BUILDINGS AND GROUNDS
The Buildings and Grounds Team, in conjunction with our Facilities manager, Tom Gadell, directs the maintenance of our church and grounds and tends to capital improvements needed for the buildings. This past year, the Buildings and Grounds team prepared our space for COVID safe worship, handled snow removal, managed tree cleanups, replaced HVAC systems, installed energy efficient LED lights, repaired our boiler, and replaced the emergency lighting throughout the building.
The Sustainability Team guides our long-term environmental conscience considerations and implications of our campus. In late 2019, the Sustainability Team recommended the Vestry evaluate and adopt a challenge by the Town of Vienna to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions (carbon neutrality) by the year 2050. There were numerous discussions within the Vestry on being a leader in the Vienna community by adopting this proposal. After review and consideration, the Vestry approved a goal to reduce the church’s carbon footprint by 50% by 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. On August 19, 2020 the Church of the Holy Comforter became the first House of Worship to be certified as meeting the Town of Vienna’s Sustainability Challenge.
In November 2021, the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia adopted Resolution R-6, which encourages all congregations within the Diocese to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2045. In March 2022, the Vestry revised Holy Comforter’s zero greenhouse gas target from 2050 to 2045, in accordance with the Diocese’s resolution. During these discussions it became clear that solarization of our building would be a key component of energy savings. The estimates indicate we would also cut our electric bill up to 80–110% for an approximate savings of $600,000 over 25 years (using today’s dollars). The Sustainability Team is evaluating vendors to perform an ASHRAE (American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers) Level 3 energy assessment of the campus. This assessment would serve as a detailed roadmap for additional energy savings opportunities. Other key considerations for energy savings are tied into the replacement of multiple HVAC units with the campus.
Over the past five years, we have replaced five HVAC units and we have another four units that are beyond expected end of life. The largest unit, which serves the main Sanctuary, is more than 30 years old. The Sustainability team is reviewing several options for the replacement of this unit while being mindful of the implications of future solarization of our buildings. Two of these most recent replacements used heat pumps, which allows for electrifying more of our heating and providing for cooling as well. As we move our energy usage more to the electricity side this will further increase the value of having solar panels.
In addition to focusing on energy savings, the team has removed single use plastic from the Ministry Center to reduce waste. We are also considering a composting solution for organic wastes from the Ministry Center. And there may be additional opportunities to be a climate conscious campus!
The Creation Care Team (CCT) is enhancing our campus with an environmentally friendly, low-maintenance landscape that provides a natural setting for members of the congregation to be able to spend time with nature and be rejuvenated. The CCT team has adopted the Eight Essential Elements from the Chesapeake Conservation Landscaping Council
. Over the past year, the CCT has led the removal of invasive species of plants on the church grounds and planted native plants which require minimum landscape maintenance. Additionally, the team has worked to remove bamboo behind the Ministry Center that had encroached and impacted the native environment.
One of the longer term goals of the CCT team is to build a natural pathway throughout the campus for the congregation to use and enjoy. The CCT received a multi-phased proposal of how we could integrate the back seven acres of the property with walking trails. The CCT team is also addressing storm water runoff, erosion, and how to improve the area in and around the pond behind the church.
These groups are always looking for new faces. If you have interest in any of these areas and/or experience, feel free to reach out to Brian Land
, who is the Vestry Liaison to the Buildings and Grounds team. For the Creation Care team reach out to Margaret Bain
or Chris Jones
. For the Sustainability group, reach out to Bob Robinson
, Peter Eareckson
or Brian Land