Module 07 - Greening the church building

Greening the Cornerstone

Guidelines on caring for church premises

Additional Resources For This Module

Choose a resource from the list below.

Additional Resources

A Rocha Climate Stewards

Have you been wondering about offsetting your carbon emissions as a church? Why not use the carbon calculator on the Climate Stewards site. This organisation, part of A Rocha International, gives you the opportunity to make a donation to their work with communities in Ghana, South Africa, Peru and Kenya, enabling small communities to plant trees and reforest denuded areas, whilst giving those local communities access to sustainable livelihoods.

  • Find out what you can do: use the Climate Stewards site to calculate the carbon dioxide you are emitting
  • Donate to the work Climate Stewards, assessed by the Rainforest Alliance, and working with local communities to plant trees which will give them social and community benefits
  • Check the evidence on climate change
  • Sign up for prayer updates on climate 
  • Find out more about Christians and climate change

Bat-friendly church - How to be a

While some churches might be in a flap about bats, A Rocha UK have stepped in to shed some light on these creatures.

Rather than hang around, the conservation charity have launched a resource that shows how to be a ‘bat-friendly church’. It’s available by clicking the link below. Produced with input from the Bat Conservation Trust, A Rocha UK’s leaflet has already attracted support from church leaders.

‘Churches don’t need to feel stumped about how to live and let live with bats,’ said Bishop of Willesden and Deputy Bishop of London Rt Rev Pete Broadbent.

‘A Rocha UK’s leaflet bowls over the arguments against bat conservation, bails you out with advice on how to be a bat-friendly church, and offers practical suggestions on alternatives to bats in the belfry.’

West Sussex vicar Rev Richard Hayes also backed the resource. ‘As the Rector of three early medieval rural churches, I’m very aware of the potential “problems” that bats in the belfry – or anywhere else in church – can appear to create,’ he said.

‘Renovation work in one of our churches had to be timed carefully to avoid disturbing the bat population. This publication offers helpful and balanced advice in living wing by jowl with those who also find sanctuary in our holy places.’

Bats are part of creation, described in the book of Genesis as ‘very good’, said A Rocha UK Conservation Director Andy Lester. ‘Church buildings have become extremely important as roosting and hibernation sites for bats,’ he added.

The publication challenges churches to change their attitude towards bats, and to join A Rocha UK in protecting them. ‘We’re encouraging supporters to print out the leaflet and give it to the relevant person at their church,’ said Andy. ‘Pass it on to your leader or PCC – or whoever’s responsible for church gardens and buildings’

Bats and Churches - Key Facts

This hyperlink is to a document that was written to assist people responding to queries after a Press Release in early 2013, and provides a useful summary of information.

Bats in Churches

As the Bat Conservation Trust say: "For centuries, bats have found sanctuary in churches, using the many nooks and crannies as a safe place to roost. As bats' natural habitats become scarce, churches are playing a vital role in the survival of these endangered mammals. Some of the UK's older churces have provided valuable roosting sites for generations of bats, which return faithfully to the same roost year after year.

For most churches, having bats is a positive experience. Some hold bat walks for the congregation, and others count their bats for BCT's National Bat Monitoring Programme."

Their website has lots of useful info about bats and churches at

Bats in the belfry?

Bat conservation trust logo

Perhaps you need to contact the Bat Conservation Trust. Many churches play a key role in helping these endangered mammals by providing a safe environment for them to roost in. Some churches take an active role in conserving bats, taking part in monitoring programmes by counting their bats and supplying data.


There may be scope to do more to promote positive images of bats among congregations to help more people understand the importance of conserving bats, and to realise what a big difference they can make.

BCT produce a range of publications and resources, eg for European Bat Weekend every August (what about having a bat walk?), or at All Hallows - BCT provide information and materials.



Buying green electricity

This issue has become extremely complex since the Government introduced an obligation on suppliers to supply a certain (rising) percentage of electricity from renewable sources. The National Consumer Council has written a clear report of the issues, and compared the various suppliers, explaining the complexities and what you need to look for when deciding on a green tariff. Unfortunately, as the National Consumer Council is now called Consumer Focus, with a new website, they no longer have this report available. 

