Energy Guidelines for the Renovation and Construction of Religious Buildings

December 2004 (revised July 2011)


About this publication

The Interfaith Coalition on Energy has examined thousands of buildings belonging to religious congregations.  Some of them are new or recently renovated, and from these, we have learned many helpful ideas for those beginning the construction or renovation process.  This publication has several parts:

  • Part A discusses planning ahead to avoid mistakes

  • Part B is a narrative of several specific aspects of energy systems

  • Part C is a checklist

  • Part D is a list of questions to ask design professionals

Our thanks to the now defunct Nonprofit Energy Savings Investment Program for some of the following information.  We also included some information from our article in the October 1988 issue of Construction Specifier magazine.


Part A. Planning ahead to avoid mistakes

Congregations that serve their communities can feel compromised by owning and operating facilities that demand high payments for electricity and fuel.  More dollars for energy mean fewer dollars for service.  

Many lessons can be learned from older religious buildings.   The annual energy cost per square foot of floor area is less in older buildings than in newer ones, mostly because the energy systems in newer buildings require more electricity for air conditioning.  Very old buildings come from the era before natural gas, fuel oil and even electricity.  They usually have large steam boilers, natural lighting and natural ventilation.  Newer religious buildings have less mass, less natural structural material, hot water heating, air conditioning and mechanical ventilation.

If a congregation must construct a new building or expand an older one, it is least expensive to plan for a building that uses very little electricity and fuel.  Plans are relatively easy to change.  After construction contracts are let, however, changes can become very expensive change orders.   And after the building is built, changes are even more expensive.   The following are some of the mistakes congregations can make in planning for a new building or major renovation: 

  •  Not adapting existing facilities to expanded use, to avoid construction and renovation altogether

  • Not considering that electricity and fossil fuel costs will increase substantially over the life of new facilities

  • Paying more attention to the purchase cost and less to the cost of ownership

  • Oversight of construction falling on too few individuals

  • Design professionals not working as a team

 

Trends in construction

  • Fossil fuel costs may go up and down temporarily, but they will inevitably increase, at increasing rates.

  • Tight and humid buildings are more likely to have problems with mold and mildew.

  • Growing Asian economies and wars in which the US is involved can increase the cost and decrease the availability of building materials.

  • Control systems are becoming more complicated with digital components, wireless communication and user-unfriendly interfaces.

 

The building as a system


When a congregation views their new project as an integrated system, the cost of ownership will be less.  For example:

  • Efficient lighting reduces the size of air conditioning equipment because lower wattage lamps and ballasts produce less heat during the cooling season.

  • Increasing the insulation level and the quality of windows reduces the initial size and lifetime energy use of both heating and air conditioning equipment.

 

Energy Codes and Standards

Almost all new religious buildings will have to comply with mandatory life/safety codes.  Other codes may apply in different states, municipalities and counties.  In recent years, codes and standards have been greatly improved.  Here are some of the more relevant ones:

  . . . . . . . . . .

This Entire Article is 25 pages long.

 

 NOTE: To read the Full 25 page Printable PDF Version please click on the link below
(Opens in a new window, 293 kb PDF File)

construction_guidelines.pdf

Buying deregulated electricity or gas – What a Favorable Contract Could Be

Interfaith Coalition on Energy – November 9, 2013

When you buy electricity and/or natural gas from third party suppliers, you leave the protection of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission. The only “protection” you have is the contract written by the suppliers in their own best interest. They are usually written in legal language in small print.

Here are some guidelines that you could follow:

In choosing a supplier:

  • There are hundreds of third party suppliers because that business is profitable, often very profitable.
  • Do not rely on utility or Public Utility Commission advice.
  • Buying from a vendor has risks, but so does staying with your local utility. One difference is that you have PUC protection with your local utility.
  • Vendors may refer to your local utility website’s estimates of future prices. These estimates are likely false. Utilities typically revise their prices quarterly.
  • Do not pay any attention to phone conversations, face-to-face conversations, or mailings. The only thing that matters is the final contract with firm fixed pricing.
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The Positive Effect of Low Temperatures on Pipe Organs

by Andrew Rudin, ICE Project Coordinator, March 1986

The Interfaith Coalition on Energy (ICE) has found that local organ repair people and organ tuners have not provided the religious community with consistent advice concerning the relationship of patterns of heating to the well-being of the pipe organs. The purpose of this report is to clarify this confusion.

Expert confusion

We know that some organ experts suggest continuously heating houses of worship with pipe organs, at a cost of thousands of dollars per year, in order to “protect the pipe organ.” We know of other experts who suggest that the temperatures can be set very low when the buildings are not occupied, without causing damage to the pipe organ.

During the summer of 1985, we received a copy of a brochure written by the Federation of Master Organ Builders in Britain. The brochure clearly stated that the major problems with British pipe organs resulted from heating, rather than from cool temperatures.

The Interfaith Coalition on Energy summarized the brochure in a three-paragraph statement. On December 3, 1985, ICE wrote letters to each of twenty-two members of the Associated Pipe Organ Builders of America (APOBA) to attempt to reach a consensus on the relationship of low temperatures to pipe organs.

We asked that they respond with their opinion about the three paragraphs about the effect of heat on pipe organs, which summarized the British brochure. We also enclosed a copy of the British brochure with our letter to the American organ builders.

