25 June 2008

How Does the LDS Church feel about Sustainability?

The sound bites in the video are from Bill Williams, director of architecture and engineering for City Creek Reserve, Inc. These are posted on the LDS Newsroom site, and below is the transcribed text of his words:

"When you think about sustainability it’s beyond just green roofs, if you will. But those, in and of itself are probably the most visible because as you rise up in an office building instead of looking down on black tar you see something that’s growing. And what that does for us, is it captures rainwater, it absorbs it so it doesn’t run into the streams at a rapid rate and erode, it cools the building itself because green roofs have a natural cooling ability; shade, things like that."

"As a Church we have always been interested in sustainable efforts. We’ve never sought for public attention in that regard, but sustainable efforts from a Church-wide is something that is just prudent because it means we pay less over a long term for our structures and for our buildings, especially in terms of maintenance and operating costs. So it’s just a prudent thing to do."

"It illustrates that we truly uphold these values; that we try to be good stewards of whatever we do. And that we try to give back to the community. We don’t take from the community, but we give in terms of our time, our efforts, service. But we also look at the environment and say we’re going to be here for a long time. We’d like to ensure that there is a future and it’s a future that we all like and so we participate in the sustainability effort that is going around the country."

(City Creek Center)

(City Creek Center)

Source credits in the video are as follows:

Conference Center:
Flickr user bsmart - Green Rooftop of the LDS Conference Center
Flickr user
- New LDS mormon Conference Center
Utah.com article -
Atop a New Monument, an Ancient Forest
Greenroofs.com database -
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Conference Center
Flickr user
jonnojohnson - IMG_4638 and IMG_4630

City Creek:
LDS Newsroom
Wikipedia - City Creek Condominium Tower

(Conference Center by deanrich_99)
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23 June 2008

Highlighted Environmental Artist: Daniel McCormick

The Watershed: An Ecological Installation, Sleepy Hollow Creek, San Anselmo, California, 2002 (photo: Mary O'Brien) (source)

Daniel McCormick creates Healing Sculptures using natural materials to help control erosion and restore ecosystems and watersheds. Using art to heal and restore damaged environments is an amazingly beautiful concept. Rather than being an object of reflection or worship, the artwork points towards the grandest ‘art installation’ of all – the Earth, and acts as a catalyst for bringing life back to the Creation. This is truly selfless art, the life of the artwork breaking down and returning to the earth, in order to bring new life to an ecosystem. While I have not seen any of these installations in person, these images portray the exact balance of beauty, sensitivity and materiality that so many of our abused ecosystems need.

Site plan of art installation in agricultural area with a salmon spawning creek (source)

“My approach to creating ecological art relies on the interplay of restoration science and the creative process… It consists of large-scale sculptural forms that lend assistance in the restoration of watershed ecosystems. These sculptures function effectively as silt traps and erosion control devices. They are designed and sized to fit the curves of stream banks and gullies…The ultimate goal is to transform these sculptures into a sustainable component of the watershed, in order to reestablish vegetation and prevent further erosion.” (Daniel McCormick)

“I have received a lot of inquiries about how people can view my finished work. This is often tricky, since my intention is that the art eventually disappear into the land leaving thriving vegetation to stabilize the creek banks.” (Daniel McCormick)

Watershed sculpture in Corte Madera Creek watershed at low water, Fairfax, California, summer 2004. (source)

Watershed sculpture in Corte Madera Creek watershed one year later, during the winter floods, 2005. (source)

“I want my sculptures to have a part in influencing the ecological balance of compromised environments. I am compelled by the idea of using sculpture in a way that will allow the damaged areas of the watershed to reestablish itself. As it has evolved, my art has become focused on strategically congregating sculptural components made from riparian materials back into the watershed system. They are intended to give advantage to the natural system, and after a period of time, as the restoration process is established, the artist's presence shall no longer be felt.” (Daniel McCormick)

Silt Trap Basket (source)

