When St. Monica Church looked to renovate, their development agreement with the City of Santa Monica contained many regulations.
Among them: Any new buildings must be certified according to principles of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, which is considered top-line in terms of energy efficiency. LEED design had been a goal of St. Monica’s community separate from the city’s requirements because of a desire to live out their mission statement.
“St. Monica’s mission is to form loving disciples who will transform the world,” stated Mike Mottola, administrator. “This includes responsible building practices, lowering our energy use, and, in a way, getting back to and protecting the garden, our Earth.”
Three new buildings were built, which serve a multitude of purposes, including staff offices; a reception/banquet room with commercial kitchen; a multi-purpose classroom; a chapel; and an underground parking garage. Energy-efficiency measures employed were numerous including: energy-efficient lighting with occupancy sensors; the use of natural light; a highly-insulated thermal envelope; a high-efficiency HVAC system; and operable windows.
Additional sustainable measures include the use sustainably-harvested wood, low-flow toilets, waterless urinals, and drought-tolerant landscaping. Prior to construction, old buildings were demolished, with 95 percent of the material re-used and re-cycled, and thus diverted from the landfill. While the construction included an underground parking garage, complete with an electric charging station, carpooling, walking, biking, and the use of public transportation are all encouraged.
Other Creation Stewardship efforts in the L.A. Archdiocese are too numerous to mention, but they include:
---A lighting retrofit at St. Anthony High School, Long Beach, courtesy of Southern California Edison.
---A beautiful energy-efficiency retrofit and solar system at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, Hermosa Beach.
---Multiple energy-efficiency and education measures at Holy Spirit Retreat Center, Encino.
---A lighting replacement and educational seminars at Our Lady of Victory Church, Compton.
A crucial, added benefit to action at a Catholic facility is that it educates its members to undertake energy-efficiency and stewardship in their own homes and communities.
It is important to note that a congregation need not be hesitant to take energy-savings (and thus cost-savings) measures due to a lack of up-front capital. Free audits, retrofits and rebates are often available through the local utility company.
For example, at this time, Southern California Edison has a “direct install” program, which replaces old, costly lighting to new, efficient ones free of charge to qualifying churches and schools. The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power will do a free “walk-through” energy audit of a church’s facilities. Projects estimated to be over $25,000 require coordination with the Archdiocesan Construction Department.
Even in the absence of an environmental crisis, the Holy Scriptures and church leaders encourage Catholics to recognize the sacredness of Creation and our call to be good caretakers of Creation. With the recent publication of a report recognizing humanity’s impact on our changing climate, and a UCLA study predicting three times the number of excessive heat days by 2050 in the Los Angeles region, there is renewed urgency to these efforts.
Fortunately, there are a myriad of examples in our own archdiocese to use as a basis for action.