Santa Cruz church goes green

February 23, 2007

Like a seed planted in fertile ground, plans for a new United Methodist Church of Santa Cruz will soon be coming up green! The church is being touted as the only one in the country to be designed from the ground up as an environmentally friendly facility.


The new UMC of Santa Cruz will feature solar panels, windows designed to draw in more light and several other green-friendly attributes. The Rev. Michael Love expects construction to begin July 1. “It’s been a long road, but the delays in work approvals have been a blessing.” Love says while designs, permits and plans were being completed, Santa Cruz has been growing its membership. The church is the result of three congregations merging in 2003 – Live Oak, Grace and Santa Cruz. Below, the Rev. Michael Love (in vestments) looks on as Bishop Shamana takes part in the church's 2004 groundbreaking ceremony.


Love says church leadership decided at the start that they needed to build more than just an edifice on 17th avenue near Capitola. “We wanted the church to be an expression of our core United Methodist values, values rooted in the Wesley tradition and in our Christian faith. We take seriously that 'the earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof' and so building a facility that reflected stewardship of the earth was important.”


Love says the church will not be a zero impact building – “We won’t be totally off the grid in terms of electricity,” but the Santa Cruz-based William Bagnall Architects says the new two-story structure will have a number of features that will be eco-friendly. "From flooring and wall coverings to the heating and cooling systems, we are looking at a number of ways the new church facility will minimize reliance on electricity," says project architect William Bagnell. The multi-functional church will feature a flat roof and solar panel tiles made to look like concrete. The church sanctuary will also be oriented to take advantage of natural sunlight through windows and skylights. Even the parking lot will reflect the green concept. "We are looking at using paving materials that allow water to soak back into the ground, recharging ground water aquifers, instead of running into storm drains."


“In general it’s a little bit more expensive to do some of the things we are doing,” says Love, but he’s quick to add it is more than a nice idea. “People think that incorporating environmentally responsible design into their buildings is icing on the cake, it’s the last thing they do. In fact, eco-friendly architecture is a huge movement within the construction industry and many architects are knowledgeable about how to help you and your church cut heating costs.” Love says the best advice he has for churches planning to build is to start thinking early about how to incorporate environmental designs into church plans, in order to cut costs such as electricity and heating.


Churches can find more information and resources on building green or renovation ideas at


When completed the new church will house several ministries, including a community center designed especially to service the community’s children. "The facility itself will be kind of educational," says Bagnell. "Small plaques will be featured throughout the buildings to explain what renewable resources were used, and why."


The church has completed its application for the design and is awaiting zoning board decisions and an environmental review. Architects tell Love the project could be completed by July 2008.