14 November 2008

A Prophet’s View

I spent much of yesterday inside the condo of the late President Hinckley. It will shortly be remodeled for President Monson to use. In a way, it was quite surreal to be in the rooms where the Hinckley’s slept, bathed, ate, entertained, and ultimately died. The room where I was surprisingly touched and drawn to the most was the master bedroom. According to KUTV News, it was here that President Hinckley was bedridden for the last four days of his life.

The views all around are spectacular. The layout of the President’s Office is such that there is a window on the side with a view of the State Capital and French doors in front of the desk with a view of the Temple. Apparently President Hinckley used to state that he would look to his right for taxation and he would look straight ahead for inspiration.
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12 November 2008

Begging at the Temple

This morning I was approached by a homeless person in front of Temple Square asking for money. This experience reminded me of a trip to Temple Square many years ago when I was young and saw a sign on the wall near the entrance. The sign asked Temple-goers not to give money to the panhandlers on the street but rather to give to charitable organizations. After my experience this morning, I looked for the sign but was unable to find it. Regardless of a person’s view of the various ways of how best to help the poor and homeless, there seems to be something significant about a person coming to the Temple begging for help.

-In Acts we read of the story of the lame man who was carried each morning to the gate of the Temple in order to ask alms of them that entered into the Temple. (Acts 3:2) This beggar at the Temple asked the Apostle Peter for money. Peter responded saying he had no money but could offer a physical healing of his ailment. He did this and then entered the Temple with the man.

-The speech King Benjamin gave his people was at the Temple. They were living in tents around the Temple begging for a remission of their sins. With the building of the tower and all the burnt offerings performed, they were likely there for several days, if not longer. Camping there for so long, they probably looked pretty ragged, prompting Benjamin to refer to them as beggars. Here was a group of homeless beggars living in tents at the Temple. (Mosiah 2-4)

In similar ways all of us are beggars when we go to the Temple. Is there any distinction between someone coming to a Temple begging for alms versus someone begging for a remission of sins, versus someone begging for guidance from the Lord? Does it matter that some of the beggars remain on the outside of the Temple and some go inside?

Unless we are going for the first time, Temple work essentially involves a service to others; to those who have already lived and died. I find it interesting that we so easily pass the living beggars in the street in order to get into the Temple to help the beggars who have already died achieve salvation.

According to Malachi we rob God when we don’t pay tithing. And according to Nephi we rob the poor with our beautiful buildings and fine clothing (2 Ne 28:13). Ironically in the Church our most beautiful buildings are Temples and we wear our best clothing to attend. Does this change how we should approach or respond to the beggars we see at the Temple?
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11 November 2008

Thank you Rush Limbaugh

The local news last night shared the story of the One World Everybody Eats Cafe in Salt Lake and how Rush Limbaugh attacked it during his show because they are a not-for-profit restaurant. It’s true the restaurant model is very different than others. They let people choose their own portions and then pay what they feel it’s worth. The vision statement includes goals of feeding and including all members of the community, only using organic unprocessed food, eliminating waste in the food industry, and ending world hunger. I simply ask – what is so wrong with this? You can choose not to eat there, but is there anything wrong with a place that has lofty ideals for bettering our community? He stated in his broadcast,

“I’m probably doing more for the One World Café than anybody possibly could. I’m sure there’s people in Salt Lake that listen to this program and despise me and hear me making fun of this humanitarian effort here that it’s an embarrassment to American business and they’re going to go flood the place now and make sure that it stays open. I’m giving them free advertising. They’ll probably overpay for what they’re getting…I doubt that. Liberals don’t go that far. They still want other people’s money to pay for what they do and what they get. But they’ll still stream in there to show a measure of support…” (Rush Limbaugh radio program 10 Nov 2008)

He’s right there. My curiosity was killing me so I had to try it out during lunch today. I thought the food was delicious and the service very friendly. Seeing as how Rush Limbaugh has never been there, I’m not sure how he can say the following,

“I don’t want [beef from Allen Brothers] wasted on a bunch of long-haired maggot-infested dope-smoking FM types walking in to the One World Café.” (Rush Limbaugh radio program 10 Nov 2008)

Interestingly, the idea for the restaurant began with an epiphany. Denise Cerreta developed the café to nourish both the body and the soul. She began the restaurant in 2003 and, “After a couple of months, and a lot of mental anguish, she had an encounter with the divine. She calls it inspiration from a higher power, her own ‘Field of Dreams’ experience, where she ‘just knew’ if she followed it, customers would come…It told her to get rid of her price board and cash register and let customers decide how much to pay for their food…‘I think we all have that ability’ to hear a prompting from a higher source. ‘But I don't think we listen to it.’” (source)

