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FARMINGTON -- The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Tuesday announced a big step into an environmentally-friendly future.
Officials showed off the new Farmington Stake Center, which is viewed as a possible prototype for all future meetinghouses.
The LDS Church operates 17,000 meetinghouses and is building or expanding a new facility every working day of the week.
The big concept is to make church buildings more efficient, less wasteful of natural resources and cheaper to operate. The first thing you'll notice on the outside of the Farmington building are 158 solar energy panels on the roof.
"As soon as the sun peeks over that mountain right there, they start getting energized," explained Jared Doxey, with the Church's Physical Facilities Department.
Doxey was energized, himself, leading reporters outside and in, up and down the stairs, from the chapel to the ladies room.
"We've designed these restrooms to be easier to clean and maintain, and reduce water usage," Doxey said.
There's a laundry list of innovative features, such as tank-less water heaters that don't store hot water, but generate it on demand.
"If it's the baptismal font or if it's in the kitchen, you have instantaneous hot water," Doxey said.
Around 75 percent of the technologies qualifying for LEED certification have been used in existing Church buildings for several years. -LDS Church
Sophisticated thermostats diagnose problems and send trouble alerts by e-mail.
A computer module slows down heating or cooling at times of peak power demand.
The solar panels themselves should produce, on an annual basis, all the electricity the building needs.
There are 18 high-efficiency furnaces, and the building is encased in 4 inches of foam insulation.
"We've been designing very energy-efficient buildings, but this building does take it to a new level," Doxey said.
This new green concept also means less green lawn and more xeriscaping, with sensors underground that determine when the grounds need water."We're working very hard to try and find ways to conserve the precious resources, help with clean air and use those kind of practices that are environmentally responsible," said Bishop H. David Burton, the Church's presiding bishop. Some features are aimed at changing behavior: bike racks to encourage less driving, preferred parking for energy-efficient vehicles, and computerized displays to show churchgoers their minute-by-minute energy use.
"We want to be responsible members of the community as well, and I'm talking about the community of man -- mankind throughout the world," Burton said.
The Church says the Farmington meetinghouse is part of a new pilot program that demonstrates the Church's ongoing commitment to stewardship and conservation.
Four other meetinghouse prototypes located in Eagle Mountain, Utah; Apache Junction, Ariz.; Logandale, Nev.; and Pahrump, Nev.; are also currently under construction. In addition to Farmington, Apache Junction and Logandale are solar powered.
A decision is expected soon on whether all future meeting houses will be built this way.