You can make your house of worship green. This is especially important if you are planning a new addition or an entirely new building, since it will never be as easy to “go green” later as it is when you initially design-in those features.
The key is to work right from the start with a LEED-certified architect (an architect who has specialized training in designing green buildings.) Your future congregants will thank you since they will inherit a more comfortable, more energy-efficient, and more resource-efficient building!
Faith community-specific resources
Green Churches – The NCCC Eco-Justice Program has compiled a page of links to examples of green churches, faith resources for congregations going green, case studies, and links to resources with more information. For example, they include a report on how churches can save on average $7,000-18,000 a year for other ministries though clean energy stewardship.
Building a Firm Foundation: A Creation Friendly Guide for Churches The National Council of Churches USA’s Eco-Justice Program is offering a new FREE creation-friendly building guide. The resource is designed to support churches in building structures faithfully and sustainably. Whether churches are breaking ground, remodeling, or managing their grounds, this guide addresses ways that churches can strengthen their church budgets and engage the entire church in continuing care of God’s creation.
Greening Congregations Handbook – This encyclopedia of creation care has only a small section on green building but offers a broad range of information for churches on how to get a creation care program going and what to do with one once you have it. It includes readings, worship ideas, and education resources. It also offers ways to establish creation connections within your church. This handbook and other educational materials available from Earth Ministry.
Responsible Purchasing for Faith Communities published by Center for a New American Dream, 2002. This practical guide gives very specific information on how and where to buy a wide range of Earth-friendly products for churches. While not specifically a green building guide, it does offer advice on where to buy green products associated with church buildings.
Building in Good Faith – GreenFaith, a New Jersey based interfaith coalition, has partnered with the Healthy Building Network on a new project to offer very specific green building information for churches. This site is under development but should be very helpful as it evolves. For more information on GreenFaith’s “Sustainable Sanctuaries” program, look at their website.
The Unitarian Universalist Ministry for the Earth offers this very comprehensive site that covers a number of aspects of making a congregational commitment to the earth. A UUA Green Construction Award pilot program was announced in April 2007. The site also includes worship, program, and educational information on the site as well as in downloadable documents. In its Green Sanctuary text, which is downloadable, it offers an overview of green building (which includes site information), a chapter on energy use and particularly good information on landscaping and gardening. Throughout its site, there is information on making creation connections.
NCCC’s Web of Creation. This site is designed and maintained by a professor and students at the Lutheran School of Theology as a way to connect and educate people of faith around eco-justice issues. Check out the “Building and Grounds” section on many specific issues related to green building. They have particularly good information on indoor air quality.
Green Faith Guide The Green Faith Guide offers guidance to the faith community on adopting sustainable, earth-friendly practices for houses of worship. It gives practical information on a number of topics of interest, including green building, landscaping, pesticides, and energy use. It also includes a section on “How to Pay for Improvements.”
U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) is a voluntary coalition of leaders in the building industry who have come together to promote environmentally responsible, economically viable and healthy buildings. USGBC has developed the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program, a voluntary building rating system that rates buildings according to ecological criteria. USGBC’s website provides more information on the LEED rating system and how a church can get certified. This site also includes technical information for green builders, so you might refer your contractor and architect to it.
Building Green without Going in the Red: A Household Guide to Healthy, Affordable Building Materials from Citizens’ Environmental Coalition. It addresses homes specifically, but the discussion of building materials is useful for congregations, too.
Green Building – The EPA offers this helpful site, which gives guidance on a variety of topics related to green building. It is a good site to start with, as it gives a good overview of why going green is important and outlines the major components of Earth-friendly building.
Water Efficiency – The EPA has put together a very comprehensive site on all aspects of water use. It explains the importance of water and also offers very specific suggestions for conserving water and protecting water quality.
Greener Buildings – This very comprehensive and useful site is offered by GreenBiz and provides a wide range of easy-to-understand materials on green building as well as more technical information for architects and builders. This is a great site to start acquainting yourself to green building. The site includes useful backgrounders on a variety of subjects of interest, including land use, architecture and design, energy use, building materials, water use, and waste management, as well as case studies.
The Sustainable Buildings Industry Council is a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to “advance the design, affordability, energy performance, and environmental soundness of America’s buildings.” This website contains very technical information for those in the building community and would be worth recommending to your contractor or architect.