Archive for the ‘building’ Category

Programmable Wifi Thermostats

The Nest

When most of us think about a HV/AC system, we usually picture an older furnace- rarely would we picture a sleek thermostat that connects to a wifI system. However, this seems to be the future of energy controls for commercial and residential buildings.

Since 2008, manufacturers have offered thermostats that can connect to a wifi system, thus allowing control and access to the system via the internet. This has been a great upgrade, but until now many of the programmable thermostats have been confusing to use. In fact, the US Dept of Energy realized that most people who purchased programmable thermostats, actually used more energy than before, because they were too complicated to use.

So in an effort to make programmable thermostats more user friendly, several companies have begun to create systems that can be controlled by a computer using a program like Microsoft Outlook set set room temperatures.  Other companies, have also begun to make intuitive thermostats that create a pattern of use based on how you adjust the temperature over a period of a few weeks.

With heating and cooling systems accounting for 16% of the electricity in the USA, and more than half of the energy consumed in a house, HV/AC systems will continue to be a focus for utility companies as they try to reduce the amount of energy consumed in the United States. This trend will likely also become a focus of more and more churches, facility managers, and home owners as the cost of energy continues to rise.

After all, the less money that people and organizations are forced to pay for utilities, operations, and energy, the more money they have to support the mission and programs that they value. For more information about changing HV/AC systems, please read the following articles:

Blog notes: Several of the stats given in this blog were pulled from these  two articles. The picture above comes from several sources and is provided by the company and can be found on their website- http://www.nest.com

Read Full Post »

Last week I was contacted by Bart Voight of Voight Creations about setting up a referral process for churches who might need visual renderings or 3D modeling for their various building or capital fundraising campaigns.

In many cases, architects can provide a simple floor plan or elevation sketches to help donors envision what the final project will look like. However, in some cases a church may wish to consider having a more detailed or realistic model, which can now be created with 3D technology (see image).

church rendering

Voigt Creations

In my conversation with Bart, I asked him, “What are the top 5 reasons a church may wish to use this technology?” His responses are below.

What are the top 5 reasons a rendering would be helpful to a church?

  1. Clarification of concepts and ideas-  the vision of the project
  2. Zoning or code approval- assisting local zoning boards (more…)

Read Full Post »

balance beam of resources

Balancing Resources

Every organization has two types of resources- Financial and Human Capital.

Now most of us could define that financial capital refers to money and other tangible assets (buildings, furniture, or automobiles), and that human capital refers to people. However, as simple as these two definitions are, most nonprofit organizations and churches suffer from not balancing both of these resources.

In most cases, this diagram would be tilted up or down, meaning that an organization would be overusing (or underusing) one of these two sources.

For example, and organization that lives in fear of having enough money to cover its expenses, most likely is overusing its financial capital to measure its ability to perform a task.  Forgetting that there may be multiple resources that it could draw upon from it human capital to provide that same service or task.

Similarly, an organization that focuses purely on analyzing it volunteer or stakeholder base, often will forget to really evaluate how to best leverage its financial resources to support its human capital.

In order to strike a balance, organizations need to take time to analyze the full potential of all of its resources by taking the following steps: (more…)

Read Full Post »

Did you know a tree can add 10% of value to a property?  Or, that trees can help to lower heating and cooling costs to a facility?



The answer to both of these questions is “yes, both are true.”

In 2005, Susan Wachter, from The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, conducted a study entitled, The Determinants of Neighborhood Transformations in Philadelphia.” The study was designed to analyze the economic impact of how planting trees and creating site improvements impacts the value of property values.

Some of the highlights of the study include:

  • The study finds that vacant land improvements result in surrounding housing values increasing by as much as 30%. (more…)

Read Full Post »

As cities continue to grow and add building and parking lots,  storm water runoff is becoming a big issue.  Many urban areas have combined sewer and storm water systems, and when it rains, they easily can be overwhelmed and cause raw sewage to enter local rivers and streams.

In Indianapolis, for example, it only takes 1/4 inch of rain to cause the sewer system to over flow, and thus, more and more cities are looking for ways to reduce the amount of storm water that enters the sewage system.  Cities like Chicago are creating ‘green roofs,’ rain gardens, and they are using porous pavement to allow water to seep back into the ground.

Curious to show the benefits of these techniques, I took a tour of the new Nature Conservancy office in Indiana.  The facility was built last year, and using the USGBC LEED rating system, the architect added a ‘green roof’ and a two phase rain garden (see pictures below). These systems helped the building achieve points in the areas of Sustainable Sites and Water Efficiency (SS5.1, SS6.1, SS7.2, WE1), which were used toward achieving their overall LEED certification.

The first picture shows the roof of the facility,  and how the conservancy used local and native plants to create a green space on their roof.  My tour guide said that this roof has helped to lower the cost to cool the facility in the summer, reduce storm water runoff, provided added protection to the roof’s membrane, and created a new habitat for birds and insects.

