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A Small Place of Worship Completing Big Energy Retrofits

Monthly Meeting Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)

The Quaker House is an unassuming place, tucked away in a residential neighbourhood, on a quiet street.  

Over the years, members of the Quaker House have been actively undertaking a number of energy retrofits.  Despite facing similar challenges that are common with places of worship, such as a diminishing congregation and financial constraints, their members completed a number of eco-projects over the last few years.

Longstanding member, Don Woodside, sat down with Juby Lee, project coordinator of the Energy Benchmarking program in Hamilton.  

Drawn to a number of elements of the Quaker beliefs, including the silent worship, social justice, and their broad theology, Don has been a member since 1981.

Their first major energy retrofit was to add a cladding around their building, a single family home on a residential street.  Cladding is the application of an extra layer of material over the exterior walls of the building to provide more thermal insulation and weather resistance. This retrofit was spearheaded by another member, the late Helen Brink, a champion of the environment, who campaigned for such a project over a decade ago. 

The next two projects happened in quick succession.  In 2016, the windows were replaced and in 2018, the furnace. Both these retrofits came out of necessity as well as needing the upgrades.

The windows were originally made out of plastic and condensation was building up.  For the furnace, it no longer was operational. Both were replaced with more energy-efficient successors. 

In the summer of 2018, the roof was replaced with a new steel roof.  A steel roof would last longer with a life expectancy of 50-75 years versus 15-25 years for a shingled roof.  As well, they reflect heat lowering cooling costs. Lastly, at the end of their life cycle, steel roofs are recyclable.  

One of the challenges of undertaking energy retrofits is the expense.  With their roof, a major contributor donated money and coupled with a grant through the Quaker House Building Fund, a capacity fund that provides either loans or grants, for infrastructure improvements, the cost to add a steel roof was covered.  

So how were the members able to undertake some major energy retrofits?  Don offers some suggestions for others looking to do similar work: “It takes a champion, data and time.”

To Don, the data part must include an environmental component but also facts: it is necessary to research the different energy savings’ options available, and be able to present the numbers i.e. energy savings and cost savings.  All this against a backdrop of what the long term goals for the congregation members are--tied to the passion to do the right thing in terms of ecological footprint--and how the decisions they make today impact future outcomes.

Overall, it is impressive that the Quakers were able to complete these large retrofits.   Congratulations to them!


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