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‘Green’ church first in Canada to achieve LEED certification

Wednesday, September 20th 2006 12:57:39pm

Faith & the Common Good launches Greening Sacred Spaces Program in Toronto

(TORONTO, Sept. 20, 2006)  The Minister of Energy and Ontario’s Chief Energy Conservation Officer today applauded the success of St. Gabriel’s Roman Catholic Church, the first church in Canada on track to receive the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold certification for its exceptional environmental performance and energy efficiency.  The announcement was made by Faith & the Common Good, a national organization facilitating interfaith communications and action on matters of social and environmental concern.

"Churches, mosques, synagogues, gurdwaras and temples represent a real opportunity when it comes to conservation," said Ontario Energy Minister Dwight Duncan.  "By making their buildings and grounds greener, faith communities will be able to reduce energy costs by 20 per cent or more."

Sacred spaces represent an underdeveloped frontier in the effort to improve society’s environmental footprint.  Faith & the Common Good’s program to realize this vision is called Greening Sacred Spaces (GSS). This project works with a variety of faith communities to help them green their buildings and grounds, and to educate their members on how they can live more sustainably in their daily lives.

“Reducing costs was one of the reasons for building a ‘green’ church,” Father Paul Cusack, Pastor of St. Gabriel’s explained. “But our primary motivation was to establish a link between the sacredness of the gathered community of faith and the sacredness of Earth.”

Ted Reeve, director of Faith and the Common Good, described how the Greening Sacred Spaces program offers faith communities a variety of ways to promote energy conservation and reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.  “There are approximately 1,100 faith community buildings in the GTA, and if only one quarter improved the energy efficiency of their place of worship they could reduce their GHG emissions by an estimated 26,500 tonnes,” says Reeve.  “They could also reduce their energy bills by 20% or more.”  

The ‘eco-spiritual’ message extends to faith community members in their daily lives, and will have a substantial effect if only a fraction of the 900,000 Canadians who regularly attend a place of worship were to cut back on energy use in their homes.

Included in St. Gabriel's state-of-the-art green design features are a solar glass wall on the south face that harnesses the energy of the sun while creating a visual bridge connecting worshippers inside with a the beautiful naturalized garden beyond.  To preserve the garden aesthetic and residential ambiance of the surrounding neighbourhood the parking lot has been moved underground.

The gathering space, just within the main doors, features a "living wall" draped in foliage over which a thin layer of water constantly flows.  The living wall is designed to purify the air of both the gathering space and the main sanctuary.

“I applaud Faith & the Common Good, the parishioners of St. Gabriel’s and Father Paul for engaging in the important debate about the choices we have when it comes to electricity,” says Peter Love, Ontario’s Chief Energy Conservation Officer.

“Through the centuries, congregations have turned to their faith communities for guidance and leadership.  Since St. Gabriel’s is used by the broader community, everyone will be able to see this example of leadership in energy efficiency and sustainability.”



Rory O’Brien
Greening Sacred Spaces/Faith & the Common Good

Steven Erwin
Minister’s Office

Barton Sala
Ontario Power Authority/Conservation Bureau

Ontario’s Conservation Bureau was established in 2005 to develop, coordinate and stimulate electricity conservation and demand management programs and initiatives across the province.  The Conservation Bureau is a division of the Ontario Power Authority, a statutory, not-for-profit corporation governed by an independent board of directors.  It reports to the Legislative Assembly through the Ministry of Energy, and is licensed and regulated by the Ontario Energy Board.  Responsibilities span four areas: Conservation Bureau, Power System Planning, Generation Development and Electricity Sector Development.