Workshop Provides Hand-On Approach to Maximizing Energy Efficiency of Religious Institutions
The Rev. Lezlie Austin-Kennedy speaks at the Green Theology Workshop at the Church of St. Matthew and St. Timothy
Owners, managers, and users of New York’s historic religious properties filed into the pews of the Church of St. Matthew and St. Timothy on West 84th Street for an all-day seminar on energy efficiency and “greening” in sacred sites. “Green Theology: Energy Efficiency and Historic Sacred Sites,” which the Conservancy co-hosted along with the Episcopal Diocese of New York, Landmark West!, and New York Interfaith Power & Light, was a true meeting of the minds, bringing together expert practitioners and property managers alike to share and gain from one another’s experiences.
The seminar provided a hands-on approach to maximize the energy efficiency of religious institutions by guiding participants through a complete, “basement to roof” energy analysis of religious institutions, including how to prioritize spending and plan for the future.
Andrew Rudin, an independent energy auditor with Philadelphia’s Interfaith Coalition on Energy, spoke about the specific energy challenges that religious congregations face with their properties. Using the location of St. Matthew and St. Timothy as a case study, Rudin’s often humorous presentation stressed the unique, and sometimes misunderstood, process of heating and cooling a large, multi-zone space which only has intermittent use, as opposed to homes which require different energy configurations due to their continuous use. Rather than necessarily investing in “green” technologies, such as those encouraged in LEED certification or with Energy Star certification, he suggested a multi-tiered approach to maximize the energy efficiency of a building and minimizing cost, and replacing mechanical systems with their cleaner newer parts only as needed.
Some property managers had already reached some of these conclusions by trial and error. The Rev. Lezlie Austin-Kennedy, pastor of Cadman Memorial Congregational Church in Clinton Heights, Brooklyn, explained her congregation’s plight in her own lecture. “I understand buying in bulk, but sometimes you don’t have the bulk money… It’s a step-by-step process,” she said.
Cadman Memorial has been taking steps toward sustainability and sought Conservancy aid for a roof consultant. The church, which 6 years ago had only 12 members, had already dug into their coffers for $12,000 to repair the roof once, only to discover that they had been deceived by their contractor: the roof was improperly repaired and needed to be fixed again.
After spending the extra money to ensure the roof was properly repaired the second time, Pastor Austin-Kennedy took aim at the building’s many other problems.
She resolved a disagreement with another congregation that rented the building on Saturdays by regulating the day-to-day temperature with a micro-processor laden thermostat, a step that saved the congregation 15 percent on their energy bill.
Page Ayres Cowley, founder of Page Ayres Cowley Architects, LLC, focused her presentation on understanding buildings as interrelated components and the reality of making the most of a congregation’s sometimes limited resources. She presented on adaptive re-use and new construction in historic landscape settings while answering site-specific questions from workshop attendees.
Theology was equally present at the workshop.
Nicola Coddington, Executive Director of New York Interfaith Power & Light, stressed the nonprofit’s mission to support congregations of all faiths in their actions to curb global warming and protect the sacredness of the Earth by taking careful steps to “green” their buildings and daily living.
Sister Catherine Grace, of the Community of the Holy Spirit, condensed “5 hours to 30 minutes” as she talked about her unique story as a founding member of Bluestone Farm and Living Arts Center in Brewster, N.Y. where she works with fellow sisters growing most of their own food, tapping their own sugar bush and processing the sap into maple syrup. They share a seventh of their produce with other families, and, as their schedules allow, give talks on the reasons why they have chosen a “farming life,” which they view as a classical expression of religious orders. She said attendees should consider how daily choices influence all life systems, sacred buildings and the future.
As Rev. Austin-Kennedy views “green theology,” the steps in the process of sustainability do not stop with the energy efficiency of the congregation, but is part of a larger spiritual mandate to protect the Earth, going so far as to quote the Book of Genesis in support. Participants from other sects echoed her sentiments, each adopting their own language to do so.
Please see the following sample energy audits and Andrew Rudin’s pamphlet discussed at the workshop:
Sample Andrew Rudin Energy Audit
Cadman Memorial Congregational Church Energy Audit
Click here to view the schedule and speaker biographies.
This project has been funded in part by a grant from the Johanna Favrot Fund for Historic Preservation of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. For more information on the sponsors, click here: