections, hookups as well as equipment is, of course, top of the line. We belong to the Las Vegas South Stake, about 65 miles from Pahrump – however, now we attend most of our stake meetings via, an internet feed, right in our own building. A wonderful saving of time and gas for us! Some of the building is solar powered and so saves energy and money as well. The right and left sides of the chapel pews are set at a slight angle instead of the usual ‘straight’ making it easy to see and hear. The building itself has been built with growth in mind, and has Stake Offices, so that it will serve as our Stake Center, as we expand into that in the Pahrump Valley! We truly feel blessed to have such a marvelous up to date facility to meet and worship in!”
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