April 3, 2008

Sustainability, the mature environmentalism

Any architect today knows about sustainability (specifically LEED). From our point of view it is how “green” buildings are. How much storm water run-off the building has, how reflective the roof is, how much of the insulation is made up of post consumer waste, how much day lighting is allowed, and the list goes on (and on). I am studying for the certification test right now and the binder is a couple of inches thick, chalked full of very boring material.

Going through the material, I have been pleasantly surprised that most of it is comprised of very practical, very smart issues that should be addressed when designing any building. It usually inserts an opportunity to think about buildings for their entire life and how their life and death better interact with the world around them.

I hate that ideas like environmentalism have been high jacked by extremists who at best worship the environment and at their worst hate man for ever existing. Contrasted, the philosophy of sustainability is as mature as environmentalism gets. It is about balancing our relationship with our environment through both understanding our impact on it and providing better conditions for both our lives and the environment. IMO Christianity should be jumping all over this new terminology of sustainability, but I am probably still in the minority when it comes to the church having anything to do with environmental issues.

Some Questions:

Does the idea of sustainability have any place of importance within the church? Not just passively but should we be actively putting time, energy, and recourses to understanding and maintaining our natural world?

As a church member what would your reaction be to hearing that your new church building was trying to be LEED certified? Would you think that the church is throwing money away, money that should be used to not incur debt, pay the pastor, or go to missions?


Brian said...

An answer maybe to both questions. I think that the church should absolutely care about sustainability and the environment. Why should we get to ignore the call to care for creation just because we're building a sanctuary? It should pervade all of our relationships with the environments around us.

That's why your second question is basically impossible to answer without getting into specific scenarios. If a sustainable parking lot is going to cost $5 million, while a less-sustainable one would cost $2 million, my vote would be - use the extra $3 million to support every missionary in Peru for the next 10 years. But again, that's only one scenario - just shows where my brain moves first!

Jacob Haynes said...

Your right about specific scenarios. The good thing about many of the sustainable changes is they are geared to saving energy which in turns saves money (over the course of the life of the building).

raghu said...

I think part of the reason the Church struggles with issues like this, is that it doesn't seem relevant to most Pastors and Churches. (That is unless you are one of those liberal mainline churches!) American Christianity has been heavily influenced by dispensationalism (Sinking ship, save as many as you can type of beliefs.) since WWII, and of course Historic Christianity has always struggled with gnosticism. (Body or physical things don't matter - only the "spiritual or spirit.")

But in general when we think about the environment, we don't think about the promises of God in renewing creation. (Romans 8:21) And we don't normally tie together the call of God for good stewardship over the environment to God's approval. (Genesis 2:15) We need to lose the dichotomy, and see that the connection between care for the environment (such as sustainability)and our well being is integral to what it means to work for the coming of the Kingdom.

mom said...

Why does "green" have to cost more? For instance, just have a parking lot in the pasture. That might even double the number of missionaries in Peru.

I already know that it cost more for certain "green" materials. But I also believe that attaching this new catch phrase seems to automatically increase the price. In such a case, it's not about sustainability at all, but about economics.

Jacob Haynes said...

Hey mom,

Everything in the architecture industry is related to economics. Every decision costs money. While some products might be taking advantage of the green label to increase their price, they are the exception.

There are a variety of reasons sustainable things cost more. Some are simply a new market with little demand and therefore high manufacturing costs (like solar panels). These type of products will decrease in price as demand increases. Other products require a lot more effort in how they are made (like organic vegetables that don’t use chemical fertilizers and insecticides). These products will always cost more then their non-green counterparts.

In general, if you put more effort into something it is going to cost more (time or money) but work better and last longer.