Unitarian Universalists in Coralville

2355 Oakdale Rd, Coralville, IA 52241
(319) 337-3443
View congregation website
Green Team Contact: Deb Schoelerman, dschoelerman@gmail.com, 319-594-2373. Or Peggy Garrigues, Director of Congregational Life at UUS at peggy.uusic@gmail.com or call Peggy at the church at 319-337-3443.
Name of Green Team: The Green Sanctuary Committee, a stand-alone committee

UUS has taken part in these Iowa IPL programs:

Food, Faith, Climate: Co-sponsored
Cool Congregations: Co-sponsored

Unitarian Universalist Society is an Iowa IPL Covenanting Congregation

Success Story

Building the Greenest Church in Iowa            

Plenty of windows at the new UUS building. Labyrinth is taped out on the grounds in preparation for installation.

In November of 2017, the Unitarian Universalist Society (UUS) located in Coralville, Iowa, dedicated their new congregational facility. With prophetic environmental priorities and a commitment to becoming the “Greenest Church in Iowa,” the new facility will include more than 400 solar panels, a geothermal system, efficient lighting and mechanical systems. These renewable energy technologies and energy efficiency measures will enable the church to eventually achieve net zero energy. Meaning, they will create enough onsite, renewable energy to meet all of their heating, cooling, and electricity needs.

Unitarian Universalist congregations affirm and promote seven principals—ethical guidelines that shape their commitment to the world and others. The seventh principal upholds respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part. According to Rev. Steven Protzman, this principal calls Unitarian Universalists, “to be good stewards and to heal the Earth,” and was a touchstone throughout the planning process. As the congregation met, voted on the project, and began designing their new facility, they remained faithful to respecting the earth and engaging in the most environmentally sensitive project possible. UUS received Green Sanctuary Accreditation from the UUA in October of 2017.

Long before the build, the congregation’s Green Sanctuary Committee had been building awareness of environmental issues and advocating for the adoption of sustainable practices. Committees, Green Teams, and sustainability groups can help motivate and educate whole congregations on the importance of caring for creation and adopting important efficiency and sustainability measures. These committees and teams can be valuable resources in sharing why clean energy matters and what difference it will make in the life of the congregation, the neighborhood, and the greater community (or in the case of UUS, what difference a completely new building fitted with multiple renewable energy technologies will make).

Rev. Protzman recommends that faith communities interested in making big changes prepare for an open and transparent communication process—host forums and meetings, build consensus, listen, and be able to answer the question of why it matters and what difference it will make. The open process UUS followed ensured that all members of the congregation were invested in the build. Their buy-in meant that each vote was met with little resistance. Together, they moved forward committed to making the greenest, most organic, and most sustainable building choices.

These choices include on-site renewable energy production through a solar array, a geothermal ground-source heating and cooling system, LED lighting throughout the building, recycled glass countertops, Energy Star appliances and an energy recovery steam dishwasher unit. There are also four charging stations for electric cars. The site was planned as environmentally friendly as possible. The building was built on the flattest and most open part of the property to reduce grading and unnecessary removal of trees.

To preserve more green space and to create less water runoff from the paved area, the size of the parking lot was minimized (to 75 spaces).  Because of that commitment, members and friends are encouraged to car pool.  Many can park on site, but those who are able-bodied are encouraged to park in one of the three near-by parking lots.

Bio-retention Cell

Native grasses and flowers have been planted on the property and in the three bio-retention cells that manage storm water run-off and toxicity. Members of the Land Ministry team are already managing invasive species on the wooded areas and trails. Plans for the outdoor areas include a labyrinth, a memory garden, children’s gardens and natural playscape, and a community garden. Bike racks have been installed and plans include extending a local bicycle trail to connect to the building.

Rev. Protzman also recommends picking an architect, a contractor, and other building professionals that have experience doing environmentally friendly design and who understand your congregation’s vision. For UUS, they made sure those involved in the process understood their commitment to the earth and to becoming the “Greenest Church in Iowa.” The same goes for choosing your facility steering committee, says Rev. Protzman, “choose them carefully—give them a good charge, and be sure the committee is ready to interact, educate, and advocate.”

Seasonal snack on recycled glass countertops

Attendance has gone from an average of just under 100 to well over 200 for Sunday services since moving into the new building. With a cutting edge design and a community dedicated to creating a just and inclusive world, the UUS is taking very seriously its seventh principal, to uphold respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part. The clean and renewable technologies they are investing in and their careful choice of green and organic building strategies, highlights that this respect is not only about caring for the earth, but also caring for the health and well being of humanity.

The Unitarian Universalist Society is paying for their new facility through a capital campaign and the sale of their former property. Members of UUS formed an LLC to fund the solar panels. For congregations making updates and looking to install solar on their current facility, see Iowa IPL’s Faith in Solar Guide.

For more information contact Deb Schoelerman at dschoelerman@gmail.com or call 319-594-2373 or contact Peggy Garrigues, Director of Congregational Life at UUS at peggy.uusic@gmail.com or call Peggy at the church at 319-337-3443.