Coralville congregation goes green with new church building

CORALVILLE ? Officials with the Unitarian Universalist Society of Iowa City are preparing to open their new church next month, which they say will be ?one of the greenest churches in Iowa.?

The facility, located at 2355 Oakdale Road in Coralville, was designed to be energy efficient and to have as little impact on the environment as possible. With its biophilic principles and emphasis on a connection to nature, it?s only fitting the groundbreaking for construction took place on April 22, 2016 ? Earth Day.

Construction cost $6.3 million, part of which was funded through a capital campaign and the sale of the previous church building, said Jim Laughlin, president of the board of trustees.

The construction included several environmentally friendly features, such as hundreds of solar panels and stormwater management systems.

The building will be dedicated during a ceremony set for 4 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 4, at the new church.

Matt Krieger, architect with Neumann Monson, the Iowa City firm that designed the church, said they anticipate the 429 solar panels to be installed on site will cover ?100 percent of electricity needs.?

Construction also included three bio-retention cells on the property to manage stormwater runoff from the site. Deb Schoelerman, chairwoman of the land ministry committee with UUSIC, said hundreds of native flowers and grasses are planted into the cells to absorb most of the runoff heading into the nearby stream.

The building itself was constructed with natural materials, including recycled steel and cedar siding that was harvested in the United States, Krieger said.

The 20,000-square-foot church includes a sanctuary that can seat 275 people, seven classrooms, five meeting spaces and a conference room, as well as a fellowship hall that can seat up to 350 people for events.

The building also was designed to have as little impact on the vegetation on the property as possible.

?We were trying to preserve as much natural elements as we could,? said Adam Ingersoll, co-chairman of the new facilities committee with UUSIC.

Because of nearby parking lots and to encourage carpooling, the church includes limited parking spaces.

Church officials still have plans for more projects on the eight acres of property surrounding the building, which is nestled among woodland. Schoelerman said they hope to start work soon on building a memory garden, a labyrinth and a playscape, which would ?use elements in the landscape to create play areas for children.?

This is the first new building the UUSIC has had in more than 100 years since its previous location at 10 S. Gilbert St. in Iowa City was sold in 2015. The new owner plans to preserve that historic building.