Problems with the Energy Star Congregations Program

EnergyStar Congregations is a federal DOE/EPA program to help congregations reduce their energy use.  In 2002, the EPA gave ICE a national award saying, ICE is “one of the oldest, if not the oldest, operating interfaith energy-environmental organization on the national scene, and remains a leading national advocate for congregational energy conservation and improved energy efficiency.”

They granted ICE this award even though in 1996 we strongly criticized the EPA about their unrealistic standards for awarding EnergyStar ratings based on faulty data.  They suspended that program.  In that same article we criticized the EPA for unrealistic rules about asbestos and radon, which continue to this day.

Now, they are at it again with their “Energy Star Congregations” program.  To us, it seems that they have never spent much time actually analyzing houses of worship, whereas ICE has analyzed hundreds of them.

For example, here is part of their list of “Sure Energy Savers” with our comments in bold:

  • Use fans when a room/area is occupied. Moving air makes people feel cooler during the heating season.
  • “Tune-up” your heating, ventilating and air-conditioning (HVAC) system with an annual maintenance contract. We don’t like fixed-price service contracts because your congregation ends up betting against itself.
    Continue reading

How Religious Buildings Use Energy

When we survey your buildings, we gather lots of information and record it into a database.  The information is anonymous, keyed in by codes that only we understand. 

Among other information, the database contains the following about the most common type of building – one used for worship, with classrooms often used for child care, a fellowship hall and offices:Number of buildings in this category to date – 334

  • Average floor area of heated space – 20,750 square feet
  • Average number of kilowatthours of electricity – 2.88 per square foot per year
    Continue reading

Job Description: Property Manager, Sexton, Custodian, Maintenance Person

The following is a draft of a job description for a Property Manager for a religious congregation.  Each congregation who uses this document must fill in blanks, strike out phrases that do not apply and add phrases that do apply.  The goal of the final document is to be used by both the congregation and the Property Manager to improve communication and facilitate better facility management with fewer misunderstandings.

In addition to this copy on paper, this document is available on computer disk and by E-mail so that the editing can be done before the document is printed.  The Interfaith Coalition on Energy views this as a draft and eagerly seeks input from any and all who use it.

Continue reading

Energy Activities for Faithful Youth

May 1998 (Revised November 2012)
Often, a congregation’s interest in reducing energy costs does not extend to its young members or those in religious schools.  The purpose of this ICE publication is to suggest ways to include the youth in a congregation by providing a variety of ideas for specific activities concerning energy.


Continue reading

Energy Costs Are Not a Burden to Bear

Boiler modulator with timer.

By Andrew Rudin
Taken from : Common Bond Vol. 24, No. 1 Special Online Edition
Green Theology, Energy Efficiency and Historic Sacred Sites

“This article will explain how to lower energy costs for your congregation.”

Contributors: Andrew Rudin

Since 1976, Andrew Rudin has studied changes in energy use in more than 3,000 buildings belonging to congregations in Philadelphia, New York, Phoenix, Chicago, Boston, Cleveland, Houston and other cities. He has also worked extensively with other non-profit community service agencies, such as YMCAs and day care centers, to reduce their energy costs.

For the past twenty-seven years, Rudin has been the project coordinator for the Interfaith Coalition on Energy (ICE) in Philadelphia whose mission is to inspire congregations to reduce the costs of operating their facilities. He has presented more than 300 energy management workshops and has written over 140 articles about energy for national periodicals. He has also published one hundred and three newsletters, called Comfort and Light, for the Interfaith Coalition on Energy.

This article is a summary of Rudin’s methodology as he and ICE staff conduct energy audits for religious building throughout the U.S.

This article will explain how to lower energy costs for your congregation.

To do that, I want to start with three distinctions:

First, houses of worship are not houses ….

Continue reading

Design for the Future by Looking at the Past

Parishioners gather for rededication of St. Mary of the Angels in Chicago.

A study of energy use in worship centers is presented along with recommendations for designing new buildings and improving existing buildings.
By Lawrence G. Spielvogel, P.E.  and Andrew Rudin
Taken from : HPAC Heating/Piping/AirConditioning November 1997

This article describes experience with energy use in houses of worship. It presents metered energy data from 302 churches,  synagogues, mosques, and other places of worship in and around Philadelphia. The buildings average 16,700 sq ft. Each building has its own utility meters and does not share fuel storage tanks with any other building. The average energy budget is 64,400 Btu and $0.7 per sq ft per yr.


The Interfaith Coalition on Energy (ICE) was started in 1980 by the religious community in Philadelphia, with financial support from foundations and corporations. During the past few years, ICE has continued its work with support from local religious denominations and from fees for service, mostly on-site surveys of the buildings and their energy systems. Data from each separately metered building are entered into a database. This article is based on those data. An earlier summary was published in February 1988 To date, ICE has conducted onsite energy surveys for over 460 congregations with over 1100 buildings. It has published more than 60 newsletters and conducted over 200 energy management workshops.

Continue reading

ASHRAE Journal February 1988

An Update: Religious building energy use

An update and expansion of an analysis of the energy use in religious buildings in the Philadelphia area.

By Lawrence G. Spielvogel, P.E. (Member ASHRAE) and Andrew Rudin (Member ASHRAE)
Taken from : American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers Journal February 1988 

The Interfaith Coalition on Energy (ICE) was organized 1n 1980 by the Philadelphia area religious community and, funded in 1982 by local private foundations and corporations, began an energy management program for religious buildings whose utility bills are paid by congregations.

Since that time, ICE has completed on-site energy audits for 226 congregations with a total of 546 buildings. Each audit report contains a description of the facilities and their energy systems, a baseline year of energy data, a computation of energy use per square foot, and a list of recommendations to reduce energy costs in order of simple payback.

Continue reading

Energy Considerations for New Religious Buildings

Building a Mormon church in Phoenix.

By Lawrence Spielvogel and Andrew Rudin

The gathering of a group of people for worship never requires a church, temple, synagogue, or mosque as we presently build it. And certainly no Biblical justification exists for wasteful building use within the religious community. Yet the energy cost in newer non-residential religious buildings exceeds that in older ones.
Dollars that congregations could devote to community service should not be used unnecessarily by their facilities. As congregations enter an era of virtually certain increased energy cost, designers and specifiers should remember that plans for religious buildings require extra care in design.

During the past five years the Interfaith Coalition on Energy (ICE) has examined several hundred religious buildings in the Philadelphia area. In Philadelphia, two-thirds of the energy expense is for fuel. However, our recommendations for energy management of lighting, domestic hot water, and other non-heating-related energy uses are applicable to most other parts of the country. For example, an Interfaith Coalition has begun in Arizona where only five percent of the energy expenses is for fuel.

Continue reading

Questions for Architects and Engineers

Designing a Worship Center with Minimal Environmental Impact:
Questions for design professionals
September, 2001, The Interfaith Coalition on Energy: by Andrew Rudin, January 1996
We have received requests from congregations wanting to know what to ask for when they want to design a building that uses relatively low amounts of energy and is less harmful to the environment.  In 1988, we wrote an article for Construction Specifier magazine which outlined many of the  principles dealing with energy.  Since then, we have continued our research and studied that of other people in this field, resulting in this series of questions which can be asked of design professionals to assist them in providing plans for buildings that tend to have less harmful impact on the environment:

Section 1 — General Questions

­Basic overall issues
Does the building need to be built?  Can the congregation rehabilitate an existing structure instead of building a new one?

Is the land suitable for development?  Is the planned building the best use of the site?  What is the future of the surrounding land?  Are plans consistent with the needs of the community?

Continue reading