30 September 2008

2/3 Utah Park & Rides are LDS parking lots

Until we sell our house and permanently settle here in Utah, I am temporarily staying with family in Lehi and taking an Express Bus in to downtown Salt Lake for work. In searching for transit options on UTA’s website, I have discovered a large number of LDS parking lots that are being used for Park and Ride stops since they lie on transit lines. In fact, two out of every three park & ride lots are at LDS Meetinghouses according to the list on Utah Transit Authority's (UTA) website.

Park & Ride off State Street in Lehi from Google Map Street View

Number of LDS parking lots used as Park & Ride lots:
Davis County – 10
Weber County – 4
Tooele County – 3
Utah County – 12
Salt Lake County – 64

From these five counties, 90 total LDS parking lots are being used out of 136 total Park & Ride sites listed. These are all adjacent to bus lines. I can’t speak about all of them, but the lots in and around Lehi are completely full by 7:00am. From the website, the only lot with any strings attached is in Orem where a special permit is required by the Sunset Heights Stake in order to park there. The others are open to anyone and first come-first serve. In addition to the bus lines, there are also three LDS parking lots in Sandy that are allowed for public use which are adjacent to the light rail (TRAX).

The following rules apply for LDS Church parking lots: “Only those lots listed on UTA’s website have been approved for use as a park & ride facility...Park and ride use of this lot is permitted by the property owner as a courtesy to UTA patrons. Your cooperation is sincerely appreciated and will make the continued use of this lot possible.” Additionally, users cannot park for more than 24 hours or on Sundays.

This is a fabulous shared use of resources since most LDS parking lots sit empty during the week. I am glad to see so many LDS meetinghouses built along these transit lines and I am also glad that the Church allows commuters to use them during the work week. This not only helps free up traffic and congestion on the roads, but also lessens pollution by encouraging transit use.
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20 September 2008

The Wall at Temple Square

I just finished a very enjoyable first week of work at the Church Office Building. On Friday while walking around downtown during lunch, I came to the realization that the wall surrounding Temple Square should be removed. It reminds me of a freeway sound wall and feels just as oppressive if you're walking the city sidewalks on the "wall side" of the street. You can't see any of the Church buildings, there is nothing of interest to engage you, and with the large size of Salt Lake City blocks, I found myself never wanting to walk on that side of the street again.

The interesting thing is that Temple Square was originally conceived by Brigham Young to be 40 acres in size with the Temple at the Center (source). Instead it ended up being the size of a city block, which is 10 acres. Now, in 2008, when you look at the Conference Center, the new Church History Library, Relief Society Building, Church Office Building, Joseph Smith Memorial Building, Administration Building, Lion House, Beehive House, Family History Library, and Museum of Church History and Art - how are these buildings different than the Assembly Hall, the two Visitor Centers, or the Tabernacle? In reality, Temple Square as we know it is expanding and has been expanding for a long time. Brigham Young was right on with his 40-acre plan. When the new Church History Library is complete, the Church Headquarters complex will encompass almost exactly 40 acres of land spread over five city blocks.

Aerial image of Temple Square from Google Maps

Historic preservation concerns
Temple Square is surrounded by a high, granite wall that was built shortly after the block was designated for the building of the temple. It was built to protect machinery during construction of the Temple and was never intended to create a monastic enclave. And it is not the original wall that was built. "The surrounding wall became the first permanent structure on what has become known as Temple Square. It was begun in 1852 as a make-work project for the new arrivals and those on their way to the gold fields in California. It later served to protect the machinery used in the construction of buildings on the temple grounds. The wall is a uniform fifteen feet high but varies in appearance because of the southwest slope of the site. It was constructed of adobe brick with a protective sandstone cap and foundation. The bricks were plastered in order to shield them from the elements. With the passage of time, however, the wall had to be rebuilt because of the gradual deterioration of the original materials. Great care has gone into its reconstruction to retain its original appearance." (source) Even though it is no longer the original wall, in my opinion it would be nice to save a portion of the wall for historical purposes that visitors and tourist groups could view.

Site plan of Temple Square 1893

Security concerns
Instead of a wall keeping people out, the buildings could act as a walled boundary, with see-through gates remaining at the entrances. Regarding the entrances, to help make the large city blocks more walkable and pedestrian friendly, the City Creek Center is splitting up each city block into four smaller quadrant blocks. Essentially this is what Temple square block does as well, with the main entrances at the four midpoints of the block.

In a way, the wall within a city is an anti-urban statement. Historically, a large wall was the threshold that defined the city from the country as well as providing security from enemies. Anything outside of the wall was not part of the city. Even though not intended, a walled-off religious complex at the center of a city is telling the public that we don't want you in here - stay out. This message conflicts with the open spirit the missionaries on Temple Square invite people in. The Vatican currently has a 110 acre city surrounded by a wall in the center of Rome. For a comparison to Salt Lake, this would only make sense if the wall were reconfigured to surround the entire 40 acre complex rather than just a single city block.