When buying green electricity it is important to decide what you want the company to be investing in: encouraging more consumers to play their part by buying electricity from renewables? Investing in new development of generation? Making renewables more accessible to people in other parts of the world? Where do you want your green premium to go? The reality is that the Government requires generating companies to produce 'green' electricity anyway (an increasing percentage every year under the Renewables Obligation), but currently consumer demand for renewables is less than is actually being produced. So it is really important that as consumers we show the Government that we do want our electricity produced by renewable means... and that we are prepared to REDUCE our demand.

 If your concern is for the company to provide a high percentage of electricity from renewable resources, you'll need to know the fuel mix that the company uses. This site gives that information.

Church heating - degree days

The Carbon Trust has a leaflet which explains how the concept of 'degree days' can help you work out how efficient your heating is. It's quite complicated, so not for the faint hearted! But if you are involved in the technical side of church heating, this may be very useful.

Conserving water in buildings

Have you considered harvesting rainwater and using this to flush the church toilets? The Environment Agency has a helpful introductory document about this, and other aspects of conserving water. You can download the document below as a .PDF or click above to go to the web page. Section 7 is about rainwater harvesting, but there are other sections about toilets, detecting leaks and other relevant issues.

Cool Church Toolkit

Operation Noah logo

Operation Noah is updating its resources, but you can still use this useful document to help you to calculate the energy use of your church building.

Degree Days

One of the key tools in trying to work out energy and cost efficient heating and insukation measure is the Degree Day. This website is a really good easy to understand explanation of what it is and how to use coupled with a database and calculator that enables you to work out the degree days where you are.

Energy Efficiency - Saving money and outreach go hand in hand

Cut energy bills, provide a welcome and care for God’s earth all at once.

Churches often have lovely buildings that should be a warm welcome space to share God’s love. Too often however, church buildings become millstones, causing huge energy bills and being draughty unwelcoming places.

So energy efficiency and outreach go hand in hand. By working out how best to adapt and improve church buildings to the needs of parishes and communities, churches can save money, welcome people to worship or for other activities and help protect God’s earth.

EnergeticUK have been working with communities in the area of energy efficiency, renewable energy and low carbon buildings for a number of years. It is important buildings are flexible for all their uses. Recently Technical Director Dr Mary Gillie realised the particular opportunity to enhance Christian activities by improving their buildings at the same time as saving energy.

They can help you fundraising and consult to work out the programme of work you need and deliver the measures themselves. These may include:
• Better glazing and draught proofing
• Efficient and low carbon heating
• New kitchens or toilets
• Careful subdividing buildings
• Efficient lighting
• Renewable energy
• New low carbon buildings.

Work can be on a church or group of churches basis.

For more information visit their website or please contact Dr Mary Gillie 07757900408

Energy Efficiency in Community Buildings

National Energy Action is an agency campaigning on warm homes, but also have a concern about community buildings. They have produced a detailed guide to looking at energy efficiency, which covers many of the issues of importance in church buildings.

English Heritage Advice Leaflets

English Heritage produce information leaflets on all sorts of issues to do with historic buildings. I've pulled out a few that may be of interest to those with older church buildings who are wanting to become more energy efficient or develop renewables technologies. They are all downloadable from the Historic Environment Local Management Guidance Librarypage of the English Heritage website. Here are just a few examples that I've picked out:

Fact sheet about photovoltaic projects in UK churches

Operation Eden (now Faiths4Change) produced a fact sheet about photovoltaic cells, which also gives UK church examples.

Feed in Tarriffs

The introduction of Feed in Tarriffs which force the electricity supply companies to buy renewable energy from small suppliers at very attractive rates have encouraged a lot of churches to put solar panels on their roofs and adopt other renewable energy technologies. The return on investment is excellent at a time when interest rates are at an all time low. There are even companies around offering to do the whole thing for you so that there is no up front cost and you get free electricity! Beware - there is no such thing as a free solar panel. There are some good schemes avaiable out there but the best value for money is only available to those churches who can find the money for the investment themselves. The Centre for Sustainable Energy has produced an excellent little briefing about the questions you need to ask to ensure you get a fair deal from potential suppliers offering to "rent" your roof space. There is also guide donwlaodable from the Church of England's Shrinking the Footprint website

Free Energy Audit software for Churches and Church Schools

The Church of England, Shrinking the Footprint Campaign is hoping to release a new energy audit nationally. There is a new landing page specifically for church buildings & church schools at and the software is free to use.

