The Community Church of Boston Receives Award from Back Bay Green for Efforts Towards Energy Efficiency

The Community Church of Boston, located on Boylston St. in Copley Square, recently finished the first phase of its work to make the building more energy efficient and reduce its carbon footprint, and was awarded with a Certificate of Excellence by Back Bay Green, a local “grassroots advocacy organization,” according to its website.

The Sun spoke with Dean Stevens, Administrator and Music Director at the Community Church of Boston, to learn more about the project and what’s next for the church building as the process continues.

Stevens said that the building was built in the late 19th or early 20th century and operated as a five story commercial building in the early 1900s.

“We’ve owned it since 1946,” he said of the church.

The project to make the building energy efficient came about for a couple of reasons, Stevens said. He said the church was “longing to first catch up on maintenance that had been deferred for a long time,” and “second of all,” there was “concern for the planet and wanting to do the right thing by our building.” He added that the church members want to “be good stewards to this building that has treated us very well.”

Since the church is “not a very conventional church-looking structure,” Stevens said, and is “more like an office building,” the different sections of the church are located on different floors. There is an auditorium and office space on the upper floors, an archive collection on the fifth floor, and the Clover Food Lab on the first floor, which is not affiliated with the church.

The first portion of the renovations included the installation of electric air-source heat pumps, he said, that provide both air conditioning and heat to the floors of the church.

“We started on that quest in the middle of COVID,” Stevens said, adding that it was around March of last year “when we realized our oil fired steam boiler was on its last legs. We searched around and got some estimates, and were hoping to make that transition from fossil fuel to electric.”

After receiving some bids that were rather costly, Stevens said that the church was able to get a grant through Eversource to cover about two-thirds of the cost of the installation. The city’s Office of Environment, Energy, and Open Space was able to help the church find the grant money.

Stevens said that all in all, the heat pump installation process took 14 months, but they are now in place for three of the five floors. The restaurant has its own HVAC unit, he said, so the church just needs to work something out for one remaining floor.

Four heat pumps have been installed, two on the auditorium level, which has a larger square footage, and there is one each on two of other floors with smaller square footages. Jackie Royce, a member of Back Bay Green, told the Sun in an email that the pumps are located on the roof of the building, and “were connected to existing inconspicuous vents in the ceiling of the auditorium…” She said installation was finished in the middle of June.

“We see it as the first phase,” Stevens said of the work, and the church hopes to “complete a refit as we can do. There’s lots of things that need to get done.”

He said next up is repairing the existing windows to make them more energy efficient, as the current ones are “single pane, old windows with deteriorating frames.” The church is in the process of meeting with an architect and building contractors to see how they will go about that project, he said, which will also hopefully include repairs to the building’s facade as well.

All of the church’s hard work is not going unnoticed. On June 16, Back Bay Green awarded the church with a Certificate of Excellence “in recognition of Green Leadership,” according to Royce.

“It’s really a wonderful acknowledgement of a lot of hard work around securing these heat pumps,”  Stevens said. “I see it as a first step toward a real state-of-the-art efficiency for a building of this sort, which is an old, grumpy, ornery problematic building. It is our home, our church, our sacred ground, and we want to do the right things with it.”

For more information about the Community Church of Boston, visit communitychurchofboston.org.

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