Vatican map of walled city

The goal would be buildings that engage the street - for both pedestrians and vehicles; buildings that face outward rather than inward. The Visitor Center buildings can and should invite you into Temple Square. Open lines of sight should exist that allow the public to see the beauty of the grounds and instill a desire to enter. The adjacent City Creek Center will bring even more people in close proximity to Temple Square, and a wall is not the way to invite people to learn more about the Church.

Of the four walls surrounding Temple Square, only the East side has been opened up. It is now as much a gate as a wall. The new Main Street Plaza has helped this boundary of Temple Square erode away which is a good thing. On this Eastern wall we are opening ourselves up more to the world. We have nothing to hide, and we want the world to see that. Removing the rest of the wall around Temple Square would go a long way towards furthering our mission to share ourselves with the world. - especially since it is the most visited site in all of Utah and the center of activity for all the Church.

While it may have historical value since it has been up so long, I believe it is sending the wrong message and not engaging the public with who we are. It shuts out the idea of an active urban center, which is one of the goals of the Church with the new City Creek Center. The wall, or at least the buildings and visitor centers adjacent to the sidewalk are a great opportunity to share the gospel and the message of who we are at the street level with the city and with the public. Let's move out of the pioneer days, while retaining a portion of the wall to remember its existence, and knock down the wall surrounding Temple Square.
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13 September 2008

2008 Political Party Platforms - Environment

With the political conventions now completed, I decided to take a break from learning about how Sarah Palin did during her first interview and begin looking at the real issues surrounding this election. The new party platforms are now online and show what each party intends to do with their terms of power. It is refreshing to see both major parties showing concern for how we treat the planet, regardless of political persuasion. These quotes obviously represent selections from the various documents:

“Republicans caution against the doomsday climate change scenarios peddled by the aficionados of centralized command-and-control government. We can – and should– address the risk of climate change based on sound science without succumbing to the no-growth radicalism that treats climate questions as dogma rather than as situations to be managed responsibly.”

“Global climate change is the planet’s greatest threat, and our response will determine the very future of life on this earth.”
“We will lead to defeat the epochal, man-made threat to the planet: climate change. Without dramatic changes, rising sea levels will flood coastal regions around the world. Warmer temperatures and declining rainfall will reduce crop yields, increasing conflict, famine, disease, and poverty. By 2050, famine could displace more than 250 million people worldwide.”

“Because the issue of climate change is global, it must become a truly global concern as well. All developed and developing economies, particularly India and China, can make significant contributions in dealing with the matter. It would be unrealistic and counterproductive to expect the U.S. to carry burdens which are more appropriately shared by all.”

“We will reach out to the leaders of the biggest carbon emitting nations and ask them to join a New Global Energy Forum that will lay the foundation for the next generation of climate protocols. China has replaced America as the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases. Clean energy development must be a central focus in our relationships with major countries in Europe and Asia. We need a global response to climate change that includes binding and enforceable commitments to reducing emissions, especially for those that pollute the most: the United States, China, India, the European Union, and Russia.”

“Government at all levels should protect private property rights by cooperating with landowners’ efforts and providing incentives to protect fragile environments, endangered species, and maintain the natural beauty of America. Republican leadership has led to the rejuvenation and renewal of our National Park system. Future expansion of that system, as well as designation of National Wilderness areas or Historic Districts, should be undertaken only with the active participation and consent of relevant state and local governments and private property owners.”

“We will create a new vision for conservation that works with local communities to conserve our existing publicly-owned lands while dramatically expanding investments in conserving and restoring forests, grasslands, and wetlands across America for generations to come…We will treat our national parks with the same respect that millions of families show each year when they visit. We will recognize that our parks are national treasures, and will ensure that they are protected as part of the overall natural system so they are here for generations to come.”

“…the United States should take measured and reasonable steps today to reduce any impact on the environment. Those steps, if consistent with our global competitiveness will also be good for our national security, our energy independence, and our economy. Any policies should be global in nature, based on sound science and technology, and should not harm the economy.”

“Never again will we sit on the sidelines, or stand in the way of collective action to tackle this global challenge. Getting our own house in order is only a first step. We will invest in efficient and clean technologies at home while using our assistance policies and export promotions to help developing countries preserve bio diversity, curb deforestation, and leapfrog the carbon-energy-intensive stage of development.”

