New UU building also has 'safe' rooms built to withstand tornadoes.
© Jack Regehr
The 130-member First Unitarian Universalist Church of Wichita, Kansas, had children very much in mind when they planned their new building. The new 7,000-square-foot building includes three religious education classrooms that take up 40 percent of the building, said Marsha Diggs, the congregation’s former president. “It was very much a concern that they have great rooms.” The congregation has intergenerational worship, shown here, twice a month.
Completed in February 2008, the new building reflects the congregation’s desire for three things, Diggs said: a feeling of connection with the outside, universal accessibility, and visibility in the community. It scored on all three counts, she said. Large windows give congregants a sense of connection to the Kansas landscape; universal accessibility has brought some congregants back who were unable to access the old building; and the church’s new location on a busy street has led to new members.
The building’s clean, simple lines replicate the Kansas landscape. In addition to the religious education rooms, the building includes a fellowship hall, library, kitchen, and offices. The fellowship hall is being used as a sanctuary until the congregation can raise money to build a new one. Three rooms have been constructed as “safe” rooms with 18-inch-thick concrete walls to withstand Kansas tornados.
Set on a 5.5-acre lot, the building was built using many green construction techniques, including using low-emissivity glass windows to lower the total heat flow, putting the ductwork inside rooms instead of in the ceiling, and buying dual flush toilets to reduce water consumption.
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Jane Greer is a former senior editor of UU World magazine.