According to the Deseret News, the café doesn’t even do any type of advertising. “Her clientele has simply grown by word of mouth.” Why would she need to do any advertising when she has Rush Limbaugh advertising for her for free…so thanks for lunch Rush, I guess God really does move in mysterious ways…

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10 November 2008

UTA is Encouraging Sprawl

Despite their best intentions, the Utah Transit Authority (UTA) is encouraging sprawl with the bus system they have in place. The culprit: Express and Fast buses. The past several months I have been using the Express Bus to get to and from Lehi each day. While I was the beneficiary of a fast bus with no stops and a relatively short commute for living so far away, I came to the realization that this approach to public transit is not in the best interest of the people of Utah.

UTA currently has twenty nine Express/Fast bus routes that come from the outer ring suburbs to the center while skipping the first and second ring suburbs. As a result, many transit commutes are shorter from the outer suburbs than from the inner suburbs. The current system says to me “UTA would rather have you live in Lehi than Sugarhouse.”

One solution is the approach Portland, Oregon uses which places Transit Centers at various locations of the inner suburbs. This allows people in the outer rings to catch a bus that takes them to the inner ring Transit Center. From there they transfer to a line that goes to the center, or downtown. This allows everyone to use transit but gives the penalty in time and transfers to those further out. It also gives more flexibility allowing people to get around at times other than commute times. Thirty nine of UTA’s bus routes currently only run during commute hours. This becomes very problematic when emergencies arise or people need to travel home at non-commute times.

1402 Blair St by Liberty Park – 23 minutes – 1 transfer – 2.69 miles
2378 Blaine Ave in SugarHouse – 47 minutes – 1 transfer – 5.84 miles
3846 Knudsen St in East Millcreek – 48 minutes – 1 transfer – 11.2 miles
3492 Sunnybrook Dr in West Valley – 44 minutes – 1 transfer – 11.31 miles
3528 Mystic Way in Magna – 51 minutes – 1 transfer – 15.08 miles
452 Stephanie Circle in Sandy – 57 minutes – 1 transfer – 15.81 miles
1186 N 500 W Lehi – 50 minutes – 0 transfers – 28.41 miles
378 N 100 E in Tooele – 1 hour 12 minutes – 0 transfers – 33.36 miles

For my unscientific study above, all addresses were chosen at random in various cities that UTA serves and had the same destination of 50 E North Temple. All used the same departure time of a weekday at 7:00am. The only randomly-chosen addresses that were excluded were those that UTA’s Trip Planner could not compute (more than 1/4 mile walking or more than 3 hours travel. Side note: it would be nice to have the option of increasing the walking portion of the Trip Planner to 1/2 mile.)

As you can see, a commute from SugarHouse is an equivalent time to a commute from Lehi or Magna. And since Lehi, Magna, and Tooele have no transfers, the commute is more desirable than Sugarhouse or East Millcreek since there are no transfers (who wants to get out in the snow multiple times?)

While this is only a small sampling, it shows that there are many locations that UTA serves where it is easier and faster to use public transit from living farther out rather than closer in. Is this really the message UTA wants to send? I don’t know about other people, but I used the UTA Trip Planner site more than any other site to aid in choosing which home to buy here in Utah. The Express/Fast bus system is telling people that you may have a shorter commute if you move out further. In spite of this critique, great improvements are being made with additional rail lines and transit options by UTA. With these upcoming changes, I just hope they will reconsider the current bus system and move towards a Transit Center approach.
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10 October 2008

Loving our Stewardship

I heard this quote yesterday in Management Principles training and loved it. Especially when read in context of our stewardship with the earth and all living things thereon:

“No stewardship can be fully filled without divine direction. This involves study of the scriptures, the words of the living prophets, and calling upon the Lord for intelligence beyond your own…Under true stewardship there is no room for vain ambition, pettiness, or status seeking. One’s ambition is to serve the Lord and His kingdom first. Carelessness, mediocrity, feigned effort, or inconsistent performance have no place where true stewardship is manifest. Love is the motivating force—love for God and love for others.” President Ezra Taft Benson (The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p. 381, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1988.)