“The sculptures are constructed of material taken directly from the watershed—trimmings from trees and brush. Once constructed and placed in damaged gullies and stream banks, the sculptures act as silt traps that collect the eroded soil and debris from pasturelands. The traps are filled with more riparian material—cuttings from nearby willows—which help to filter the silt and allow cleaner flows downstream. (If left to flow into the stream during the winter rains, this silt would suffocate the eggs of spawning salmon and steelhead.) The sculptures eventually breakdown leaving the newly established willow to stabilize the stream bank, and begin the stream restoration process. The ability of the native willow to re-root and establish itself with just the slightest bit of encouragement, sets the stage for the next phase of my work. I intend for the sculpture to disappear completely leaving a succession of native erosion-controlling growth to take hold. The intent is to make adjustments in the watershed so as to return a degree of equilibrium to the stream system.” (Daniel McCormick)

Flood Plane Wall - A curving wall woven of native Willow, California Sycamore, Alder and Cottonwood. Living Willow and Cottonwood saplings were woven into the wall, and will reinforce the recovery action. (source)
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Evangelicals and the Environment

According to a Reuters news report, there has been a "15 percentage point drop in the alliance of white evangelicals aged 18 to 29 with the Republican Party over the past two years. ‘This group is going to be definitely worth watching,’ said Dan Cox, a Pew research associate and author of the report. ‘If anything, they're becoming more independent in their outlook.’ Most favor stricter laws to protect the environment, for example, an issue not typically associated with Republican platforms, yet remain conservative on issues like opposition to abortion and support for the death penalty."

(Image from http://timmyroland.blogspot.com/)

Two weeks ago, five hundred of these evangelicals, many with "tattoos, scruffy facial hair, and flip flops" gathered for a conference entitled ‘Envision: the Gospel, Politics and the Future’ at Princeton, NJ, organized by a broad coalition of faith-based and academic institutions. A unique aspect of the conference were ‘Learning Tracks’ which allowed attendees to choose one of 20 topics for the entire conference. Through four 90-minute sessions, these Learning Tracks provided a chance to take on a focused course of study in an area of interest, under a leading expert in the field. The three tracks that caught my attention were:

-Caring for the Earth - See what we all can do to care for creation and address climate change and other environmental problems (by Alexei Lauschkin, who is a program assistant at the Evangelical Environmental Network)

-Beyond Consumerism - Discover how faith can help us live simply out of care for our neighbor and the earth (by Ron Sider)

-Arts for Transformation - Explore how faith and arts can be a way to inspire and lead social transformation and learn how to create such art (by Bruce Herman & Lara Scott)

Out of this dialogue came the ‘Envision Declaration,’ which was created from reports and conversations at the three-day conference. Highlights of this declaration include:

"Envision offers new voices in the public square to address the complexities that confront the United States and the world. We are racially and ethnically diverse activists, clergy, lay persons, students, and scholars who are deeply informed by a faith that compels us to participate in God’s work to eradicate poverty, create peace, and build just communities and right relationships with the earth."

"In recent times, some have used Christianity to divide us from one another and demonize others. They have placed Christianity on the side of the powerful against the powerless. Envision inaugurates a new relation between our faith and our politics. In a spirit of humility and hospitality, we seek to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with God and each other."

"We acknowledge that we do not agree on all things. We acknowledge that we do not have all the answers, but we will seek them together. In the midst of our differences we are committed to remain together at the table that God sets for us and not demonize each other, but talk, reason, and work together for a brighter and better future."

I agree with all that they said and decided to add my name by signing the Declaration.
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19 June 2008

Sierra Club praises LDS Church

As the Deseret News reported today, the LDS Church has received recognition for the City Creek Center in the first national report by the Sierra Club on communities of faith entitled “Faith in Action: Communities of Faith Bring Hope for the Planet.”