“As part of a global climate change strategy, Republicans support technology-driven, market-based solutions that will decrease emissions, reduce excess greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere, increase energy efficiency, mitigate the impact of climate change where it occurs, and maximize any ancillary benefits climate change might offer for the economy.”
“Because Republicans believe that solutions to the risk of global climate change will be found in the ingenuity of the American people, we propose a Climate Prize for scientists who solve the challenges of climate change. Honoraria of many millions of dollars would be a small price for technological developments that eliminate our need for gas-powered cars or abate atmospheric carbon.”

“This challenge is massive, but rising to it will also bring new benefits to America. By 2050, global demand for low-carbon energy could create an annual market worth $500 billion. Meeting that demand would open new frontiers for American entrepreneurs and workers.”
“We will implement a market-based cap and trade system to reduce carbon emissions by the amount scientists say is necessary to avoid catastrophic change and we will set interim targets along the way to ensure that we meet our goal. We will invest in advanced energy technologies, to build the clean energy economy and create millions of new, good ‘Green Collar’ American jobs. Because the environment is a truly global concern, the United States must be a leader in combating climate change around the world, including exporting climate-friendly technologies to developing countries. We will use innovative measures to dramatically improve the energy efficiency of buildings, including establishing a grant program for early adopters and providing incentives for energy conservation. We will encourage local initiatives, sustainable communities, personal responsibility, and environmental stewardship and education nationwide.”

So there you have it. Both appeal to science and to energy independence. Both see possibilities to improve the economy through the environment. Both speak of the need to act in the face of climate change. I think in 20 or 50 years, we will look back, and see that these environmental issues we are dealing with now were even more important than we now realize. Many of the other issues that seem so important will fade away with time, but how we deal with the finite resources this planet has given us will end up determining much of what our future has in store for us.

To end on a side note, I found it amusing that both Republicans and Democrats mentioned hunting and fishing in their party platforms (Rep twice; Dem once), especially in context of preserving the environment. It’s as though they are saying, “As stewards of the earth, we will protect the environment for our children and for our future…and also so we can continue to hunt down and kill animals for sport…”
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03 September 2008

Building with Sunlight and Air

Mt. Angel Abbey aerial view

I finally made it to the Mount Angel Abbey at St. Benedict, Oregon this past month. Up on a hill in remote seclusion, this beautiful abbey south of Portland, Oregon has two world-class buildings that focus on integration with the natural world. The first, built in the 1970 by Finnish architect Alvar Aalto is the library. Aalto is world famous for his use of natural light in buildings and this small library is one of only two buildings he built in the United States. Then in 2006 the Abbey monks put together an expert team to design a new classroom building. The results are ingenious and beautiful.


Interior view of library - image by green mormon architect

Aalto’s library is built on a radial plan on the sloping hillside. The entrance is a simple one story building, but as you move towards the center, the library steps down the hillside and opens up. The radial skylight in the center of the building brings natural light down into even the lowest level of the library and reaches all the bookstacks. The minimal use of glass, especially in the radial skylight is best illustrated by viewing the roof of the library. Remarkably this small well-designed skylight provides light for the entire library. (See here for more info) Even perimeter daylight penetrates into the center bookstacks when perimeter offices are used because of the transparent use of materials.

Aerial view of library - at the roof level, the radial skylight allowing light into the building is actually quite small compared to the size of the building - image from abbey website

Looking up into radial skylight of library - image by green mormon architect

Contrasting with the Classroom building we will see below, "performance glass and shading are not necessarily needed if the windows are carefully placed. As Joel Loveland of the Lighting Design Lab in Seattle says, 'Daylighting design is the use of good design sense, not the application of technology.' Alvar Aalto’s Mt. Angel Abbey Library, has only 20 percent exterior glass and still manages to give daylight an important presence in the building. In fact, the library had enough daylighting to be the only building at the seminary to remain open during a power outage in 1996. The critical factor is not how much exterior glass you have in a building, but where and how you use it." (source)

Transparency of perimeter offices allows light into book stacks - image by green mormon architect


Image source

In the words of SRG Partnership, the designers of the Classroom building, "the central idea of the building, dedicated primarily to the intellectual formation of future priests, was to graciously express, through the architecture, that this is a place where God’s Wisdom is sought. One should sense this in every space and in every detail of the building...The new building, aptly named Annunciation, embodies a beautiful convergence of spiritual and sustainable design. The abundance of natural light, the views outward, the rhythm of the arches, and the simplicity of the color and materials palette, all contribute to a building that is contemplative and disciplined but also very gracious in its openness." (source)

The new Classroom building uses natural light for 95% of the occupied hours. Additionally, natural ventilation is used reducing the demand for HVAC systems. Overall the building is 62% more energy efficient than the Oregon Energy Code. (source) In these ways, even in rainy Oregon, the building uses the climate as a resource, not a liability.

