In our continuing effort to assist clients achieve the most high performing, energy efficient buildings, we recently studied the energy consumption in area churches.  The study compared energy consumption at twelve churches over the period from June 2009 to May 2010.  The churches range in size from 7,400 square feet to over 75,000 square feet and are between five and well over seventy-five years old.  A number of churches also house some type of full-time educational program, such as a day care, preschool, or day school.  In these cases, data was included in both the overall group as well as in a separate category.

Data from a 2003 Department of Energy Survey indicates that congregations in the United States spend between $0.25 and $1.30 per square foot annually on energy.  While consulting with Xcel Energy, we determined that a precise update of this data to define an accurate range of energy costs for local area churches is not available.  However, our interpolation of energy cost inflationary data suggests that all of the churches in our study would fall within an updated range. Based upon usage during the study time frame, the average congregation in the study spent $1.07 on energy with a range of $.39 to $1.91 per square foot per year.

Most of the churches expending less than $1.00 per square foot have worked to control their energy costs through efforts such as installation of improved lighting and lighting controls, careful monitoring of peak electrical consumption, and improved HVAC controls.  These often low cost and simple solutions can provide significant savings to a congregation.  However, there are other simple solutions we’ve utilized throughout our 20 years of sustainable design that could also be applied to church facilities, including improving the performance of the building envelope by sealing leaks, adding insulation, and replacing poor performing windows.

We are always looking for more churches to participate in the study.  If you are interested, please don’t hesitate to contact us!