“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) is helping revitalize downtown Salt Lake City, and it’s doing so in a green manner. City Creek Reserve, Inc. (CCRI), a real estate development arm of the church, is directing the construction of a transit-oriented, 20-acre mixed use project which will include residential, retail and office space. The results from this smart growth strategy will greatly reduce Salt Lake City's dependence on the automobile.

Apparently more than half of the demolition debris is being recycled and only native plant species will be used for landscaping. But here is the money quote that has given me a huge permagrin today:

The decision to pursue LEED certification was a natural outflow of the values of the LDS faith. CCRI Director of Architecture and Engineering Bill Williams says long term sustainability is central to the project. ‘As you look at the tenets of our religion, there is a notion that we must be good stewards in all that we do,’ explains Williams. ‘It is our hope that this project will be prosperous, while standing true to our values of wise stewardship and giving back to the community.’ Williams and the CCRI designers hope this project will be a catalyst for further neighborhood redevelopment, noting that it allows residents and visitors to celebrate the unique natural beauty and rich history of Salt Lake City.”

Bill Williams

It is enormously refreshing to hear the director of the Church Architecture and Engineering department speak in terms of stewardship, values, community, and sustainability. This is a great day for Mormon environmentalists everywhere.

Every state is represented, so check out the full report and see what religious groups in your state are doing to help protect and preserve the environment.
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09 June 2008

Hydroponics, Urban Farming and LED Lighting

You know how you learn a new word and then all of a sudden you see it everywhere? I learned the term ‘locavore’ last week from a post on Latter-day Sustainability. And now I’m seeing it everywhere. Above is an image from an unusual, but fantastic, competition entry idea for creating an urban farm. ‘The Locavore Fantasia’ by the architect WORK AC is an apartment building topped with a working farm.

"We thought we’d bring the farm back to the city and stretch it vertically," says Work AC co-principal Dan Wood. "We are interested in urban farming and the notion of trying to make our cities more sustainable by cutting the miles [food travels]," adds his co-principal (and wife) Amale Andraos. The design would have different crops on each floor while four large water tanks would collect rainwater for irrigation. Crops would face south towards the sun.

VERTICAL FARM advantages:
-Ability to feed 50,000 people from one building
-Save significantly on transportation costs
-Stimulate economy by providing local jobs
-Build a stronger community
-Reduce rural agricultural land use
-Allow the return of farmland to forestland

The most published vertical farm design can be seen below. Interestingly, this has erroneously been reported all over the web as a building that is being developed in Las Vegas. However, the originator of the building is not aware of this, and is unsure how the false rumor was started. Still, it remains a great concept for urban food production.

Image from Chris Jacobs blog

Image from NY Magazine

With the possibility of indoor farming, we can look to hydroponics rather than using soil-based methods.

HYDROPONIC advantages:
-Provides constant temperature and light to maximize crop yield
-Extended growth seasons
-Minimizes use of pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers, improving the health of people and ecosystems
-Water is used efficiently
-The most environmentally friendly method of growing plants
-Cheaper and more efficient than soil gardening
-Removes risk of erosion and allows land to return to natural state
-Eliminates most bacteria, pathogens, protozoa, and plant nematodes improving the health of the plants
-Automatic watering and feeding
-Simple weed control
-Eliminates intricate soil-management strategies and guesswork
-Provides a balanced formula of nutrients made for the purpose of optimizing plant growth

Agro Housing by Knafo Klimor Architects
Winner of 2nd International Competition for Sustainable Housing (China 2007)
Chinese apartment tower utilizing hydroponic gardens at each unit

Agro Housing by Knafo Klimor Architects
Winner of 2nd International Competition for Sustainable Housing (China 2007)
Chinese apartment tower utilizing hydroponic gardens at each unit

"Specialty crops such as tomatoes, lettuce, cucumbers, and hot peppers, which cannot be grown conventionally all year long, are being grown hydroponically year ‘round. These vegetables that were previously scarce in winter are now plentiful. Since hydroponically grown vegetables can be continuously harvested, even regions that have harsh winters or short growing seasons can grow these specialty crops." (Source)

Lettuce growing Aeroponically

The most rapidly evolving type of hydroponic system is the ‘Nutrient Film Technique’ where a thin film of nutrient solution flows through a plastic-lined channel containing the plant roots. This system has the advantage of a using a significantly reduced volume of nutrient solution.