When I think about the beauty and the good that I see all around me in this world, it is refreshing to hear from a prophet that love is the motivator behind all stewardship. This Creation is the Savior’s stewardship, and love is His motivator in His dealings with the earth. As we learn about our individual stewardships regarding this planet, love will likewise motivate us to action.
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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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07 August 2008

Moving to Utah

Church Office Building from Conference Center Roof

This site will be slower than usual for at least the next month. I have accepted a position at the LDS Church and will be moving from Portland to Salt Lake City. This was a very difficult decision, since I never planned on, or really desired to, live in Utah. (Hey, even the pioneers didn't want to live there.) Settling here in Portland was part of a "perfect plan" to live here and raise the children. But apparently the Lord has other plans for me. As I prayed about this decision, the answer came that it is not the life I choose for myself that's important, but the life that God chooses for me. And while I love Portland and will have a hard time leaving, I believe that this decision is an inspired one and will ultimately be beneficial for my family, my career, and hopefully for the Church. I am excited to be able to work at the center of Church Headquarters and plan to make a positive difference and contribution there.

Now it's time to finish the bathroom, sell the home, and find a new home in the Salt Lake Valley...

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25 July 2008

New Temple Design: Rexburg and Twin Falls Idaho

Rexburg Temple by Scott O. Smith

Not having visited the Rexburg or Twin Falls Idaho Temples in person yet, I can hardly offer an expert critique of their design and execution. However, I wanted to take the opportunity to share my thoughts on the most recent Temples of the LDS Church. From an exterior standpoint, the Rexburg Temple is more grand, elegant, proportional, and attractive than that of the Twin Falls. Whether intended or not, the building merges elements from both the St. George and Mesa Temples to draw from the past, giving us something familiar, while presenting those elements in a new and fresh way.

Rexburg Temple by GoofyJ

Rexburg, Idaho Temple
The architect of the Rexburg Temple, Architectural Nexus, designed repeating narrow vertical windows in the side façades that are very much in the language of the Mesa Arizona Temple. As is the building base that the Temple rests on. Additionally, the extension of this base pulling forward from the main building is almost an exact replica from Mesa. With a single axis rectangular plan rather than a dual axis square plan, the Rexburg Temple also has similarities with the St. George Temple. Here we have a linear, elongated plan and a prominent steeple that hierarchically establishes the focal point of the building, directing us to the building entrance. The St George Temple took the single steeple from Kirtland and Nauvoo and pulled it out of the building, protruding to the front. This similar language has been used at Rexburg and Twin Falls. Windows have been inserted into this protruding steeple, and the most prominent part of the Temple, the Celestial room, placed inside of it.

Mesa Temple by MatthewPHX showing facade and protruding entrance base similar to Rexburg

St. George Temple showing a single protruding steeple

Twin Falls, Idaho Temple
The architect of the Twin Falls Temple, MHTN Architects, was lead by Principal Kyle Taft for this project. The Temple square footage is about half the square footage of the Rexburg Temple, and it definitely has similar features. But somehow, using Rexburg as a model and adding the change in scale did not equal as strong of a design in this case. As you can see, the base is gone, there is no front extension, and the elegant window repetition on the sides is not nearly as interesting.

Twin Falls Temple under construction

Another design failure is quoted from the architect himself, “He noted that the endowment room clerestory windows were originally intended to filter natural light, but architectural requirements for passage of electrical and mechanical systems necessitated that artificial light be used behind that stained glass.” (source) The technical systems running through a building should never dictate the design, unless of course that is what’s intended. For this reason, this project would get a very negative critique in any beginning design school. The design process should allow for the expression of form, materials, and systems. To not account for the technical systems through the building while compromising one of the most important spaces in the building is embarrassing. Design is problem solving. If beautiful natural light is desired, there is an economical, beautiful workable solution. There always is. To me, this is where preparation, planning, and revelation can come to play for an LDS architect - especially as it regards the important design of a Temple.

One good feature of the Twin Falls Temple to note is the placement of the exterior lighting. Rather than washing out the night sky, the lighting is strictly focused on the Temple. This will help minimize waste, save money, and keep the night sky dark, protecting wildlife and the observatory at the nearby College of Southern Idaho.

Regional Materials
At the Twin Falls Temple, the beautiful rock forming the flowerbeds is native to Idaho, but most of the other interior finishes are imported. The granite floors are from India, and the anigre wood on the first floor is from Africa. While this may seem exotic and desirable, for a Temple to feel like a local Temple, a beautiful touch is to search for the best local materials available and use them. This regional approach to building adds distinction and flavor to each Temple, even in a “standard plan.” This approach is utilized for the artwork and stained glass, where local Idaho painters are featured, which is beautiful. The building, as a work of art, could reflect the same local flavor and customs. Rexburg, Twin Falls, and St. George all used regional materials for the exterior of the buildings. St. George used native red sandstone quarried north of the city, which was then plastered white. Both Rexburg and Twin Falls used white quartz precast panels that were mined in neighboring Washington state. While the St. George material selection was done out of necessity, I think a regional material selection today adds to the local beauty of the temple by becoming a Temple of the people and of the land in which it serves. Additionally, this provides significant cost and transportation savings as well as helping to stimulate the local economy in which the Temple is based. Regional building is sustainable building.

Temple as Art or Decoration?
Part of the problem may be how we view our buildings. The Magic Valley Times-News had an article highlighting the Twin Falls Temple. A quote from the article states, “But all the art, as well as the architecture, is just decoration. As an architect, Taft strived to avoid having the temple distract from the function it will serve. ‘What happens within the temple is quantum leaps more important than the building itself. We're providing a setting for the sacred worship,’ he said.”

Twin Falls Endowment Room - art, architecture, or decoration?

I profoundly disagree philosophically with the architect on his approach to this project. If what he stated were true, there would be no trims, mouldings, or wall mural paintings inside the Temple, because they would distract from what’s really important. If the building is simply viewed as a necessary evil that is constantly taking away from the sacred worship inside, then the most appropriate solution would be Minimalism. Since LDS Temples are far from being designed in the minimalist language, this explanation cannot be true.

My belief is that buildings are a sculpted art form that we inhabit. This is especially true in context of a Temple – a house of worship. As such, the building has the ability to add something of real value to our worship. In my mind, I cannot separate worship from the surrounding context in which it is placed. There will always be a relationship between the two. As such, all forms of art can enhance and add to our worship.

Rexburg Temple by packarddaniel
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18 July 2008

Three Reasons Population Control Doesn’t Help the Environment

My wife and I had a baby boy several weeks ago – our fifth – so I have been pondering and meaning to write this post for some time. Apparently some environmentalists favor having no children or using sterilization as a method to lower the earth’s population. Additionally, some governments have mandates in place to control the number of children each couple has. As a father of a large family I am not advocating for people to have large families. Nor am I an advocate for not having any children. I believe that the most appropriate response is what has been given by LDS Church leaders – it is up to you. “The decision as to how many children to have and when to have them is extremely intimate and private and should be left between the couple and the Lord. Church members should not judge one another in this matter.” (1998 Church Handbook of Instructions) What I will address is the lack of correlation between the number of people on the planet and how eco-friendly we are. Unlike Paul Simon, I do not agree that “the planet groans every time it registers another birth.” (Born at the Right Time) So here are my reasons for believing population control doesn’t help the environment:

1) Fewer people don’t equal greater stewardship. Even if there were only one person on the earth, that doesn’t automatically make mankind environmentally conscious. As early as Cain, “all the forests of the earth rapidly disappeared, while that hero wandered through the earth with his bow for 130 years, looking for anything to kill—‘a human angel of death.’” (Nibley, Man’s Dominion, or Subduing the Earth) A single person could travel the world cutting every tree down, or killing every animal they see.

“If large parts of our country are polluted, it is not because we are too numerous, but because we pollute. The way to stop that disgrace is not to stop having children, but to start cleaning up. The growth of the GNP, sometimes now referred to as gross national pollution, gives us the resources for the job.” (Henry Wallich H. C. Wallich, Newsweek, June 29, 1970) This quote was found in an Ensign article by Philip F. Low from May 1971 titled, “Realities of the Population Explosion.”

2) It is impossible to determine how many people the Earth can sustain because social organization and technology continue to affect the number of people an area can sustain. The change from hunter/gatherer to farmer to city dweller to suburban life has changed the density of living. This will continue to change over time. Next on the horizon are potentially vertical farms in a single skyscraper that can feed an entire city. With technology and social arrangements changing every generation, how can anyone possibly say a specific maximum number that the earth can sustain?