Image source

Natural ventilation of the building is not to cool the people, but to cool the building mass. The ceiling fans are to move air around during the day and cool the people. The mass is cool in the morning. During the day the building mass absorbs the suns energy and slowly heats up since the building mass is highly insulated. Ceiling fans circulate the cool air inside. By the evening, the mass is warm, but the space is still cool. The building is then opened up to ventilate and cool the building using automatic dampers in the exterior walls and wind turbines on the roof. The air passing over the thermal mass cools it down throughout the night. You wouldn't want ventilation during the day since it would bring the hot air in. This process eliminates the need for mechanical, or air conditioning equipment.

Image source

Each classroom has a centrally located skylight, sloped ceiling, and a reflector hanging below the skylight. The skylights have louvers between the glass plates that are controlled by the light sensors. The louvers automatically adjust to maintain a pre-set light level in the classroom. Louvers in skylights reflect the suns energy back up while allowing the light in. (source)

Image source

The reflector hanging below the skylight inside the room is made from triangular-shaped extruded aluminum. The triangular shape allows for some of the light to pass through and some to be reflected up onto the ceiling that is then reflected into the room. These reflectors are densely spaced at the center (where the light is intense) and open up more at the edges to achieve a uniform light intensity throughout the classroom. Light shelves are also used on the south side to keep light from directly entering the classroom.

Image source

The light shelf, skylight louvers, and reflector are all there to keep direct sunlight from hitting people, while allowing sunlight to bathe the room with a natural glow.

These principles would apply not only to a classroom or library, as we see being explored here at Mount Angel Abbey, but also to Church meetinghouses and Temples where spiritual learning takes place in chapels, classrooms, and celestial rooms. Using natural daylight in buildings not only saves money, but makes building users happier, healthier, and more productive. Think of the Temple worker in the Temple all day without a glimpse of the outside world. Think of the three hour Sunday block with scarcely any natural light to illuminate the gospel teachings learned. Think of the increase in spiritual learning, enlightenment, and awakening when daylighting is incorporated into the design of our places of worship. And on top of that, think of the tithing money saved from thousands of meetinghouses and hundreds of temples using a fraction of their electricity and lighting bills.

Image source
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The Answer is Blowin' in the Wind

Spanish Fork Windmills by Dan McLean

The State of Utah has its first commercial wind farm and it is located at the mouth of Spanish Fork Canyon, one of the windiest areas in Utah. While an undergraduate student, I framed homes for a summer and one of those homes was in Spanish Fork. We started at 7am each day and, as I recall, it took all my strength to maneuver a single 4’x8’ sheet of plywood through the wind and into place on the framing. Apparently the strongest wind usually blows through the canyon from about 11pm to 10am. I drove through the canyon this past July and was blown away by the size of the nine windmills which will be up and running by September. Each windmill contains a 2.1-megawatt turbine that is expected to produce enough electricity to power 600 homes. There are nine windmills in the canyon for a total of 18.9 megawatts. (source)

The children at nearby Spanish Oaks Elementary School report that each windmill blade is 147 feet long, with the total diameter at 350 feet. Additionally, the tips will travel at 170 mph. The children conclude, “We should all be thankful for these windmills, they produce more energy and less pollution, we need more and more electricity each day, these windmills are a great thing, and they are also beautiful.” (source)

Windmills at night by Robert's Random Adventure Tours

According to Suzlon Energy, the manufacturer of the windmills, “The world of wind power is growing at a phenomenal pace. Projections put the average growth of the industry at 24% for the next five years.” The National Renewable Energy Laboratory states, “Wind is a clean, inexhaustible, indigenous energy resource that can generate enough electricity to power millions of homes and businesses. Wind energy is one of the fastest-growing forms of electricity generation in the world. The United States can currently generate more than 10,000 megawatts (MW) of electricity from the wind, which is enough to power 2.5 million average American homes. Industry experts predict that, with proper development, wind energy could provide 20% of this nation's energy needs.”

A diverse energy portfolio includes wind and sun power to create electricity - Image by swilsonmc

Rocky Mountain Power is purchasing the energy output from these windmills. According to their website, Rocky Mountain Power is committed to diversifying its renewable resources, which is especially important in Utah. Sarah Wright, executive director of Utah Clean Energy, compares diversification of energy to diversifying an investment portfolio. She said that Utah's energy isn't currently diverse because 95 percent comes from coal.

Unrelated to the wind power, another good point about the windmills is the specific site location chosen. The site was previously mined as a gravel pit. This reuse of the site helps lessen the development of new untouched land.

Image by Josh at 'What's Hip Hapnin?'

To kick off the start of the windmills, Spanish Fork is hosting a wind power celebration this weekend entitled Sky Spectacular. Included is a ribbon-cutting of the new wind farm turbines, the first Spanish Fork Kite Festival, and a “Go Green” Expo highlighting green businesses and products. It begins this Friday and continues Saturday.

Windmill panorama at dusk by swilsonmc
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