Strawberries growing in ‘Polygal hanging bed-pack’ troughs suspended at a height of 1.8 m above the ground level

LED Lighting
With the possibility of indoor farming, we can also look to LED lighting as an energy efficient light source.

Arclinea Indoor Greenhouse
Arclinea's innovation, based on technology developed by NASA, incorporates a specialized LED lighting system that mimics the movement of the sun from rise to set, allowing small herbs to grow indoors in the dead of winter.

LED advantages:
-Allows efficient indoor gardening - even in the kitchen
-Safe to use
-Low voltage
-10 to 12 year bulb life
-Operate 24/7 all year long
-No mercury, glass, or UV
-No ballast or reflector - light goes straight to the plant
-Produces only 25% visible light - minimum heat and glare
-Eliminates wasted light and heat

Good testing site for LED lighting and indoor gardening

LED Grow Master Global

(Primary source for much of the research taken from http://www.verticalfarm.com/plans-2k4.htm)

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04 June 2008

Bicycle Commute

Bicycle path adjacent to the Freeway

So I decided to take up the BCC Bike Commuting Challenge and commute to work on my bike this morning. This was my first attempt at such a feat as I have previously always used buses and trains to get to work. I certainly don't live in the best location for a bike commute, but decided to give it a shot since I am desperate for an excuse to get back in shape.

Since I live west of downtown Portland, my commute went adjacent to the Freeway, up through Washington Park and the West Hills and then down into Portland. It was a nice mix of beautiful, not-so-beautiful, and learning that I am not in very good shape...Skyline Boulevard in particular was brutal...

In fact, to give you an idea of the hills involved, here are some names of the roads I traveled:
-Cedar Hills Boulevard
-Skyline Boulevard
-Fairview Boulevard
-Vista Avenue

Favorite moment of the commute: Watching a Unicyclist cruise down the hill at like 30 MPH. I honestly thought it was a runaway clown who was going to crash and die. After I stopped to turn around and watch, he actually handled the hill quite impressively for not having any handlebars.

Least favorite moment of the commute: Getting lost in Washington Park - that place is a maze.

Downhill through Washington Park and into Portland was especially beautiful though. If you can, I highly recommend pulling out your bike to commute. You will save some money, get in shape, and help the environment. BCC was kind enough to post some pictures of my commute, and I have posted them and others below for your viewing enjoyment.

Did I mention Skyline Boulevard was brutal...?

Neighborhood I rode through

A beautiful cottage I rode past - it's even for sale

The Rose Garden at Washington Park

Washington Park with downtown Portland in the background

Drinking water supply for Portland - the sign says it's a crime to throw anything into the water

I made it - Downtown Portland
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01 June 2008

Temples on the Edge

Las Vegas Nevada Temple

Many LDS Temples have, and are currently, being built at the outer perimeter of cities, literally at the edge where urban and rural meet. In fact over half of the current Temples in the US exist at this edge of development (35 out of 66). One third of Temples in the US are squarely in the suburbs (22 out of 66), while just nine in the US exist at or near the city center. Almost all of these edge Temples have been built since 1998 with new Temple sites continuing to be chosen at the edges of development. While the idea to bring the Temples to the people is a good one, the placement of Temples at the edge is not the best solution for providing Temple opportunities to all people in a given Temple district. The following are reasons in support of placing a Temple at the center of a city, town, or metro area.

Las Vegas Nevada Aerial (red dot is Temple)

1. Decreases travel. Where the Temple is at an extreme edge of the city, people on the other side of a given city have to travel across the entire metro area. If the Temple were at the center, travel would be evenly distributed for all wishing to attend, including patrons and workers.

