First LEED Church Of America

March 27, 2006
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ADATOWNSHIP — Being a religious leader is important to KeystoneCommunityChurch and its pastor, Gene DeJong. So important that the congregation built a new church on

Spaulding Drive
in Ada, but without the traditional pews or a choir loft.

At the same time, DeJong and his membership also wanted Keystone Community to be an environmental leader, and they have accomplished that by building the very first LEED-certified church in the nation.

According to Design Cost Data magazine, Keystone decided early in the design process to seek USGBC LEED Certification, because doing so reflected their respect for the land and their commitment to be good stewards of God's universe. That decision resulted in an efficient, flexible space that is filled with fresh air and natural light. It also maximized the use of recycled and sustainable materials in the building process.

Stained concrete, operable windows, fabricated brick, pre-cast concrete, pre-finished fiber reinforced siding, low VOC paint products, fluorescent lighting, radiant floor heating, low-flow water fixtures and waterless urinals all played a role in the design of the church.

Bicycle racks and electric car-recharging stations were located close to the church's entry and church officials have started a recycling program for its membership.

But perhaps more important, at least for the LEED honor, is that Keystone Community sits on a 35-acre site that is bordered on the north by woods and dotted with ponds.

"The site lends itself well to treating stormwater in existing ponds," said Scott Vyn, a senior designer with Integrated Architecture, the firm that designed the church.

"What we did was we tied the new construction and the built environment into a pre-existing situation and made it better, so as they introduce particulates and other potentially harmful media into the waste stream, we're being good stewards and treating that. We used a long swale to get it to a natural filtration system," added Vyn.

Construction was completed about two years ago and the church received its certification last fall. The 30,000-square-foot project features a 6,000-square-foot sanctuary, a full kitchen, a child care center, a coffee shop, offices and an area for teens. The church has seating for 500 people and parking for 178 cars.

Rockford Construction Co. served as the general contractor for the project, while JDH Engineering Inc. was the structural engineer. Feyen-Zylstra LLC was the electrical engineer and Quality Air was the project's mechanical engineer. All are firms based in Grand Rapids

As for Integrated Architecture, also a Grand Rapids firm, Vyn said the role it played in helping to bring about the first LEED church wasn't all that different from what the design group has done in similar projects. But he said there was a distinction between this project and those that aren't looking for certification.

"LEED gives you a framework so that every design discussion and every construction meeting has LEED on the agenda. Whereas on a non-LEED project, the environmental goals are often at certain meetings, but not at every meeting," he explained.

"I would say the biggest difference with this church and this project in particular with LEED is that environmental issues and issues of equity and equality were brought up at every meeting as opposed to some meetings. It was a constant topic just like the budget or the schedule."

In addition to being the county's first and only LEED-certified church, Keystone is also one of only two religious organizations to have earned that designation in the nation. According to the latest issue of Church Executive magazine, a UnitedMethodistChurch in Little Rock, Ark., designed and constructed a commons building that is also LEED-certified.

Vyn feels that having a certified church in the area reflects the larger popularity that LEED design has gained in the region.

"I think so. I think it starts with the larger manufacturing entities like Steelcase and Herman Miller in the West Michigan area and the people that are affiliated with them. Whether it is professional firms like ours or whether it is their employees that branch out and attended churches or other facilities in the community, I think that those organizations are really a big part of it," he said.

"There is definitely a donor base in West Michigan that is looking to support LEED activities."    

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