Saturday, May 9, 2009
Churches and Synagogues Worship Green Building
The Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation synagogue in Evanston, Ill., is one of ten LEED certified houses of worship in the United States. Photo by Steve Hall/Hedrich Blessing (courtesy of Ross Barney Architects).
Homes and offices are going green across the country, and an an entire city is even being rebuilt green. But there's a new space embracing the eco-revolution. It seems churches, synagogues and other houses of worship are listening to their eco-friendly parishioners—and apparently their religion.
A report from the Associated Press published yesterday on msnbc.com featured the growing trend of houses of worship seeking LEED certification. So far ten U.S. congregations are LEED-certified, and another 54 have applied for approval.
So why are congregations making this move to greener spaces?
The AP article reveals the changes have as much to do with changing views among parishioners as it does with the view that people are "stewards of the earth." Rabbi Brant Rosen from the recently re-gutted green Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation in Evanston, Illinois said,
It was about making a sacred statement. If we were going to talk the talk, we needed to walk the walk. The whole process forced us to look at our values in a deeper way.
The synagogue used reclaimed wood from barns for exterior cladding, recycled the cinderblocks from the old building, and made the new building's cabinets out of sunflower husks. By the time the doors opened in February 2008, the project cost $9 million, of which about $750,000 was associated with going green.
Last September the congregation learned they were the first—and so far only—religious building in the country to achieve the highest LEED rating from the U.S. Green Building Council.
According to the article, the 54 buildings seeking the LEED stamp of eco-approval include all sorts of houses of worship, including seminaries, chapels and student centers from eight religions—Jewish, Lutheran, Methodist, Mennonite, Presbyterian, Roman Catholic, Unitarian and Wesleyan.
Of course sustainability and religious beliefs aside, the switch to green building has financial benefits. The article reveals congregations can reduce energy costs by 30 percent. The most stunning example: The Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Tx. was able to cut their yearly gas and water bill in half—saving them $1 million annually.
With such a huge reduction in resource use, who can't be excited by this trend?