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Reining  in Your Church’s Energy Usage

Reining in Your Church’s Energy Usage

LEDs, daylighting and control systems are just a few ways to create a more sustainable house of worship

Why do you want a green church facility? Whether your goal is environmental or financial stewardship, and whether or not you’re aiming for LEED certification, there are changes large and small that can reduce costs and reduce your church’s carbon footprint.

You can even retrofit energy management solutions without disrupting the building’s infrastructure. Rita Renner, marketing director for Wattstopper with corporate offices in Santa Clara, Calif., says the company’s Digital Lighting Management (DLM) products require just one high-voltage conduit run, from the ceiling box to the load. Additional wiring is low-voltage Cat-5 cable, which usually doesn’t require conduit, she explains.

In addition, Wattstopper’s products are designed for a phased approach. “The DLM system is modular in architecture, so you can install the rooms you want and they will work independently of each other or you can network them together. You can build up to that ultimate end-state of control without losing functionality along the way,” Renner says.

Where to start

If your church is looking to take the plunge in to energy management and lower electric bills, what’s the best place to begin? “I would look at lighting management solutions in the back-of-house spaces first,” Renner says. Areas like offices, utilities and bathrooms often have outdated lighting, with incandescent fixtures and toggle switches, offering a lot of opportunity for energy savings. Renner recommends bundling lighting and control upgrades together.

Occupancy sensors are one of the easiest ways to reduce energy waste in areas that are used intermittently. Unfortunately, this technology has developed a bad reputation amongst end users and facility managers. Most people recall sitting in a classroom or meeting room and all of a sudden the lights turn off, leaving everyone flapping their arms to “remind” the occupancy sensors there are still people in the room.

“Some of the perceptions of occupancy sensors are a result of the mis-application of the device for the space,” Renner notes. “The wrong product was selected or it was installed in the wrong place.”

She describes three different types of occupancy sensor technology:

?  Passive infrared, which detects heat and motion against a background;

? Ultrasonic, which fills the space with volumetric sound waves and calibrates how the waves bounce back to the device to indicate occupancy in the space;

? Microphonics, or acoustics that listen for sound in the space and detect that as occupancy. A professional contractor or a company like Wattstopper can help you choose the best solutions for the different rooms in a church.

Building to code

Facility managers and church leaders involved in a new building project may not realize that energy management is not just good creation care or good stewardship—it also may be required by code.

Scott Nelson, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, principal at HH Architects in Dallas, reports, “The 2009 International Energy Codes limit the overall wattage you’re allowed to use in a building. It’s made us re-think how we put together many buildings.”

Especially in churches with contemporary worship, where theatrical lighting can easily consume a large portion of the allowed wattage, energy management becomes an important issue. Fortunately, designing and building “to code” also saves churches money in the long run with solutions ranging from LED lighting to daylight harvesting.

Nelson cites one 1,500-seat worship center HH Architects recently designed. “To make the transition from traditional worship lighting to LED was only a $10,000 difference. Between the energy savings on the bulbs and the longer lamp life, which reduces the need to buy or rent expensive mechanical lifts to change bulbs, the church will make that up within two years.”

Nelson notes a number of benefits to LEDs: fewer fixtures to provide the same light output; better control of the light; and a slight reduction in the mechanical load. Because LEDs run cooler than incandescent bulbs, churches need fewer, or smaller, HVAC units to support the space.

Daylight harvesting and passive solar

Daylight harvesting is another way to reduce a church’s overall electrical load. Daylight harvesting has many different connotations. For instance, passive solar http://www.ecooutfitters.net/blog/2011/10/whats-the-difference-between-an-active-and-passive-solar-system/ is simply using and directing the sun’s warmth and light in a way to benefit your church. Paying close attention to a building’s orientation during new construction is one of the best ways to go green with no difference in costs and no special equipment.

“In the southern regions with warmer yearly temperatures, we prefer to place glass on the north façade of the building to receive the benefit of daylight for lighting interior spaces without experiencing the direct heat gain,” Nelson says. “But if a church is in the northern regions with cooler yearly temperatures, we may consider providing glass in the south façade of the building in order to capture the direct sun exposure to help heat up the building given the cooler yearly temperatures in this climate.”

