08 February 2008

Small Temples promote sustainable living

The small temple concept is a powerful one that may be leading us towards smaller, more sustainable communities.

-Less travel. Traveling great distances is not sustainable, cost-effective, or desirable. In the global context of the church, if the small temple concept continues to move forward, hundreds of thousands of families will be blessed every year with more time and money from reduced hours of travel and prices of fuel. Additionally, this helps decrease the carbon footprint of the collective church. I don't have any hard data, but since more than half the church resides outside of the United States, lets assume that prior to the small temple concept, most members lived a good distance from a temple. Even growing up in California, we were 3 hours from the nearest temple, or about 150 miles. If we assume 1 million members visit the temple twice a year, and have to travel an average of 300 miles round trip, this alone is a carbon footprint of 211,190.48, totalling $1,267,142.88 to offset the travel and become carbon neutral each year. On a churchwide global scale, these numbers can get staggering rather quickly.

-Can be built on any site. The last few years we have seen Temples spring up in suburban neighborhoods, the middle of downtowns of large cities, as adaptive reuse of existing buildings, as tenant improvements (one or two floors) in a larger development, etc. There is a lot of potential here, especially since this is simply a continuation of the first temple endowments which were given on the second floor of a red brick store in Nauvoo, Illinois.

-Limited hours open. Using the small temple concept allows for efficient and flexible use of resources depending on the area served. Most are open only by appointment which means it shuts down when not in use; lights go out, heaters and A/C are turned off. The savings from the utility bills alone makes this concept worth it. Having appointments also consolidates people into fewer sessions, and ensures that each session is full of people. When I lived in the Bay Area, it didn't feel right to go into a session in the Oakland Temple as one of only a few people in an enormous room.

With the church spreading all over the earth, it is possible that the days of the large, imposing temples such as Salt Lake, Washington DC, or Oakland are gone. The situation in Oakland is that it appears to be far too large for normal everyday use. With temples now in Sacramento and Fresno, Oakland primarily serves only the Bay area now. Granted, there is nothing as impressive as the Oakland temple and its site overlooking the Bay Area. It is one of my favorite temples. But the small temple concept would work nicely even in the heavily populated Bay area with potentially one in San Jose, one in San Francisco, and one in Walnut Creek.

Whether or not the above reasons were intended, the small temple concept provides lasting positive consequences that will bless the church and the environment for years to come. Let's hope that this form of bringing the temples to the people will continue and that it will be successful.

6 comments:

Latter-Day Sustainablist said...

GMA- If you didn't already know, we have been featured in the BCC podcast. It was mostly positive.

Anonymous said...

They are no longer building small temples from what I heard and don't we want the temples to be open more often so that people are able to do more work there?!? Even if it doesn't conserve energy?

green mormon architect said...

anonymous,
Thanks for your comments. I agree that the goal is to have the temples open. If all sessions at a given temple were full, it would be great to even extend the hours.

At various times when I lived in the Orlando, Oakland, and Portland temple districts, I have been one of only a handful of people in the session, with as many workers as patrons. When I have been to the smaller temples, the sessions have always been packed, since the seats were essentially reserved in advance. It seems that there is value in being open when the people will actually be there.

Staffing a large temple, especially, seems like an enormous undertaking. To have 30 people staffing the temple for four people in a session doesn't make sense. Better to have those 30 volunteers serve hundreds of people at sessions that are full. And the other good thing about small temples is that they require less staff to run, which increases their flexibility.

Allen said...

Hmmm... I'm sorry to hear they aren't building small temples anymore. I liked the idea. Less money per temple means more temples. I've been waiting for the height of the steeple to be reduced so the temples would blend into the neighbors more. I'll keep waiting. Who knows what will happen in regard to architecture.

Anonymous said...

There certainly is a place for small Temples, but I am concerned that the precedent will lead to the construction "tract" Temples as it has now to "tract" meetinghouses. There once was a time when you recognized each Temple by it's design and knew its location. I think we now have about 30 'cookie cutter' Temples that can only be identifed by landscaping. There once was a time when a Temple was a gift of the Saints to their Father in Heaven and to their Savior and each was unique. One brother I was discussing this with attributed the cause to an apostolic change. He said that in earlier times we had the Council of the Twelve Apostles and today we have the Council of the Twelve Corporate Businessmen. He opined that none of them will ever see a temple design in a vision as Joseph did (Kirtland & Nauvoo) and Brigham did (Salt Lake). Cost is now the most primary consideration. Even Moroni has been relegated to a fiberglass mold.
One final thought, (of my own), I fear that familiarity may breed ennui. If there is a Temple on every corner, temple attendance will become so ho hum commonplace that most will either not be bothered or sleep through most of the session. (Don't worry about the large Temples in the Milleniumm though, every seat will be filled at every session since it will take an extremely concerted effort to get all of the work completed on time.)
This effect can likewise be seen in the decline of congregational singing. Many hymns in local wards (California) have become virtual organ solos. As my non-Mormon aunt said after a Sacrament meeting, "Are you sure that all the members of the Tabernacle Choir are Mormon?" "Why?" I asked. "Because none of those Mormons didn't seemed like they even wanted to sing their hymns." I didn't have an answer for her, but having just experienced it, could readily see her point.

Chachi said...

The road to apostasy is gradual and subtle. But there isn't much subtle about declaring that the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles are not true apostles the way they used to be; that they do not receive inspiration and are only businessmen. I think it's time for the person who wrote that to do some soul-searching and decide where he stands.

I'd like to make a few points. 1) We didn't "stop making smaller temples." Rather, the Church has discovered that rather than the 11,700 square foot design that it built so many of, slightly larger temples are better suited to the needs of most of the places where we're now building. The cost-saving (and more sustainable) elements characteristic of "smaller temples" are still there: no cafeteria, no clothing rental with huge laundry, more compact design, often with no chapel, etc. Temples are built according to the needs of their area. 2) You can't praise the small temple idea and simultaneously criticize the larger temples for being empty and thus wasting space and resources. The smaller temples are the reasons the larger temples are empty, since the larger temples' districts are now much smaller. Oakland used to be a much busier temple before Fresno, Sacramento, Reno, and Medford, and if it's underused now, that means we've got some room to grow. 3) I never understood people who complained about the Angel Moroni being made of fiberglass. Fiberglass is the best material for the job, and once it's covered with gold leaf, can you tell the difference? How would making them out of copper improve the building at all? 4) I would also like to see some more steeple-less temples a la Cardston or Mesa, but not for the purpose of blending in. It's never been the goal of temple architects to make the House of the Lord mundane.