News Story

Solar-Powered Construction Design Gets “Green” Light from Church Leaders

The Presiding Bishopric of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints introduced the latest environmentally friendly construction efforts by the Church at its first solar powered meetinghouse in the Northern Hemisphere. The new building in Farmington, Utah symbolizes the continued innovative use of technology by the Church in its construction design. The roof-mounted solar panels are projected to generate enough electricity to completely power the structure, saving an estimated $6000 in energy costs annually.

“It’s about creating a place of worship that works in harmony with the environment,” said H. David Burton, Presiding Bishop of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and responsible for the physical facilities of the Church. “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.”

The Farmington meetinghouse is part of a new pilot program that demonstrates the Church’s ongoing commitment to stewardship and conservation. Four other meetinghouse prototypes located in Eagle Mountain, Utah, Apache Junction, Arizona, Logandale, Nevada, and Pahrump, Nevada are also currently under construction. In addition to Farmington, Apache Junction and Logandale are solar powered.

Upon completion, these meetinghouses will be LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified; built to the construction industry’s highest standard. Journalists were given a tour of the Farmington building to highlight some of its conservation features which included the high efficiency heating and cooling system that can interface with the solar power equipment, landscaping designs and plumbing fixtures that cut water use by more than 50 percent, and Low-E Solarban 70 windows that block 78 percent of the sun’s heat energy.

 “These buildings are designed to last many, many years,” said Dean Davies, managing director of the Physical Facilities department of the Church, “It may actually cost more up front to put certain systems in but because they have lower operating costs and longer life cycles in the long run they are better for us and better for the environment.”

In fact, around 75 percent of the technologies qualifying for LEED certification have been used in existing Church buildings for several years. 

“I clearly think we’ve ramped it up,” said Davies, “We use emerging technologies in our building design, from the use of materials to computer aided design, to energy management systems.”

For example, Church buildings in the Baltic Nation of Latvia are built with radiant heated floors for greater energy efficiency during the harsh winter months, the tabernacle in Vernal, Utah was rebuilt into the Vernal Temple by reusing existing materials from the historic structure, and a meetinghouse in Susanville, California, is heated exclusively through geothermal energy produced from a well located on the property.

Emerging technologies also extends to landscaping. Moisture sensors monitor weather conditions via satellite to shut off Church sprinkler systems during rainfall at many meetinghouses across the country. The Church Office Building in Salt Lake City even utilizes several underground spring wells for heating and cooling.

Jared Doxey, director of architecture, engineering and construction for the Church, said, “It’s important that buildings are designed to be a reflection of the community in which they are constructed.”  He added that “conservation is a natural built-in part of the planning process. We’ve always been interested in following best practice in industry. Whatever the best thinking is, we want to latch on to that. If there is a new technology that reduces total cost of ownership, makes good business sense, we want to tie into that.”

That’s especially true when the Church operates 17,000 meetinghouses and is building or expanding a new facility every working day of the week. Bishop Burton said, “As the Church continues to grow globally, and there is a greater demand for meetinghouses, more than ever we need to engage in wise construction practices to benefit both the environment and our members.”

 “This is a member-driven initiative,” said Davies, “it's representative of how our members feel about the communities in which they live.”

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