Free expert advice

The Energy Saving Trust is offering up to 3 days of free expert advice on community energy projects. This can cover technical consultancy or funding advice. See the EST website for details

Funding - guides from the CofE

A series of funding guides are available on the Parish Resources website, which take you through a whole range of issues from a funding overview to 'how well did we do?' (review).


Funding: Church Care site funding advice

The Church of England runs a site called Church Care with everything there is to know about looking after churches. It is geared to CofE churches, but a lot of the information is transferrable across to other denominations. Particularly helpful is their section on funding, especially their funding guides (which take you step by step through complete grant basics).

Funding: Landfill Communities Fund

Funding is available for church maintenance, repair or restoration from the Landfill Tax Credit Scheme to churches within 10 miles of a landfill site. WREN (Waste Recycling Environmental Limited)  is the organisation which is responsible for grants. Their website explains:

"Welcome to the Waste Recycling Environmental Limited (WREN) website. Our directors, staff and the people who serve on our regionally based advisory panels are fully committed to the provision of grants under the terms and conditions of the Landfill Communities Fund (formerly the Landfill Tax Credit Scheme). By doing so we aim to enhance the social environment, natural conservation and heritage aspects of the world in which we live and create a beneficial and lasting legacy for future generations.

Funding is limited and not all requests for grant support can be satisfied. Project applications which demonstrate self help, viability, sustainability and offer benefits to large numbers of people receive priority for funding."

WREN Grant Scheme:

"WREN can fund a wide range of projects under Objects D/DA and E of the Landfill Communites Fund. Funding of between £2,000 and £50,000 is available for the following types of projects:

  • The provision, maintenance or improvement of a public park or other public amenity in the vicinity of a landfill site.
  • The delivery of biodiversity conservation for UK species or habitats
  • The maintenance, repair or restoration of a building or other structure, which is a place of religious worship or of historic or architectural interest. "

You need to check the precise eligibility of the funding scheme to see if your project could come under their criteria.

General information about church heating

John Kibble was a heating engineer, and wrote a number of articles about heating in churches generally, which he made available to Eco-congregation.

Good Energy - An Offer of Investment in Renewable Heat Projects

Heating accounts for 47% of the UK’s energy demand and 49% of our emissions. Buildings used by the whole community – schools, places of worship, leisure centres and hospitals, for example – often need constant heat during the day. They also tend to rely on old-fashioned, inefficient fossil fuel boilers.

Good Energy wants to help, and are currently (May 2012) on the lookout for community renewable heat projects to invest in as part of our ongoing commitment to supporting people who want to take control of their own energy needs.

As well as ensuring appropriate energy efficiency measures are in place, there are several low-carbon technologies to choose from including biomass (wood burning) boilers and geothermal heat pumps. For the right project which meets their criteria, Good Energy may be able to provide the investment capital for a new biomass boiler or other low-carbon heat source for buildings which serve the community.

Many people are very active in their communities through transition and other low-carbon groups and Good Energy would love you to get involved. To nominate your community building find out how much the heating currently costs and the amount and type of fuel used, and fill in their online questionnaire in as much detail as possible.

Green buildings - sign up to Green Building newsletter

If you are in the process of looking at sustainable options for developing your church plant, or looking at a new build, you could sign up to receive the Green Building Press newsletter, and receive information about the sorts of things that are going on currently.


Ground Source Heat Pump Association

For more information about using geothermal heat, try the Ground Source Heat Pump Association site.

Guidelines for churches: reducing your carbon footprint

Encraft logo

Matthew Rhodes runs a consultancy called Encraft and has advised churches on energy efficiency and renewables. He has written a simple guide to help you through the first steps to making your church use less carbon dioxide.

Heating your church

William Bordass and Colin Bemrose have written a book called Heating your Church.

Beginning with the proposition that a well-heated church is largely a Victorian invention and a late twentieth century expectation, this useful guide explores and advises on the challenges of heating church buildings. Details are on the Church Care website above.

Help from a heating consultant in the West Midlands

Mark Harding is a Christian consultant heating engineer with experience of designing church heating systems. He provides advice to churches at a modest fee regarding improvements in energy-efficiency and incorporating renewable energy sources into heating systems. He is based in the West Midlands.

