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ENERGY STAR Labeled Building Profile

Winchester Unitarian Society
478 Main St
Winchester, MA 01890
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In February 2011, the Winchester Unitarian Society (WUS) became the third house of worship in New England to earn EPA?s ENERGY STAR. A Unitarian Universalist congregation formed in 1865, today WUS is a community of more than 400 members and other friends of all ages engaging in learning, service, and spiritual practice. The congregation dedicated its current home, constructed of Weymouth seam granite, in 1899 after a fire destroyed the original circa 1870 wooden structure.


In 2006-2007, WUS?s heating bill was nearly $33,000 and growing. The organization wanted to find a way to reduce this cost and advance its commitment to environmental responsibility, while still maintaining a comfortable space for the building?s wide variety of uses and constituents?all on a small budget and with a steam heating system, parts of which are more than 100 years old. By the winter of 2009-2010, WUS?s heating bill had dropped to less than $15,000, with the building?s measured energy efficiency (therms per heating-degree day) dropping from 3.5 to 1.8, a 94 percent improvement. Several energy-saving measures were implemented to affect this change.


As the winter of 2007-2008 approached, WUS received about $7,000 from congregants in what had become an annual special appeal to cover upcoming winter heating bills. The newly formed Building Committee challenged itself to spend that money on energy-saving programs instead of energy use. The Building Committee engaged an HVAC expert, Shawsheen Air Services, Inc., to do a full assessment of the building?s heating systems. In the first year, WUS used the $7,000 in special appeal funds to implement a portion of Shawsheen?s recommendations, including tuning the boiler; capping and repairing external air vents where heat was escaping; and weather-stripping windows and doors, particularly the oldest in the more than 110-year-old sanctuary. In year two, WUS used $8,000 saved on heating bills to implement the rest of Shawsheen?s recommendations, which included adding more, better quality radiator thermostats to create more heating zones and programming them to reduce energy use during off-peak hours; repairing existing circulation blowers; and repairing and replacing numerous steam traps.


In 2009, WUS adopted a new mission statement featuring environmental responsibility among three key focal points for its activities. The organization is forwarding this part of its mission by promoting changes both in its physical plant and in the lives of its congregants. Most recently in summer of 2011, WUS upgraded light fixtures and expanded its use of compact fluorescent bulbs in connection with an energy audit and incentive program sponsored by NSTAR. Current projects include installing an 18-kilowatt solar panel array and adding even more heating zones so that heat is targeted only to the areas where and when it is needed, thus reducing waste. To promote change among its congregants, WUS?s newest initiative is participation in the Unitarian Universalist Association?s Green Sanctuary program. Through the program, congregations can earn a Green Sanctuary certification by integrating environmental responsibility and awareness into their worship and educational activities, engaging in social action, and encouraging sustainability in the individual and collective practices of its congregants.  WUS will continue to use Portfolio Manager, EPA?s ENERGY STAR measurement and tracking tool, to track its progress in reducing energy usage and greenhouse gas emissions as it implements these initiatives.




?With an initial two-year investment of just $15,000, we?ve made significant gains in energy efficiency and cut our heating bills by more than half. Our success is proof that a congregation?even one with an older building like ours?doesn?t need to spend a lot to make meaningful reductions in its carbon footprint. What we?ve done so far is just the beginning, and EPA continues to provide us with ideas and inspiration through the Congregations program and other resources. We look forward to earning our next ENERGY STAR.? 

-- Chuck Khuen, Co-Chair, Building Committee, Winchester Unitarian Society

Please note: Narrative information in this profile has been provided by Winchester Unitarian Society or a representative of this facility. Other building information was verified and submitted to EPA at the time of application. Building energy performance, operating characteristics, and ownership/management may be subject to change over time.

Building Owner:*
Winchester Unitarian Society

Property Manager:*
Winchester Unitarian Society

Year(s) Labeled (Rating):
2010 (81)

Facility Type: Worship Facility

Total Floorspace: 26832 sf

Year Constructed: 1898

Contract Type: Multiple Vendor Contracts

Technologies Used:
   Stage 1-Recommissioning
   Stage 2-Lighting
   Stage 3-Load Reductions
   Stage 4-Fan Systems