Where people tend to get hung up is projecting our current levels of consumption, pollution, and sprawling cities into the future. What is involved is rethinking what it means to live in a city, how large our cities should be, the role of nature in our cities, how much we consume, where and how we use our energy, what types of fuel sources we have, living locally, and growing our own food, etc. It is a lack of knowledge, a lack of faith, a lack of dependence on God, and a lack of understanding why we are here. If fewer people are better for the planet, then natural disasters, disease, famine, and plagues are ultimately good things since they rid the planet of excess people.

3) Having children is the most human and natural thing we do here. “The first commandment that God gave to Adam and Eve pertained to their potential for parenthood as husband and wife. We declare that God's commandment for His children to multiply and replenish the earth remains in force.” (The Family: A Proclamation to the World) This doesn’t say anything about the number of children, but does say that it is human and natural for us to have children. “It takes faith – unseeing faith – for young people to proceed immediately with their family responsibilities in the face of financial uncertainties.” (Kimball, Faith Precedes the Miracle) Fertility rates in developed countries are already at the lowest they have ever been in the history of the world.

If the planet has too many people, then ‘replacing yourself’ doesn’t solve the problem of over population. Actor Jason Alexander (George on Seinfeld) is promoting this. He says, “This planet was never intended to support the number of human beings we currently have residing on it…So our family talks about responsibility in family planning. We talk about replacing ourselves on this globe, rather than doubling or tripling our numbers.” That is fine if he chooses this for his family. I have no problem with that. But he is advocating for far less people on the planet than we currently have, and the solution he states is for us to replace ourselves only. But this does not get us to the goal of far less people on the planet. He continues by stating, “We will never be able to really get control of the destruction of our planet's valuable resources until we realize that we have an enormous responsibility and obligation to control the size of the human population.” So even though there already exists far more people than the earth can sustain, in his opinion, all we need to do is get control of the human population, and everything will be fine. What is clear to me is that the number of people is not most critical to control, but the over-consuming, irresponsible, polluting lifestyle that is most critical to control.

People are the solution
Barring epic destruction, we cannot lower the earth’s population. Replacing ourselves or only having one child per family will not solve any problems, but create additional problems. I choose to have children, and do not feel guilt or feel that I am being irresponsible or increasing my carbon footprint in this regard. One error of the popular carbon footprint calculators is that they assume a high number for a large family. This may be true, but doesn’t have to be. In fact, in many cases larger families are more frugal and responsible out of necessity. It is as difficult for a family of six to be carbon neutral as it is for a family of one. There doesn’t need to be any extra burden on society. Education and environmental responsibility is the key. A sheer large number of people doesn’t equal irresponsible anymore than a small number equals responsible. If each individual is independently carbon neutral, then all of humanity is also – no matter what the number of that population is. Moving away from finite resources such as oil and towards infinite and renewable resources, such as solar, hydrogen, and electricity will ensure a bright future for all.

Looking at people as part of the solution gives us hope and a positive outlook on the future. “Wherefore, whoso believeth in God might with surety hope for a better world…” (Ether 12:4) Good things happen when we think optimistically. Interestingly, those who choose not to have children, which tend to be the wealthy and educated, are naturally selecting themselves to extinction. As such, the poor and uneducated are increasing rapidly. As an educated and not low-income family, I feel it is my responsibility to be a part of the solution by bringing intelligent, thinking humans to the earth who will make a positive difference in the future of this planet.

How are people the solution?
The solution to all of this is for the poor to be exalted and the rich to be made low. The creation was given to us as an “earthly blessing,” a portion to provide the necessities of life. “I, the Lord, stretched out the heavens, and built the earth, my very handiwork; and all things therein are mine. And it is my purpose to provide for my saints, for all things are mine. But it must needs be done in mine own way; and behold this is the way that I, the Lord, have decreed to provide for my saints, that the poor shall be exalted, in that the rich are made low. For the earth is full, and there is enough and to spare…” (see D&C 104: 11-18)

Regardless of how many people are on the earth, there will always be enough and to spare as long as the rich are made low in attempting to exalt the poor with the necessities of life. Those whose portion is in abundance, for the sake of the creation and all living on it, must give to those who do not have a portion in order to preserve the earth. If we don’t do this “in [God’s] own way,” then we will lose the blessing of an earth full of life with enough for all and to spare. God’s own way is to limit the sin of overconsumption in order to protect and preserve His creation as well as provide for all His children. Everyone will have enough if there is social equality and we all share what is here. This is what governments and religions should be promoting, rather than worrying about the number of children someone has. The warning for not sharing our abundance with the poor is clear. “If any man shall take of the abundance which I have made, and impart not his portion, according to the law of my gospel, unto the poor and the needy, he shall, with the wicked, lift up his eyes in hell, being in torment.” (vs. 18)