Plants on a roof (more…)

Read Full Post »

To cap off the week, I thought I would share a few articles and topics that peaked my interest.  I am not sure if I will be able to get a full blog up about these individually, but I did think that they would be important resources as they relate to church giving and operations. Be sure to check out #3 and the zombie house at the bottom:

  1. Executive Directors Should Invest More Time on Their Boards– is an article by Rick Moyers that highlights how executive directors (think ministers) are often frustrated with their board of directors.  The interesting part of the article is that directors who spend less time with their boards have a higher level of frustration and feel like the board is less effective.  (Article produced by The Chronicle of Philanthropy)
  2. Fundraisers Mull the Effects of a Double Dip Recession– is an article by Holly Hall that discusses why charities should not be too scared by the economy, but also why it is important to do a little bit of research before you visit a donor.  For many people this recession, and the threat of a double dip, is really a financial stress, but for often donors still hope to support their favorite charities, religions, and causes.  (Article produced by The Chronicle of Philanthropy)
  3. How a Double Dip Recession Could Affect Giving- is a great article on what nonprofit organizations can expect in the current giving economy.  2008 and 2009 have been devastating to total philanthropic giving, and forecasters predict that giving will decrease in 2011 again.  This article will help churches and other nonprofits to look at how to best center their fundraising focus. (Article produced by The Chronicle of Philanthropy)

And finally, I wanted to share this ridiculous, and yet amazing, zombie proof house (more…)

Read Full Post »

Today’s guest blog was written by Mary Heron Dyer, a Unity minister.   Since Mary’s becoming deaf, a main focus of her ministry is informing congregations of faith about the prevalence and effects of adult hearing loss and consulting with them about appropriate and affordable hearing assistive technologies. Mary is married to Sheryl Butler, a Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) minister, and together they run www.journeyroad.org

I awoke on May 22, 2008, ready to leave the hospital after knee surgery. But something was wrong. I couldn’t hear.

(L) Mary Dyer (R) Sheryl Butler

Panicked, I rang a nurse to call my spouse Sheryl to come ASAP! As the day wore on, doctors trooped through, offering guarded opinions about my inexplicable deafness.

Home a week later, I hoped the steroids and antivirals might cure me. It soon became clear, however, I would be deaf for the rest of my life. I struggled with depression, fear, and by far the worst, isolation. For seven months everyone had to write out EVERYTHING they said to me. A true test of friendship!

I now have a cochlear implant, giving me some hearing: mostly face to face, without background noise.  Every time I go out I have to “come out” as deaf, asking people to repeat. I cannot go to non-captioned movies. I struggle with telephones. I miss nuances in conversations. (more…)

Read Full Post »

Today’s guest blog was written by Ellen L. Mitchell. She is the Vice President for Donor, Investor and Church Relations at Church Extension.

Ellen holds the Certificate in Fund Raising Management, one of 5,300 Certified Fund Raising Executives (CFRE), and is a Licensed Minister within the Christian Church Disciples of Christ.  She also is currently the Stewardship Chair of her local congregation. 

picture of EllenIf your congregation had as its mission to welcome, nourish and send out people who are transforming witnesses for the love of God, would you barricade your church doors?  Probably not!

Yet each time we allow physical barriers to be a hardship for people seeking to be a part of our ministry that is what we are doing.  What are we saying when our restrooms are inaccessible? How about when those with hearing difficulties feel left out because we have not accommodated their needs to hear, understand and participate in worship or the life of the congregation?


Read Full Post »

Foothills Christian Church in Glendale, AZ has found a new way to promote itself and support its ministry.

Approximately a year ago, Pastor Erin Wathen was approached by a cell phone company, to see if the church would be interested in having a cell tower placed on its property.  The company said that they would be happy to pay for the construction of the tower, and to lease the space from the church.

The church was interested, and after talking through some of the details, the church accepted the offer.

As part of the process, the church and the cell company needed to select a design that fit the church and that would pass the city’s zoning codes.  In the past, the cell company had created a large plastic palm tree or giant cross at similar locations, but Foothills felt like the design didn’t match the look of their facility.  Instead, working with the church, the company designed the cell tower to look like a bell tower (see picture), and when presented to the county’s assessor, the assessor commented that, “it was the best design he’d seen.”

Cell Tower

Church's Cell Tower

Soon after approval, construction began, and so did the growing awareness of the church in the community.

“It was great,” says Pastor Wathen, “because it increased our visibility in the community (more…)

Read Full Post »

In much of my energy and environmental consulting work with congregations, I am constantly being asked, “How can we make our very old church building energy efficient?”

It is a great question, because sometimes a large and historic facility can be very overwhelming when you start to think about projects, costs, and the motivation needed to accomplish such a large project.

However, just like the wise sage once said… “A journey of a thousand miles begins with one single step.”

Retrofitting a historic structure is not rocket science.  You just need a little more patience and creativity to accomplish your goals.  For example, you can still insulate your building, it is just a little harder to insulate a building already built, than to add insulation as you do new construction.

To prove this point, I wanted to pass along the success story of Virginia Theological Seminary.  A friend recently shared this article with me and it shows how you can combine 19th century architecture with modern trends in green building and energy retrofitting.

The article was published by Builderonline.com and it is title, “An Episcopal Seminary brings LEED into the 19th Century”

Blog Notes: Special thanks to Ed Walsh for sharing the article with me.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »