Optimizing Design & Energy Use in Masajids & Community Centers
By Mohammed Yousuf
Ever since I came to the USA, I have seen our community rally behind different fund raising drives to raise funds for building masjids and or community centers. Sometimes big sometimes small, all these projects have come to completion, thanks to Allah for giving our community the drive to support and sustain these projects.
While a number of new masjids and community centers have been built and are being built to support our growing community, not much has been done to optimize the design and to make use of the energy efficient ways to offset recurring utility bills.
It does not have to be as elaborate as the Mazdar initiative â€“ a $15 billion government-funded investment program in UAE where construction of the new zero-emission city started recently; when complete it will eventually house 50,000 people and 1,500 businesses or a sci-fi sounding â€œlight harvesting systemâ€ which automatically dims or turns off interior lights in the 460,000 square feet of offices at its soon-to-be-finished Nissanâ€™s Americas headquarters in Franklin, Tennessee, where sun shades outside â€“ sort of like reflective visors â€“ with computer-designed blades direct sunlight to reduce glare and heat in the summer, one of the many techniques used to consume 35 percent less energy than a traditionally designed building.
Simple techniques and use of certain renewable technologies, methods and material will go a long way in reducing utility bills. All it would take is a concentrated effort by the folks involved in the construction project from the beginning. It may cost little bit more in the beginning however it will be worth in the long run considering rising energy costs in USA due global demands and trends. A business case should be run on every energy saving initiative to see if it makes sense and to estimate how long it will take for savings in energy bills to offset the cost of the environmental features.
Adding electrical and water usage sensors to keep users aware of how much their energy/water usage will cost or installing dual flush toilet seats, low pressure faucets for vadu area to help reduce water usage – may be the first steps. One could take it as far as the budget allows, from siphoning electrical energy via solar panels to installing zoned heating with solar radiators to using different material or insulation with high â€œRâ€ values to prevent heat loss. The idea is not to go for a gold leaf award, but to do things that matter the most to us.
In an effort to piece meal the projects, most of the time, the construction scheme seem to rely on use of existing structure and or existing funds thus overlooking the bigger picture. The resulting structure ends up having an add-on, dead spaces, redundancies and difficult traffic patterns that couldâ€™ve been avoided. I understand that our needs are different, different conduits for men and women leading to the prayer areas, social hall etc dictate the navigation pattern, however weâ€™d still incorporate universal design and other methods to optimize the design and layout such that we make use of every inch of the usable space. When universities and public schools can live with one multi-purpose hall why do we need a separate social hall, a gymnasium and kitchen. A good design and layout could integrate all the features and functions into one.
We have a wealth of information, knowhow and resources on renewable energy and universal design â€“ we just need to tap into it. The need of the hour is to have a consortium of such professionals whoâ€™d oversee the design and energy needs of our masajids and community centers. A study should be undertaken to evaluate the benefits and identify areas of maximum potential in renewable energy and universal design as it relates to masajids and community centers by these experts. The ISNAs, ICNAs, CAIRs need to work on pulling this togetherâ€¦if it canâ€™t be done through them, a new non-profit organization needs to be formed to tackle this emerging metaphor.
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