Window glazings or louvre blinds reduce heat gain and glare while providing natural light, while light shelves and light tubes, more sophisticated forms of daylight harvesting, direct light to spaces where it’s most needed in a church facility.

HVAC to fit your church’s needs—and abilities

Choosing the right type and number of HVAC systems for new construction should begin with a look at the layout of the entire campus. Nelson urges church leaders to consider this: “Where are people going to be on campus and how often are they going to be there?” Situating spaces that share HVAC zones close to each other reduces the need for long duct runs, but Nelson says, with today’s energy-efficient units, this isn’t as important as it used to be.

Common sense might imply that purchasing smaller HVAC units will save money and energy, but Nelson recommends rethinking this. “Often, it’s more efficient to buy a larger unit, zoned through Variable Air Volume boxes,” he says. “You can run it at 30% vs. buying two units running at 100%, which reduces efficiency.”

It’s important to consult with your facility manager before choosing mechanical systems. Nelson says oftentimes sophisticated mechanical units don’t achieve optimum efficiency because the facility managers have not been properly trained to utilize the energy management systems installed in their buildings. “Find out what your facility manager is comfortable running, and whatever his level of expertise, provide the proper training so you can get the most out of new units,” Nelson says.

Who’s paying for the upgrades?

Even though energy efficient equipment saves money, most systems require a higher upfront investment. Churches are typically considered “commercial” utility customers and, in spite of their tax-free status, can still enjoy rebates from many local gas and electric companies. A look at your electric provider’s website, or a call to their office (check your utility bill), provides insight regarding rebates.

These rebates often make switching to Energy Star-rated mechanical systems, as well as to LED or fluorescent bulbs, a worthwhile choice. The Energy Star website reports that Solana Beach Presbyterian Church in California, working with San Diego Gas & Electric Co., saved $6,620 per year with energy upgrades, spending just $5,847 out-of-pocket.

If church leaders aren’t working with architects and builders on energy-minded upgrades, the best way to begin a retrofit project for energy efficiency is with an energy audit. Local electric providers can oftentimes tell church leaders how to arrange these audits free or at a nominal cost.

Asset management in your church parking lot

You might not think of your church parking lot as an opportunity to practice creation care, short of cleaning up trash left over following services, providing receptacles to reduce littering in the parking lot, and planting a few trees or flowers on islands in between the pavement. But the way you build—and re-pave—your parking lot provides a tremendous opportunity to save money and practice sustainability. “Pavement preservation consumes fewer natural resources while eliminating the need to demolish, haul away, and dispose of old pavement,” says Stan Hough, marketing director for Total Asphalt & Concrete Maintenance of York, Pa.

Total Asphalt & Concrete Maintenance manufactures a brand of pavement rejuvenator, PaverX, that penetrates asphalt to improve not only its cosmetic appearance but its flexibility so that, with repeat treatments every five years or so, the pavement can last indefinitely.

Hough says the time to consider pavement rejuvenation is either on new pavement, or when pavement just begins to show cracks and signs of aging. “If your pavement is just beginning to show signs of fatigue and wear, cracking, and opening up at its weakest point, you need to arrest that process before it accelerates. As structural integrity decreases with cracks in the pavement, deterioration happens even faster,” he says. Because freeze/thaw cycles in the winter months exacerbate problems, autumn is a good time to look at rejuvenation to prevent further damage.

Churches have several options to improve the appearance of an aging parking lot, from a sealcoat, which offers cosmetic improvement only, to an asphalt overlay, which is costly because it involves filling in cracks in pavement and laying down new asphalt over the old.

Rejuvenation, on the other hand, can cost eight to ten times less than re-paving, Hough says. He urges church facility managers to think of the asphalt in the church parking lot as an investment or an asset: “The best mindset when it comes to asset management is to protect and preserve what you have to save money and to contribute to sustainability at the same time.”

TAGS: Design
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