In conclusion, the number of children you have has little to do with how environmentally conscious you are. Whether you have a small or a large family is a personal decision and matters little in the grand scheme of things. Overconsumption, not overpopulation is the real problem. If you want to be more eco-friendly and lower your carbon footprint in a real and meaningful way, the best move you can make is to give to the poor. This is the Lord’s plan for reducing, reusing, and recycling.
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16 July 2008

Hugh Nibley: Environmentalist

Hugh Nibley is one of the most prominent and outspoken environmentalists the Church has ever seen. I find it ironic that someone with a Temple blog dedicated to him is so against the environment. I enjoy the Temple blog, but unfortunately his recent post has left a bad taste in my mouth.

I was out of town this weekend meeting with several leaders in the LDS Church physical facilities department discussing, among other things, the future of Church facilities and sustainability and how the Church desires to be more green. Imagine my shock when I get home and read on a major LDS blog (supposedly faith-promoting) how environmentalists are worldly, sterilizing, fascist dictators; that the choice is between the Lord or the Environment; and that this is the true separation of the wheat from the tares. Unfortunately this sounds like someone who has been listening to talk radio too much. It’s funny how the only type of environmentalist that exists in his post is a generalized extremist or whacko. You won’t see me using those same tactics by trying to group him into an abortion-clinic-bombing fanatic, but that is the tactic being used by grouping anyone who is concerned about the environment into a fanatic. What an unfortunate, mean-spirited, divisive post. If anything, posts like this and talk radio in general are creating the wedge that is dividing Zion. Most religious groups in the world, including Latter-day Saints, have a strong environmental ethic. Furthermore, many consider our pollution and poor treatment of the earth a moral issue.

So on to the topic at hand: Hugh Nibley. I have listed quotes from the Millenial Star post with adjacent quotes from Hugh Nibley:

HAYMOND: “The Adversary’s environmentalism plan is plotted squarely against God’s plan of salvation.”

NIBLEY: “...we have Brigham's reply, ‘This is our home. ‘This earth is the home he has prepared for us, and we are to prepare ourselves and our habitations for the celestial glory in store for the faithful.’ ‘This is the habitation of the Saints; this is the earth that will be given to the Saints.’ Again we have the support of the ancients. The earth, says Aristotle, was made to be a home for man, permanently, and for that he must achieve a stable balance with nature, harmonious and pleasant to all. Cicero echoes this sentiment when he says that the earth is a fit home for both gods and men, and man has his part to play in taking good care of the garden. This must be a stable, eternal order with man at the top of the animal scale, held most responsible if things go wrong. Notice that all these references are to one's local home as well as earthly habitation."

HAYMOND: "Having a stewardship of the earth does not mean that we give up our freedom, our life, liberty, property, and family (Alma 46:12-13). Such an overarching and overzealous concern for the Earth is worldly, most literally, and is the religion of environmentalism rather than the religion of God.”

NIBLEY: "Where do you move when pollution is universal? Now the dispute takes on a wholly new direction. It is a new ball game. Heretofore we have always heard that air is free, and it is a free country, and business cashed in on the boundless ocean, as a free dumping ground for industrial garbage."

"Brother Brigham states the problem in terms of a flat-out contest between the most vital necessity of life and pure greed, a principle as old as the human record, rooted in a fundamental fact of nature: ‘The world is after riches. Riches is the god they worship. . . .’"

HAYMOND: “It would not surprise me if the oil debacle is being artificially created by those in power positions who are worshiping the god of this world (2 Cor. 4:4; Eph. 6:12) and want to force us to drive less, use cleaner forms of fuel, and to minimize air pollution to 'save our planet.' I have heard estimates that the world’s oil reserves are enough to serve all energy needs for decades, yet we are seeing today the effects of shortages in supply. Why? Are we really that blind to see this socialist scheme?”

NIBLEY: “The contribution of such combustion centers to acid rain, greenhouse effect, and damaged ozone is irreversible. Here an entire issue of the National Geographic (December 1988) asks on the cover, ‘Can Man Save this Fragile Earth?’ We have long known that there is something wrong, if only by the duck test: if it looks bad, tastes bad, smells bad, and sounds bad in duplicitous argument, then it must be bad.”