2. People without a car can’t attend most LDS Temples in the US. With locations of Temples at the edge, there are limited transit options other than the automobile. At the city centers, the transit options are maximized for rich and poor alike, providing the best and the most frequent transit alternatives for any given city. I am reminded of one of my favorite movies, New York Doll, which showed Arthur ‘Killer’ Kane, a volunteer in the Family History Library at the Los Angeles Temple, heading there on a city bus. Most of our Temples are not along frequent bus lines that would make such a trip feasible. A Temple at the center would allow equal opportunity for all to attend; especially lower income families and students. For instance, here in Portland it is impossible to travel to the Temple, which is located in a residential suburb, using public transit.

3. Discourages sprawl. There are many problems and issues with developing land on the edge. Adding infrastructure, adding new utility lines, clearing the land, adding roads, impact fees, zoning problems, height restrictions, neighbors who don’t want lots of traffic, bright lights, or a large building next to their home. This would not be a problem in city centers. The infrastructure is already in place and there are plenty of infill sites in every city rather than developing virgin land. These Brownfield sites are everywhere and can be used to help maximize the use of underdeveloped land. Often there are even incentives and significant city support for developing such sites, meaning they will do everything to help the project move forward and be a success.

Sacramento California Temple

Sacramento California Aerial (red dot is Temple)

4. Supports the pattern established in the Plat for the City of Zion where Temples are located at the center. In the Old Testament we read that the Lord "…will set [His] sanctuary in the midst of them for evermore…And the heathen shall know that I the Lord do sanctify Israel, when my sanctuary shall be in the midst of them for evermore." (Ezekiel 37:26,28) The word midst means "the interior or central part or point: MIDDLE." Even in Jerusalem, the Temple was able to exist in the profane city, being in, but not of the world, through a series of thresholds separating the two spheres of existence.

5. Less land needed. A smaller lot size can be purchased in the center helping to offset the higher land costs of building in the city. Building at the edge offers the allurement of cheap land, but there are other costs. Out on the edge you need an enormous landscape of parking for vehicles since there will be very few other options to travel to the Temple. At the center of the city, you may not need parking at all, ideally being able to rely on an adjacent parking garage.

6. More people in the community will see and visit the Temple. This will allow the Temple to have a greater influence on the community as well as fostering a more open relationship with people in the community. The act of putting a Temple at the center of the community shows them our desire to integrate, contribute, and be involved, rather than remain isolated at the perimeter. The closer to the city center, the more likely it will be used and recognized as an asset to the community. People would respond more favorably if we were seen as one of them. Our role would move from a fringe group on the outside of society and culture to one of acceptance, understanding, and tolerance right at the heart of the action. Just as no one will respond to the message of the Gospel until they know you care and are a friend, people need to see our Temples as a friend to them in the community. When more people can see and touch and feel our Temples, even if only from the outside, the presence of it in the city will help them open up more to us.

Redlands California Temple Aerial (red area is Temple)

These concepts will help fulfill President Hinckley’s goal of bringing the Temples to the people. After the bulk of his Temple-building had been completed, Hinckley stated, "…we are not satisfied. We will keep on working to bring the temples to the people, making it more convenient for Latter-day Saints everywhere to receive the blessings which can only be had in these holy houses." (The Work Goes On Apr 2001 Gen Conf) Placing the Temples at the center rather than the edge will help make the Temples of the Church more accessible for all and readily available to the people, as well as being better for the environment and increasing our presence in the communities in which we live.

Albuquerque New Mexico Temple

Albuquerque New Mexico Aerial (red area is Temple)

Albuquerque New Mexico Aerial (red dot is Temple)

Amazing Sites used to gather data for this post:
LDS Church Temples
Live Search Maps
Google Transit

"Well, I'd say the Church has gone as far as it can in putting temples closer to the Saints."
Kent Christensen in Sunstone Issue 97 Dec 1994
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