One of the ways that buildings measure their environmental sustainability is through the application of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards set up by the U.S. Green Building Council. Currently, about 560 buildings in the world are LEED certified. One of these is the new home of the 135-member UU Fellowship of Wayne County in Wooster, Ohio, which has earned the LEED gold certification. It is now the only LEED gold-certified place of worship in the United States, according to Marc Mon-dor, a consultant who guided the congregation through the certification process.
The 6,000-square-foot building uses structural insulated panels for walls, a product using recyled material; employs a highly efficient heating, ventilating, and air conditioning system that uses no ozone refrigerants; uses native, drought-resistant plants for landscaping; and has a 1,500-gallon cistern to collect rain water for flushing toilets.
The building was designed to give users a feeling of being close to nature. The northern windows in the sanctuary look out on a nature preserve that abuts the property. Many of the religious education classrooms have doors to the outside allowing students to spend time outdoors. The building is situated on the lot to take full advantage of the southern exposure, providing maximum light and heating possibilities.
Besides being a source of delight to the congregation, the new building has given the church a more public face, said the Rev. Elaine Strawn, the church’s minister. “It’s brought in a lot more people,” she said, “and a lot more community organizations. Many are interested in aligning themselves with a community that values the environment.”