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Solar-powered building set to open in Mesa


MESA, ARIZ.

In the Phoenix metropolitan area, known as the "Valley of the Sun," the Church's first-ever solar-powered and environmentally-friendly meetinghouse in Arizona is set to open this month for Sunday worship services and weeknight meetings.

Church officials held a media event April 28 to show off its newest building, 10036 E. Brown Road in Mesa. The new building is a part of the Apache Junction Arizona State, east of Phoenix.

Jared Doxey, director of architecture, engineering and construction for the Church, explains the fun

Jared Doxey, director of architecture, engineering and construction for the Church, explains the function and design of the roof's solar panels.

Photo by Jill B. Adair

Stake President Stanley Lawlor said the building will be the fourth in his stake that has 10 wards and a Spanish-speaking branch.

"(The building) will be a great blessing to our members," he said. "We're excited to see what it can do."

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Photo by Jill B. Adair

"It is a beautiful addition to the area," he added.

Leading a tour of the new building and explaining its features was Jared Doxey, director of architecture, engineering and construction for all LDS meetinghouses worldwide.

He told local church and civic leaders that the nearly 20,000-square-foot building is one of five prototype churches in Arizona, Utah and Nevada being used to test sustainable technologies.

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Photo by Jill B. Adair

He said that a similar one built in Utah last year earned Silver Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification for implementing elements of "green" design, and he expects this building to also receive certification.

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Photo by Jill B. Adair

"We are interested in being good stewards of the earth," Brother Doxey told the group, explaining that energy-saving construction materials and practices have been used by the LDS Church since the 1950s.

"For many decades we have used conservation practices throughout the world," he said.

On the roof of the meetinghouse are 143 American-made solar panels that are expected to generate enough electricity using the power of the sun to heat and cool the building throughout the year and to achieve a net-zero utility cost.

"If the sun shines, you've got power," he said.

Brother Doxey explained that electricity generated during the winter months would be a surplus and that power will be sold into the power grid. In the summer months additional energy will be purchased from the utility company to cool the building.

The solar power system cost $178,000 installed and should pay for itself in energy savings in eight to 10 years, he added. He also expects the panels to continue working beyond that for another 15-20 years.

Other features of the new building include: Improved insulation on the outside walls and roof; xeriscaping with drought-resistant plants, limited grass areas and automated water sensors that save 50 percent more water than conventional landscaping; windows that block 78 percent of the sun's heat energy; and architectural design elements that take advantage of natural lighting; energy-efficient light bulbs; and automatic light switches that turn off when rooms are not occupied.

System monitoring will pinpoint mechanical malfunctions on the property via the Internet and e-mails are automatically sent to facility managers off premises notifying them of any problem, Brother Doxey said.

He added that the new monitoring system reduces travel time and troubleshooting by service providers and the only on-site maintenance expected for the solar panels is to hose off the dust periodically.

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