The stake center, which can serve three wards, or congregations of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is one of five such buildings under construction in Utah, Nevada and Arizona to assess the benefits of going entirely green in church construction.
“It’s an exciting day for us. This is another step in our program to be environmentally responsible,” Presiding Bishop H. David Burton said. “This aspect of our culture has become a vital part of our DNA.”
Reporters from along the Wasatch Front toured the new Farmington meetinghouse, which the church built to silver standards of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification.
It will be the second LDS building to earn such status. The first was the new Church History Library, completed last summer in downtown Salt Lake City.
Dean Davies, managing director of physical facilities for the 13.8 million-member faith, said the church already has adopted many environmentally responsible construction techniques.
But he expects every future meetinghouse — the church builds more than 200 a year — will be based on the plans that arise from the five prototype “green” buildings, including one without solar power under construction in the Utah County community.
“One of the questions we’re asking,” Davies said, “is whether we should retrofit all of our meetinghouses [with solar panels].”
Besides the solar arrays, the structure is insulated with polyurethane foam, uses highly efficient windows, carpet made from recycled materials, tankless water heaters and European-style toilets that offer the choice of little or lots of water with each flush.
Recycling bins for paper, glass and plastics will be a first for an LDS meetinghouse, Davies said.
A monitor in the church’s material center, or library, will show congregants just how much electricity the solar panels are generating and how much is being used.
Carbon-monoxide sensors will detect how many people are in the building and regulate how much fresh air to draw into the heating or air-conditioning system.
Outside, about 70 percent of the landscaping is in rock or bark, and the irrigation system has sensors to guide watering based on need rather than a schedule.
Davies said the environmental measures added about $1.84 per square foot to the building’s cost, an amount he considers inconsequential. It will be repaid with energy savings. The solar panels will provide all the electricity, shaving costs by $6,000 a year.
Burton said the savings are good, but there is more to the church’s increasing environmental awareness.
“We want to be responsible members of the community as well, and I mean the community of man.”