“There is no more ancient, pervasive, or persistent tradition than that of the adversary, the Prince of Darkness, most often and most widely described as the lord of the underworld. For the classical writers, Spain was his kingdom, with its blighted regions of mines, smelters, and foundries—all worked by starving, filthy, driven slaves, converting the landscape into barren wastes of slag and stunted vegetation.”

“I could be accused of being prejudiced and extremist, but I would not have taken my position at all if I was not forced into it by the bristling headlines that have suddenly emerged on every side; and the issue never would have reached the covers and front pages of staid conservative journals had it not been thrust upon them by the crushing accumulation of evidence sounding alarm in all quarters. I was brought up in an alarmist atmosphere first by my grandparents, then by the Axis Powers, and now by a sea of frightening statistics; but especially the scriptures kept me thinking. After hearing Jack Anderson this morning, I feel that if anything, I am much too complacent.”

HAYMOND: “Our exceedingly environmentally sensitive society has bought into the campaign that our human ‘species’ is destroying the Earth, and that we are in imminent danger of disaster. I believe WALL-E is another card in the deck of fear-mongering tactics employed by our common Enemy to get power, money, control, oppress mankind with false ‘prophets,’ and reign with blood and horror prior to the return of the Savior.”

NIBLEY: “an early Christian tradition that the evil spirits which constantly seek to defile and corrupt human society ‘move about in thick polluted air,’ as a most fitting environment for their work. In a passage from a famous Hermetic work, the Koreø Kosmu (excerpt 23), the Air complains to the Creator, ‘O Master, I myself am made thick and polluted, and by the stench of dead things from the dump I reek to heaven, so that I breed sickness, and have ceased to be wholesome; and when I look down from above I see things which are too awful to behold.’”

“I do not worry very much about Geneva anymore; it is only a small fumarole at the base of a mighty volcano which is now shuddering and groaning ominously. Brother Anderson said that he hears the great waterfall roaring just ahead. So let us both end with the Book of Mormon:

'For behold, ye do love money. . . . O ye pollutions, . . . who sell yourselves for that which will canker, why have ye polluted the holy church of God? . . . Why do ye build up your secret abominations to get gain, and cause that widows should mourn before the Lord, and also orphans, . . . and also the blood of their fathers and their husbands to cry unto the Lord . . . for vengeance upon your heads? Behold, the sword of vengeance hangeth over you; and the time soon cometh that he avengeth the blood of the saints upon you, for he will not suffer their cries any longer.' (Mormon 8:37–41).”

In conclusion, contrary to what talk radio and others may try to tell you, the environment is not a political issue, it is a human issue. We are all on this planet together and we need to take care of it and we aren’t doing such a good job. Incentives and restrictions help us to do this better. It has nothing to do with socialism or fascism or sterilization, but has everything to do with being better stewards.

*Nibley quotes taken from the essay ‘Stewardship of the Air’. (There is also a link to this and many other such essays on the sidebar.)
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10 July 2008

Now Kids Can Play Before Doing Schoolwork

I always had to finish my schoolwork before playing outside. Now children in Essam, Ghana can play before doing their schoolwork. At a school with no electricity, BYU and Empower Playgrounds have come up with a new and creative way of providing electricity to a village from an activity all children continuously do: play. They installed a merry-go-round that is capturing the energy from children playing and using it in a productive way. This ingenious idea will enhance the community in multiple ways by helping to enhance education, teach science, and provide a fun play structure.

The spinning merry-go-round generates power that is stored in a car battery. This, in turn, charges several dozen portable LED lights to be used in classrooms and homes. Empower Playgrounds hopes to bring this to thousands of additional schools in Ghana. This type of out-of-the-box thinking is helping to raise the standard of living while building a sustainable future in Africa.

Concept Design

More info:
Empower Playgrounds
BYU Article
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08 July 2008

Garden Harvest

Here is a progress picture from our first real garden. For the most part everything is growing well. Except something keeps digging out the carrots - a squirrel or cat possibly? We may need to put up a fence even though I don't want to. Last night we harvested the first of the lettuce and radishes and had a delicious salad for dinner. If only the cucumbers and tomatoes and carrots were ready... My real question is: How does a home-grown salad taste so much more delicious than with store-bought ingredients? Is it in my mind only?

