Archive for the ‘landscaping’ Category

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…)

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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…)

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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…)

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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…)

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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…)

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I recently wrote a blog for Keep Indianapolis Beautiful, as part of their blog series on “What is Beauty?” The title of my post was “Beauty is in the Spirit” and I thought I would re-post it on this site, as it relates to my work.  I truly love the way that I am able to experience the Holy Spirit through my work and interactions with local churches and their leaders.

John at Hawaii Canyon

John Davidson

As a kid I can always remember people talking about different types of spirits- the entrepreneurial spirit, winning spirit, moral spirit, and most quoted, “the human spirit”- but I never really understood what they meant.

By nature, the term ‘spirit’ evokes a mythic, smoky, and supernatural image. And as a kid, I took this idea literally, imagining that people had ghost like spirits hovering above them, providing their intangible ‘spirit.’

As a grownup, however, my mental image of the term ‘spirit’ has changed. I now have a deeper perspective for the characteristics that we label as spirits, and I have come to appreciate how we define these types of substances in others.

In my own work as a nonprofit fundraising consultant, I work with amazing people every day. I get to hear leaders describe their stories and passions for serving others, and I try to help them find resources to feed the hungry, treat the sick, save the environment, and building communities. It is awe-inspiring work, and I always marvel at how each of these leaders have a common spirit for sharing, nurturing, and making the world a better place.

In this light, it is easy I have come to define “beauty” as the compassionate loving spirit that humans share in experience. (more…)

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On Sunday I read an article in the NYT that struck me, because it connected the two issues of ‘Climate Change‘ and ‘Food Productivity.’

The article is entitled, “Extreme Weather Helps Drive Up Food Prices,” by Elisabeth Rosenthal, and it highlights how extreme weather conditions over the past year have lead to higher food and grain prices.

The article begins by sharing that the Food Price Index has hit a record high, 214, compared to its history since it was established by the United Nations Food & Agriculture Organization in 1990.

For example, here are a list of major events that have hurt food production:

  • Russian wheat crops destroyed by drought and high summer temperatures
  • Pakistan’s flooding wiping out crop production
  • Laos and Cambodia- low crop yields due to a lack of rain
  • Australian drought, lack of rain, and then flooding
  • United States early flooding in 2011- lack of early planting and spring harvest

Beyond just the statistics and science of this conversation, this article highlights the compounding issues of food security, global development, food production, and environmental stewardship.  Each one of these issues is a problem in itself, but combined these issues multiply the effect and impact.

As faith communities, and local churches in the USA, we often do not consider these issues, unless we live or work in a community that is directly impacted by something like the current floods in the midwest (more…)

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Last year I wrote a post about how Parkhill Christian Church and how they were able to save money and increase their ministry by making several energy upgrades to their facility. 

The blog was entitled, “The Power of Knowledge…Literally,” and it has served as a great success story about how churches can improve their facilities, increase ministry, and save money- at the same time. This blog is a follow up to that post, and it is designed to see if these initial results continue. 

I recently called Rev. Chris Franklin to interview him about how the church was doing and if the church was still seeing great results from their participation in an energy audit and ministry planning session with Church Extension.  Here is a snapshot of the conversation:

John: Chris, so tell me, how are things going at the church?

Chris: I think we are in the midst of what we would have to call dynamic change, in part stimulated by the analysis of the Green Church building report.  The most startling was the the high relative cost of maintenance and utilities in comparison to the low utilization of the building for ministry.  The change in the model of ministry to use the building for community and those outside the church and to be welcoming in doing so is transformational and challenging.  Our numbers of visitors have skyrocketed, and the congregation is thrilled to see prospective visitors in church on a regular basis, but surprised they don’t join after a few weeks of visiting.  We did not have the mentality of having active visitors.

J: What have been the savings that you have seen over the past year?

C: We have started seeing the savings as we replaced lights as they failed and insulated in the most cost effective locations.  The financial chair thinks we will save up to $12,000 this year in electricity and gas.  (more…)

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Christopher Robin Baker

As spring temperatures begin to raise, I thought I would pass along a tip that combines spring planting with energy savings.

As air conditioning systems often use exterior condensing units to transfer heat, it can be beneficial to shade these units by planting a tree or set of shrubs.  Most estimates suggest that a shaded condenser uses  10% less energy to cool your house or facility, and better yet, it helps to hide an eye sore and reduces carbon dioxide.

Here are a few notes to help:

  • Make sure you leave 2 feet of clearance around the sides of all equipment
  • Make sure to leave at least 5 feet of clearance above the unit
  • Find ways to redirect water that condensates on the unit to help water the plants
  • Remember that Sun is most direct in the South and West sides of a building
  • Be sure to regularly trim plants to keep the equipment clear from debris
  • Plant trees and shrubs that are native and that limit growth to suit your landscaping and the area around the unit (for examples, this is not a great place to put vines).

For more information, check out this article at Green Your.com

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Photo: Toyota

I am not sure if you have read the Freakonomics book (link), or if you listen to the Freakonomics podcast on Market Place (NPR), but recently I read one featured story about the effect that a hybrid vehicle has on your life.

In short, the researchers found that if you drive a Toyota Prius, you are more likely to make other lifestyle changes that include (Read or listen to the link by clicking on the link below):

“You make new friends; you get new business opportunities. In an especially “green” place like Boulder, Colo., the effect could be worth as much as $7,000. *

Beyond hearing these benefits (Yeah, that is right… choosing a hybrid, may save you an additional $7,000), it also got me thinking about the effect of attending a “Green Church.”

By attending a Green Church, it is likely you would be more aware of the idea of environmental stewardship and that you would be involved in a larger community that is like minded. It may also encourage you to make other green choices in your life and in your home.

It was just a thought to share, as we celebrate Spring and Eastertide.

* Freakonomic’s Article & quote from http://www.freakonomics.com/2011/04/21/conspicuous-conservation-and-the-prius-effect/

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