Contact him:

t: 01588 672012

Information from the building trade

Modern Building Services journal logo

The MBS (Modern Building Services) Journal is a journal for the building industry. They have an article on an air source heat pump fitted in a Methodist Church. There are lots of other interesting articles if you are thinking about a building project at your church.

Low Energy Lighting online

Try for an increasing range of low energy lighting options, or call direct to 024 7659 2126. I met Nigel Dawes from this company (the company is called Warmmead and is based in Coventry) and he is happy to advise churches on lighting as he has looked at his own church's lighting needs. Or you can look and purchase online. You will be amazed at the huge range of low energy lights now available. 

Nurture in His Name - Solar Power (A Film for Clergy and Congregations)

A short film, introduced by the Archbishops of both Canterbury and Westminster encouraging churches to use solar energy. It is part of a series on churches, sustainability and the environment.
Produced by Mary Colwell ( and David Shreeve (

Property Points

Property Points is a a downloadable document produced by the Methodist Church: a technical study of energy saving in religious buildings.

Rainwater Harvesting and sustainable drainage systems

One church has a scheme which collects rainwater, and then uses that water to flush the toilets: Christchurch, Chislehurst, Kent. This is all part of energy saving, as it takes lots of energy to clean water up to drinking quality, and yet we then use that drinking quality water to flush the toilets. Using rainwater harvested from the roof saves a lot of energy (and water).

Sustainable drainage systems make use of the water run-off from buildings and areas of tarmac eg car parks. With heavier rainfall, the amount of water run-off means that the drains can't cope, and that water is lost to the ground. It would be much better if that water could be saved (for example in the rainwater harvesting scheme above) or allowed to soak into the ground. These systems are called SUDS Sustainable Drainage Systems.

There are a number of SUDS now available including permable surfaces such as gravel, special block paving and special ashphalt. These systems could be cheaper because of the reduced need for pipes. They prevent flooding and puddles.

See the links for more information.


Recycling and waste

TRAID is a charity specialising in textile recycling. They will put recycling bins on church property and collect from them at no cost to the church. Recycling textiles is not only good for the environment but it also helps the worlds poorest people.

Renewable energy design, build and finance service

Ownergy will manage the design installation and management of renewable energy systems for all sort of buildings. They will also find finances to help fund the up front cost and may do an initial survey free for churches.

Renewable Heat Incentive - a Govenment Initiative

The Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) is a Government environmental programme designed to increase the uptake of renewable heat technologies by providing incentive payments to eligible generators of renewable heat for commercial, industrial, not for profit and public sector purposes and to producers of biomethane

Solar Panel guidance

English Heritage have released their solar panels guidance note, which is available on their website at:

In addition the Diocese of Oxford has also produced a very helpful guide which can be found here:

Stem the Tide - Methodist resources for greening up church life

Join the Methodist church in their campaign to 'Stem the Tide' using resources online.

It includes information on buildings, but also powerpoint presentations about climate change, resources for small groups and so on. Excellent resource!

Support & Funding: Community Action for Energy

energy saving trust logo

You might find some help and support from the café project (Community Action for Energy), run by the Energy Saving Trust 08701 261 444. They don't have big grants to give out (you'd have to get in on the Low Carbon Buildings Phase 2 pot of money) but they might have small grants which you could put towards finding an architect who is aware of all the things that you could do (eg passive solar heating, rain water recycling, heating and lighting systems which could operate off renewable sources of electricity etc). They can put you in touch with experts in the field.


Do try the Low Carbon Buildings Phase 2 - they do say that churches are eligible!


See below for a basic primer on energy efficiency from the Energy Savings Trust. It is aimed at domestic properties, but some of the issues are transferable to newer church properties.

Sustainable Building Association (AECB)

Sustainable Building Association logo

The Sustainable Building Association have a factsheet produced for domestic buildings, but the principles of which are relevant to some church buildings, especially modern ones.

Toilet systems for rural churches - Trench Arch

Are you considering toilet facilities but are not on mains drainage? A Trench Arch system is a shallow soak away trench which does not need connection to mains drainage, or septic tank. It was written for Gloucester Diocese by Mark Moodie from Elemental Solutions.