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06 July 2008

Nature and the City in Synagogue Design

Exterior Elevations

Alfred Jacoby, one of the most famous Jewish architects in Germany, has designed his first synagogue in the United States and it was dedicated in Park City, Utah last week. Temple Har Shalom, meaning Mountain of Peace in Hebrew, was designed to coexist with nature in the midst of this high mountain desert. With the Jewish community in Utah being different from the congregations in Germany, "Instead of a discourse with history, in Park City Jacoby's discourse was with nature." The synagogue has clean, simple lines and sanctuaries full of natural light. The ceiling undulates, suggestive of the mountains on the other side of the stained glass windows. (source) "The floor-to-ceiling windows reveal beautiful vistas on two floors, which include a conference room and classrooms that will be available to the community." (source)

While Temple Har Shalom has a site ‘in nature’ on the periphery of Park City, the synagogues in Germany are more integrated with city life. German synagogues, in cities such as Aachen and Heidelberg, are noticeable and inviting, with large entrances "to invite you in, as a gesture," Jacoby said. (source)

It hasn't always been this way though. "In the years following the Holocaust, Jewish communities in Germany — made up of displaced Jews from other countries, since the German Jewish population had been decimated — began building synagogues to replace the ones destroyed by the Nazis. These new synagogues often were hidden away and were generally so nondescript they looked like cafeterias, says Jacoby…The idea, even three or four decades after the end of World War II, was to try not to be noticed. But in 1986, when Jacoby won an architectural competition to design a new synagogue in Darmstadt, he tried a different approach: ‘to show that Jews can be part of a city.’" (source)

In 2000, there was a wave of neofascist vandalism sweeping through Germany. "But the possibility of vandalism hasn't stopped him from designing synagogues that make their presence known. ‘I want them to be part of the urban fabric,’ he said, ‘to heal with architecture.’" (source) Being open and inviting to the community in a synagogue in Kassel included placing the sacred Torah scrolls inside of a glass box that could be seen by anyone walking or driving past the building.

"Ultimately, what this institution is about is relationships. Whether it's your relationship with God or a spiritual relationship or relationship with another human being, it's about relationships, enhancing relationships, and making the lives of Utahns better." (source)

Exterior Rendering
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02 July 2008

WALL-E, Barney and Big Belly: What to do with our Waste

On average, each American produces 30 pounds of waste per week. 25,000 tons of garbage is generated from the city of New York every day. In May, the city of Naples, Italy was littered with over 6000 tons of rubbish piling up and spilling over in city streets because of a dysfunctional waste collection system. In spite of rising food prices, Americans continue to waste an astounding amount of food. According to this NY Times article, 27 percent of food available for consumption ends up in the landfill, which works out to a pound of food every day per person.


When we’re responsible for cleanup, we pay attention’ says an article I recently read. The article is a discussion on helping to clean church buildings, but I think the concept is applicable to the environment as well. How many of us have been to a landfill? Do we know what happens to our waste when we put it in a can? It would be nice if school curriculums required children (and adults) to see the process of where waste goes when it leaves our hands. Even Barney, one of my least favorite children’s shows sings, "Clean up, clean up, everybody everywhere. Clean up, clean up, everybody do your share."


The new Pixar film has as its main character a robot named WALL-E, standing for Waste Allocation Load Lifter, Earth-Class. The film is "set in the late 2700s, several centuries after humans finally filled the Earth with so much garbage that life was no longer sustainable and they had to leave." (Eric Snider review) WALL-E is a solar-powered trash compactor that collects trash and compacts it into cubes. Sound far-fetched? While they don’t walk, and aren’t as cute, similar solar-powered trash compactors are springing up all over the country. They go by the unflattering name of ‘Big Belly.’

Big Belly

I recently spotted several of them in downtown Portland. According to their website they are also in Boston, MA and Queens, NY, Arizona State University, Albuquerque parks, and the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, among other places. Big Belly can hold eight times the trash of a traditional garbage can and is essentially a smart appliance. It will work in all climates since it can complete 1000 crush cycles after just five hours in the sun and can function without sunlight for up to four weeks. Additionally, it is very strong meaning animals cannot access the trash and spread disease, as is often the case with traditional garbage cans. The cost is expensive up front, but the payback savings take less than a year to make up the difference. Less trips to pick up trash saves the city significant time and money.

So there you have it. WALL-E, Barney, and Big Belly. Three unlikely friends joining forces in the battle over what to do with our trash. They don't solve our landfill problems and they don't force us to be responsible with how much we waste, but they are helping us to be more efficient and thoughtful about how we collect our waste.

Need more convincing? Check out this video clip from ‘Beyond Tomorrow’.

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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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