What can a faith community do on its own to conserve energy?
On September 9th, 2019 through Faith and the Common Good’s Energy Benchmarking program, our Hamilton implementer, Environment Hamilton co-organized a “DIY Energy Audit for Places of Worship” in partnership with St John the Evangelist in Hamilton, Ontario. The goal was to start a conversation about potential energy retrofit ideas and plant some seeds of what could be accomplished.
Local energy conservation expert, Dave Braden was our guide. Through his business, Dave has been building energy-efficient homes since 1980. He generously shared his perspectives and insights on how places of worship can reduce their energy usage.
At the start of the tour, Dave stressed the importance of proper seals throughout the building so as to prevent air leakage. To demonstrate the concept, he held up a styrofoam cup and compared the cup to a building - if the cup has a hole in it, then the purpose of the cup is diminished. And if the cup has a lot of holes, one could simply add another cup, but it is still leaking. For a place of worship, instead of losing liquid, it would be losing heated or cooled air. When air is leaking, a building will lose the heated air within two hours; a huge financial cost and waste of energy.
One of the main challenges Dave sees with places of worship is that the overall design adds a complicating factor - for example, ceilings in these places are typically very high. All the heat rises to the ceiling, and not where people actually are. Dave suggested to take advantage of regular maintenance for example, when replacing the roof, add insulation at the same time.
Another challenge places of worship typically face is the beautiful stained glass; it holds so much emotional value but unfortunately a source of air leaks. One option Dave suggested was to add a panel of glass to each side of the stained glass. The inside window should be sealed to prevent air from leaking out and the outside piece was plexiglass. This was used to protect the stained glass overall. Dave lamented that since the stained glass probably has lead it might be best to seal the inside glass.
Adding insulation is a key component to saving energy and Dave suggests thinking about adding a layer of insulation to the outside of the building structure. That could mean adding an addition to the building or insulation plus bricks or other outdoor materials.
At St John the Evangelist, they created affordable housing, Artaban Non-profit Homes in the 1990s. Dave pointed out that from an energy conservation point of view, by adding an addition this provides revenue for the church.
Dave recognized the large and expensive undertaking to add insulation or change their roof, etc. To make it more manageable, he suggested looking for opportunities to seal and insulate in small rooms that have an exterior wall.
We talked about LED lights and St John the Evangelist was happy to have found LED lights for emergency exit signs, as these must always be on (it also means less maintenance overall). We shared a story about another place of worship which dealt with acquiring LED lights. Through a fundraising effort, the congregation was asked to help buy the lights and that helped a lot to meet their lighting needs.
Afterward, we gathered for a question and answer period--a very valuable exercise as many people were there representing a number of places of worship. So they had different questions based on where they were at with their faith community. We were able to share resources and highlight various businesses that sold very specific products.
We would like to thank St John the Evangelist Church for hosting, a special thanks to Norm for being our main point person to help organize this event. Thanks to Dave for being our expert.
Thanks to everyone who attended and to those who helped us spread the word about this event. As a follow-up, we were delighted to help co-organize a follow-up event at Dave’s home. He toured us through his “extreme” energy-efficient home in Flamborough, Ontario, a rural part of Hamilton.