Wind Turbines for Churches

Wind turbines are a means for generating energy from a renewable source. The associated carbon footprint is only related to the production and installation of the turbine and hence the technology can be described as virtually carbon free. Hence wind turbines are one way for churches to meet carbon reduction targets. However some important factors have to be considered first.

Turbines will not work well in urban areas nor attached to buildings. Low wind speeds and turbulence created from neighbouring structures result in low efficiencies. Turbines need to be free standing and situated well away from and above surrounding structures, hills and trees. Adequate wind speeds are only achieved in rural areas and generally only with turbines over 10 metres in height. Turbine heights appearing in the literature tend to be 25m high and above. Average wind speeds for your site can be obtained from the web site below.

Wind generation is recognised under the governments Feed-in Tariff scheme and so will provide installers with an income in addition to their energy saving. The current FIT rates can be found on the web site shown below. It may be possible to find grants to support the installation costs from, for example, energy company green funds or church funds. Beware that grants received from public funds will disallow the ability to receive FIT payments.
Planning permission will be required.

Noise from single turbine installations should not be a problem. Modern units use direct drives thus avoiding the noise generated by gearing.

Precautions need to be taken to protect bird populations. This can be achieved through careful siting away from hedgerows, breeding grounds and migration pathways. The blades of the turbine also need to be visible at all times so that birds, including nocturnal ones, can avoid them. RSPB supports turbines that have been appropriately placed.

The proposition to install turbines will generate considerable community opposition, see the site listed below. Undoubtedly churches that want to explore this path would do well to consult their community first and certainly before planning permission is applied for. Creating a community partnership for development in which the financial benefits can be shared could be a way forward to deflect some criticism.

Wood fuelled boilers

There are two main types of wood fuels used with automated feed boilers:

  • wood pellet boilers - these use a processed wood fuel, currently usually imported (although UK suppliers are coming on line gradually). It is a more expensive fuel, but requires a cheaper type of wood boiler. Fully automated (you need a big storage area for the pellets, but they can be blown in from a tanker, so the tanker can be up to 30m away from the fuel store)
  • wood chip boilers - these use a 30% moisture content wood, chipped from the unused wood after logging in managed forests in the UK. Because it is less processed, it is cheaper compared to the pellets, but the boiler required is more substantial. Again, it is fully automated input, and automatic ash removal. The cost of the wood chip boiler is greater than a wood pellet boiler (although a wood chip boiler can be used for wood pellets too.

Wood fuel boilers are really best used in situations where a church building is used a lot during the week as well. They don't work so well if they have to start up from scratch weekly, but work better if they can simply 'slumber' between daily firings. However, you'd need to talk to the particular manufacturers about that.

What a supplier would need to know is what you are currently using in quantities of fuel - over the last 2 or 3 years. From this, they can calculate the number of kWh that you are likely to need, and therefore the supplier can tell you what size of a boiler you would require. Wood fuelled boilers are much bigger than oil or gas boilers, and you need significant space to accommodate the fuel. Particularly for wood chip, there would need to be access for a tipping lorry, and preferably a below ground store for the wood chip, next door to where the boiler is. The store needs to be significant in size so that you don't have to have the lorry delivering small amounts often.

The automated ash removal system puts the ash into a box or bin which needs then to be removed every 2 - 4 weeks.

The main questions you need to ask before contemplating a wood fuelled boiler are:

  • do you have space for a large fuel hopper?
  • do you have space for a large boiler next door to the hopper (or a space that could be separated easily - the wood fuel store needs to be physically separated but next to the boiler for safety reasons)
  • do you have access for lorries to deliver into the fuel hopper? (This may not be so relevant if you go down the wood pellet road.)
  • does your building get a lot of use during the week, which would work better for wood fuelled systems?
  • are you prepared to put in a large amount of money up front for installation of a system which will save you money in the long run, and reduce your dependence on fossil fuels?

The National Energy Foundation's wood fuel site is regularly updated with suppliers' details, but the funding for the project came to an end, so other information on the site is not updated. However, it is still a useful source of information about wood fuelled boilers.


Your Church and Wood Fuel (Biomass)

This information sheet is produced by the Diocese of Oxford to introduce how biomass could be used to heat your church. It will help you assess the suitability of your church and provides a list of things to consider as you develop a project to install a biomass boiler and benefit from the government Renewable Heat Incentive