Future Church: The Sustainable Church

  • Jun 29, 2015

The church’s buildings of the future can be an example of stewardship of God’s creation and a greater benefit to the community by using sustainable building concepts. When the Future Church team gathered to explore design options, how these projects would create sustainable ideas was one of the main topics of discussion.

Design for Place

Design for place is an important issue for faith and planet.  Designing for place inexorably combines environmental, economic and societal aspects.   Each place has unique approach to solving similar problems.  Common problems include the response of building materials to the surrounding climate, local economic enrichment and community engagement.  The Future Church solves these problems in unique, yet often similar ways.  For example, the Global Church combines high tech structural materials with abundant local materials that are known to perform well in that given climate.  By using local materials and labor, the surrounding economy is bolstered while the community develops a stake in the incoming mission because they helped build the structure.


The Rebirthed Church uses an existing building to revitalize the neighborhood and foster economic  development by offering incubation space for local businesses, job training and community gardening.  Both churches include communal spaces for a wide range of functions which engage the community beyond worship.


Biomimetic Design

Biomimicry is the practice of designing based on natures principles.  For example, butterflies use nano-sized scales on their wings to shed dirt and stay clean.

In the same vein, future church buildings can apply a coating to building exterior surfaces to minimize costs for maintenance.  This concept can be applied to any building today.  The Found Church takes the biomimetic approach to the another level.  The structure is organized much like a honeycomb.  It can even  be modified to fit any space or shape needed much like a bees  construct their hives.

The structure also responds to its surrounding similar to how pine cone scales open and close based on the surrounding temperature. Smart material between the honeycomb structure opens or closes to varying degrees based on outside temperature and shuts completely when wet.


Another biomimetic process integrated into the Future Churches, Photovoltaic panels, are incorporated into the buildings.  Solar panels that mimic the photosynthesis of plant materials with non-toxic, renewable materials are currently under development.

Passive Design

Passive Design is the epitome of efficiency.  This is where a facility is designed around climatic conditions so that the need for simulated systems such as heating, air conditioning and lighting are minimized or eliminated.  A building that integrates prevailing winds for ventilation and natural desiccants to remove humidity requires far less energy for HVAC than a building sealed to the elements.  The Global and Rebirthed Churches both use thermal chimney, passive ventilation to cool space.

Vegetated rooftops as demonstrated in the Urban and Flexible Churches are another passive technique.  The increased insulation provided by the vegetated roof blocks rejects heat in the summer while retaining warm air in the winter as well as reducing urban heat islands created by heat absorptive materials. Other passive strategies incorporated into the Future Churches include daylighting and solar orientation to address solar heat gain.



Church as a Pedagogical Tool

Buildings have been telling God’s stories for centuries.  Historical tools employed were: eastward orientation for the sun to rise like Christ over the altar, stained glass depictions of Biblical stories, and voluminous spaces to resonate sound emulating a heavenly experience when choirs sings.  The future church can use buildings in similar ways to teach stewardship of God’s natural world to the congregation.  The Rebirthed Church provides the opportunity to witness biology in God’s creation through the cycle of life in the community garden.  Children, congregants and the surrounding community can all participate in the natural processes.  Organic processes can show how diverse, natural systems  work in tandem to balance life, death and growth.  With sustainable strategies taught in action by the church, congregants are more likely to practice those strategies at home.

Another learning opportunity exists with the Global Church.  When it operates as a school, teachers can use the rainwater collection system for mathematics and engineering lessons.