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Circular Congregational Church’s “Green Building” 2008

Green Building is the practice of creating structures and using processes that are environmentally responsible and resource-efficient throughout a building's life-cycle: from siting to design, construction, operation, maintenance, renovation, and demolition. This practice expands and complements the classical building design concerns of economy, utility, durability, and comfort (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. (October 28, 2009). Green Building Basic Information). The green building movement in the U.S. originated from the need and desire for more energy efficient and environmentally friendly construction practices. There are a number of motives to build green, including environmental, economic, and social benefits. Green buildings cost less to operate and maintain, and provide an opportunity to use energy, water, and other natural resources efficiently and responsibly, thereby reducing a building’s overall impact on the natural world.

Features Included in Circular's Green Building:

Locally available building materials were used whenever possible to reduce pollution caused by transporting them from other areas. The builder also reused existing building materials to reduce landfill waste. To increase the efficiency of the building envelope, (the barrier between conditioned and unconditioned space), the builder used high-efficiency windows and insulation in walls, ceilings, and floors. In addition, broad overhangs on the rooflines were employed to shade the interior from summer sun, yet to capture the light and warmth of the winter sun. In addition, high-efficiency lights and light bulbs were incorporated into the building,

The building was positioned on the site to capitalize on breezes and included carefully placed operable windows to reduce the need for heating and cooling. Geothermal heating and cooling that uses the constant earth temperature is used to heat and cool the building, saving 30-40% on monthly energy costs.

A green roof was installed, one of the first in the Charleston area, that helps to offset the effects of urbanization on water quality by filtering pollutants and absorbing rainfall, and providing better insulation for the building than standard insulation. It is constructed of local plants that absorb carbon dioxide and emit oxygen, lightweight soil, a drainage layer, and an impermeable membrane that protects the building’s structure. In the summer, attics or crawl spaces below green roofs have maximum temperatures in the 90s vs 150 degrees for conventional roofs.

The building uses creative landscaping that uses local plants to reduce impermeable surfaces, and retain natural features. A 2000 gallon rainwater collection cistern, conserves potable water, by providing sufficient water for landscape use.

A green elevator allows access to the second floor of the building and uses less energy when lifting, and gives back much of the energy on descent, all the while using approximately 75% less energy than hydraulic and older-style elevators. The elevator has up to 50% less vibration and in-car noise than traditional elevators: Whisper=30 db, our green elevator=52 db, crying baby=110 db.

Traditional buildings use 30% of the total energy we produce, 62% of our electricity, and 25% of all harvested timber.
Green buildings use 50% less of each of the aforementioned.

Additional Information:

A short film from the North Carolina awards program that highlights the building:

See additional pictures:

The addition to Lance Hall was featured in an issue of GreenSource magazine: