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Maggie Durran: A green and healthy church

17 June 2009

We are making significant repairs to our church, but neither our architect nor anyone else has spoken about insulating the church to reduce our carbon footprint. We would like to add insulation when we do repairs to the roof, which are to start soon.

I HAD a chat with someone at English Heritage, as they have so much experience with making repair grants for church repairs.

First, English Heritage does not fund roof insulation as this would be new works, not repair. But, addition­ally, any plan to add insulation should be carefully assessed.

It is important that no airflows are blocked causing condensation to build up in the roof. Those gaps that birds use may actually be keeping your roof timbers healthy. An architect experienced in conserva­tion would be able to assess this for you. Also, the situation would require individual assessment on a case-by-case basis, as all roofs are different.

I also visited the Shrinking the Footprint website (www.shrinkingthefootprint.cofe.anglican.org), which gives more detailed informa­tion on carbon footprints for churches and churchgoers. I wanted to know if there was new insightinto what we can do with our churches to improve their carbon footprint.

Most of the ideas were about savings in efficiency on utilities. Is church lighting on unnecessarily? Are there lights that do not need to be on all the time? Can some locations be fitted with energy-efficient light bulbs?

What about floodlighting? If it is used to attract visitors, could it be switched off earlier in the evening? Have you checked it for light pollu­tion (light being wasted by shining into the sky or elsewhere and not just on the building)?

Are there areas of the church where heat is seeping away? A new glass inner door may give visitors a view when the church cannot be left open, as well as helping to reduce heat loss on Sundays and other open days. Are all your windows and secondary doors as draught-proof as they can be?

Most older churches cannot opt for roof insulation, cavity wall insulation, or double glazing. But if you are heating areas of the building when they are not in use, some kind of zoned system may help; your meeting room or vestry office could have an electric convector or home-type system that would not require the main boiler to be switched on.

Modern boilers are carefully designed and rated for efficiency. If your boiler is old, you could opt for a new, efficient model that will reduce your carbon emissions, and very often cost far less to run.

Ask other questions you might ask at home. Is church equipment left on stand-by when it could be turned off? Check all your existing patterns of energy use, reading the meters as you go, and then plan changes to better and more efficient equip-ment.

Finally, can you encourage mem-bers of the congregation to leave their cars at home, and walk or cycle to church? They will be healthier as an added bonus.


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