Unitarian Universalist Society, Coralville IA
The seventh principle of the UUA is the “respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.” Accordingly, since 2008, the Green Sanctuary Committee of UUS has been educating and motivating the congregation to be more aware of personal, congregational, and global environmental challenges through the programs we have conducted, which involved active participation by members.
The first challenge was the decision to leave the 107 year-old building in downtown Iowa City. Arriving at the decision to vacate their beloved historical church building in order to construct a more sustainable one was a daunting challenge and took about 20 years to come to consensus. Accessibility was also a big reason for a new building. Aside from switching out light bulbs and advocating for an end to the use of paper products in the kitchen, they were limited in their activities in-house by an old building that could not be sufficiently improved by such things as better windows, efficient heating and a chance to promote green activities such as gardening on site. When the decision to build was made, the goal was to build the greenest and most accessible church possible. The next challenge was to raise enough money for the land and the facility itself. To build a sustainable building costs more than a “conventional” structure. Raising funds for the large solar project was the third challenge.
Throughout the campaign, They reminded themselves that, “We’re building the greenest church in Iowa.” When vacating the downtown space, many members pitched in to help organize, pack and move into rented temporary space. The buyer has preserved the original 100+ year-old sanctuary and it remains an Iowa City historic landmark. When they left the old building their members worked tirelessly to salvage and recycle everything possible and to keep materials out of the landfill.
On April 21, 2016, we celebrated ground breaking with our members, the architects, and the mayor of Coralville in attendance. Construction ended October 13th, 2017. The building has many sustainable features including a geothermal heating and cooling system and on-site renewable energy production through the solar array. A group of committed UUS members formed an LLC to fund the solar array. The LLC sells the electricity produced by the array to UUS at a rate lower than our power company, the Linn County REC. The array went online on May 3, 2018.
There are four charging stations for electric cars. The cedar exterior cladding and interior ceiling is made of wood harvested in the U.S., the window glass was selected for energy efficiency, and the roof insulation exceeds that required by code. The carpet, adhesives, sealants, paint, and coatings were chosen for low VOC’s (volatile organic compounds). There are recycled glass countertops, a polished concrete floor for low maintenance, energy star appliances and LED lighting throughout with motion activated switches. They expect to be a net-zero building through the Living Building Challenge.