The new home of the Papago Buttes Church of the Brethren in Scottsdale stands as testament that the congregation’s leadership practices what it preaches.
"Eco-consciousness and environmental stewardship is consistent with our theology," said the pastor, the Rev. Robert Varnum.
The church, which grew from Mennonite and Quaker traditions, is fulfilling that aspect of its ministry with its recently completed complex at Oak and 64th streets. It’s among the first major nonresidential projects to be constructed in accord with Scottsdale’s Green Building program guidelines. The program encourages environmentally sensitive and energy-efficient building and development.
But the city didn’t need to convince the Church of the Brethren.
"They came to us. They were really motivated, and they stuck to their goal," said Anthony Floyd, Green Building program manager.
The 8,000-square -foot complex is oriented to allow strategically placed windows to let in abundant natural light while blocking direct sunlight to prevent heat buildup.
Double-paned windows and 12- to 14-inch-thick walls of concrete block, foam and stucco provide thorough insulation.
The parking lot surface is a compacted granite gravel instead of heat-radiating asphalt. Only native Sonoran Desert plants are used for landscaping, which is maintained with a low-water-use irrigation system.
Wood recycled from old church pews is used for some of the built-in countertops.
Lighting, heating and airconditioning systems are designed to reduce energy consumption.
"They were committed to doing all of this because of their philosophy," said Ed Zrmack, the project architect. "It was exciting getting to design a full-blown green building."
It was not an easy mission for the church’s roughly 60 core members. Adhering to high environmental standards made the project take longer and cost a little more — $1.5 million overall — than what had been hoped, Varnum said.
"That’s a big undertaking for us, with our small membership. . . . But we wanted something that reflects care for the Earth," he said.
The endeavor has been supported not only with financial contributions, but also with hundreds of hours of volunteers assisting building contractors and installing landscaping, Varnum said.
City Councilman Kevin Osterman, who lives nearby, called the building a shining addition to the south Scottsdale neighborhood and the city’s growing number of green-building projects.
He noted the church is on a site that was part of a World War II prisoner-of-war camp.
"It’s good that it’s being used for something peaceful," he said.