Their responses form the basis of this article. On January 13, 1986 we sent each member a draft of this article for their final approval, resulting in a few additional minor changes.

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Lessons From Inspired Partnerships Stewardship Program

ENERGY IN HOUSES OF WORSHIP:
LESSONS FROM INSPIRED PARTNERSHIPS’ STEWARDSHIP PROGRAM

Information Series NO. 60, 1992

NOTE: This is a 16 page article, To read the FULL VERSION please click on the link below
(Opens in a new window, 6.1 Meg PDF File)

natl_trust_for_hist_preservation_info_60_1992.pdf

This technical booklet is the second in a series developed by Inspired Partnerships and co-published with the National Trust for Historic Preservation to address building issues facing traditional houses of worship. It is a summary of the author, Andrew Rudin’s, experience with four programs: Inspired Partnerships in Chicago and Interfaith Coalition on Energy (ICE) prograims in Philadelphia, Buffalo, and Arizona. Actual data from numerous buildings were analyzed to determine the causes of measured reductions in energy use.

Several companies and products are mentioned in this booklet. Mention of trade names does not constitute an endorsement by Inspired Partnerships or the National Trust for Historic Preservation, nor does it signify approval of the product to the exclusion of comparable products or companies.

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Some Advice Concerning Wireless Communication Antennas In Steeples

October 1997
The Interfaith Coalition on Energy

Introduction :

To many people, wireless communication towers are so ugly that they don’t want them visibly installed in their neighborhoods. Wireless communication antenna companies consider properly—located steeples as an alternative. If they select your steeple, either for their own needs and/or because your congregation desires additional income, your lawyer can use the following advice and sample lease documents to help draft an agreement more in your economic interest.

The contractual agreements often have two parts to them. The first is some up—front payment, and the other is a lease with monthly payments. A church near Boston made a deal with one antenna company to re-paint its steeple (a $12,000 value) plus $1,200 per month for 20 years. They negotiated a second deal with another cellular service supplier for $20,000 in parking lot repayement with $1,500 per month for twenty years. Another church in nearby Providence negotiated a $300,000 up—front payment and a $1,500 per month lease.

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Let’s Make a Deal and lower our church energy bills

Creation Care – Summer 1998

Electric meters are as prominent in churches as pulpits — usually one per facility.  Understanding sermons, however, may be easier than understanding electric meters.  Pulpits are located in sacred space — well-cared-for rooms with colors and cleanliness. Meters are usually located in profane space amid dirt, dust and dim light.

Electric meters are the cash registers for electric utilities.  Each month, the utility usually reads your electric meter, which belongs to them, and then sends you a bill.  Personally, I can’t wait for them to read my meter only once a month; I read it each morning keeping score of the amount of electricity, measured in kilowatthours, we used the day before.

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Comparison of Conventional and Infrared Heating Systems

April 1987

The manufacturers of gas-fired, unvented, ceramic panel infrared  heaters advertise that fuel costs are 20% to 50% less with their systems in comparison with forced air heating systems.  Several churches in the Philadelphia area have installed these systems.

The manufacturers claim that their infrared heaters do not heat the air, as other heaters do, but rather they directly heat objects and people, similar to the sun’s heating the earth.  They claim that the units provide equal comfort at lower thermostat settings, that there is less air movement and associated dust, and that there is less stratification of air in the heated space.

Energy comparison

We compared the heating energy consumption data from four church sanctuaries and one multi-purpose room to similar buildings in our database. The following are the BTU’s per square foot per year for the five buildings heated with unvented, gas-fired heaters mounted high on the walls:

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Suggestions on ways to reduce cooling costs

by Andrew Rudin June 1990

Electric costs are rising.  The heat of the summer will make us want to turn on the air conditioning.  How can we control cooling costs?  Based on experience with congregations in Phoenix and Philadelphia, here are a few suggestions:

1. Make certain your building is on the most advantageous electric rate.

  • If your peak use of electricity (when most things are turned on) occurs during your electric utility’s off-peak periods, request off-peak rates lower the cost of electricity.
  • Pre-cool each day before the higher on-peak rates take effect.  In Philadelphia, this is 8am weekday mornings; weekends and holidays are off-peak all day.

2. Move morning worship earlier in the morning.

3. Reduce the generation of heat inside the building.

  • Install lower wattage lighting.
  • Turn off all unnecessary inside lights.
  • Reduce lighting levels.
  • Insulate domestic water heaters and piping.
  • Turn off circulators that pump water to hot water taps.
  • Minimize appliance use inside air conditioned areas.
  • Turn off pilot lights in boilers and furnaces.
  • Do not run air hander fans when building is vacant.  (The fans add heat to the air.)
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Electric Witness

September 1998 Green Cross magazine

Electric meters are as prominent in churches as pulpits — usually one per facility.  Understanding sermons, however, may be easier than understanding electric meters.  Pulpits are located in sacred space — well-cared-for rooms with colors and cleanliness.  Meters are usually located in profane space amid dirt, dust and dim light.

Electric meters are the cash registers for electric utilities.  Each month, the utility usually reads your electric meter, which belongs to them, and then sends you a bill.  Personally, I can’t wait for them to read my meter only once a month; I read it each morning keeping score of the amount of electricity, measured in kilowatthours, we used the day before.

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