18 January 2008

To LEED or not to LEED...

I finally got around to taking (and passing) the LEED exam this past Friday. For those who don’t know, this exam is sponsored by the US Green Building Council and is to help facilitate LEED-certified buildings in the USA. According to their website, "The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System is the nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction and operation of high-performance green buildings." The standards lead to various levels of building certification by obtaining credits, with a Platinum building being the highest. Obviously the system is not perfect and is limited to the USA, but it is fairly comprehensive in what it strives for. There are six main categories that need to be tracked for all projects.

  • Site sustainability – choosing appropriate sites to develop and encouraging alternative transportation.

  • Water efficiency – reducing water use through better fixtures, reducing potable water use both in buildings and landscaping.

  • Energy and Atmosphere – optimizing energy performance of buildings and incorporating on-site renewable energy.

  • Materials and Resources – diverting construction waste from landfills, reusing materials and structure of existing buildings, using regional, recycled, and rapidly renewable materials.

  • Indoor Environmental Quality – utilizing appropriate ventilation, use of low emitting materials, control of lighting and thermal comfort, and maximizing daylight and views into spaces.

  • Innovation in Design – encouraging innovation to come up with new strategies for sustainability.

According to this link provided by latter-day sustainablist, the Church is looking at the feasibility of LEED-certifying their meetinghouses. The company, Ambient Energy, based in Colorado, used a typical LDS chapel and provided "energy modeling to support using LEED on all of the LDS future meeting houses." To my knowledge, there has not, as yet, been any LEED-certified buildings done by the Church, so this is good news. I can only hope they move forward with this.

On a similar note, the new City Creek Center development in downtown Salt Lake that is being funded by the LDS Church is considering LEED. Back in 2005, the Deseret News reported on this possibility in the article, Salt Lake mall project may go 'green'. All I have recently been able to find is in the FAQ of the City Creek website, where the question is asked, "Will the project be LEED Certified?" They responded that they "will follow LEED principles in design, construction and operation of the project. However, no decision has been made on applying for LEED certification."

My response to this is why wouldn't they seek certification? Remember that just to be certified is the lowest possible rating for LEED, having to achieve only 26 of the 69 credits possible. Upwards from this is 33 credits for Silver, 39 for Gold, and 52 for Platinum. So to not even be committed to a simple certification is disappointing, especially two years into such an enormous project. Following LEED principles on the project, as is stated that they are doing, would easily get them a certification or higher.

Read more on "To LEED or not to LEED..."

09 January 2008

A Light to the World?

Bountiful Utah Temple by tephdra

Anyone who has seen an LDS Temple at night can confirm its beauty and how it stood out as a "light to the world". Unfortunately, this literal interpretation of scripture has a significant downside which many are unaware of. It's called light pollution, and is a global problem that provides the Church a wonderful opportunity to take a leading role and set an example to the world of its concern for the environment. One building may seem like a small gesture, but taking into account how the Church lights the thousands of Temples and Chapels around the world, and this represents a significant issue. Does our symbolic need to be a light to the world outweigh our damage to the environment and waste of energy?

There are various forms of light pollution - Light trespass is unwanted light spilling onto others property. Over-illumination is the excessive use of light. Glare is caused when there is high contrast between bright and dark areas in your field of view. And sky glow is what happens typically at the scale of a city or metropolis.

Ways to reduce light pollution include improved fixtures, adjusted light sources, redesigned lighting plans, use of timers, etc. In this and other ways, lighting can be used more efficiently and with less waste.

Additionally, the Church is starting to use LED strings of Christmas lights for some of its holiday light shows. The Deseret News reported that Temple Square is beginning to use LED strings. And the Washington Post stated, “The Festival of Lights at the Mormon Temple in Kensington has replaced more than three-fourths of its half-million lights and hopes to finish the rest next year.” While they may cost slightly more than standard Christmas lights, they are cool to the touch, use only 10% of the energy of a standard incandescent bulb, and are virtually indestructible, lasting for many years. If you are interested for your home you can check out http://www.holidayleds.com/.

Probably more urgent than energy consumption, though, is the affect light pollution has on the surrounding environment. The main concern appears to be the disruption of nocturnal animals and migrating birds. This also begs for an increased density in our cities, rather than spreading out endlessly, but that is another discussion. Both birds and reptiles are at risk according to this National Geographic article. And the article, Is light pollution killing our birds? talks about how we are killing off the insects which many bird species rely on.

A Science News article by Ben Harder states, "A few trees that fail to show fall colors, or extra moths that become bat food aren't necessarily going to catalyze public opinion against light pollution." "However", says Kenneth D Frank, "when people consider that disturbing one component of an ecosystem may have ramifications for many other organisms, the case for reducing light pollution begins to look more compelling."

Harder concludes, "There are other signs that light pollution is entering public awareness. To commemorate the victims of the terrorist attacks, New York City beamed two pillars of light into the Manhattan sky from the former site of the World Trade Center. The memorial fomented some concern about its effects on spring bird migrations. Fortunately, the memorial's architects had taken ecological effects into account. After consulting the city's Audubon Society about peak migration times, they scheduled it to shut off each night at 11 p.m. and to operate only through April 13."

So it appears that there are ways to be a light to the world without also damaging the environment at the same time. All it requires is knowledge and action.

International Dark-Sky Association - Utah Section
Great images of light pollution
Utah Birds Read more on "A Light to the World?"

04 January 2008

Environmental Conversion Story

Does God care if we are sustainable? Ask Ace Stryker, who as a seven year old prayed to God about not being able to recycle certain products. He received an immediate assurance followed by an answer in the mail the next day. Years later, he felt the same guiding influence when the missionaries came to their home.

I currently don't have a subscription to the New Era magazine, so I almost missed his fabulous conversion story. If you, like me, missed it from this past May 2007 issue, you can check it out here.

"For it is expedient that I, the Lord, should make every man accountable, as a steward over earthly blessings, which I have made and prepared for my creatures." Doctrine & Covenants 104:13 Read more on "Environmental Conversion Story"