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On pleasant days beginning in 2012, the glass panels covering the retail section of downtown Salt Lake City's City Creek Center will retract, exposing a once enclosed complex to open air.
The 300-by-70-foot ceiling will act as City Creek's air conditioner on warm days but hold in warmth during stormy or windy days.
"You can open up the roof like the windows of your house when it's nice outside," said Bill Williams, City Creek Reserve Inc.'s director of architecture and engineering.
The ceiling is one way that the LDS Church is making its massive City Creek development in downtown Salt Lake City greener, efforts that the Sierra Club honored this week in its first "Faith in Action" report.
The report highlights a faith-based environmental initiative from each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Other efforts recognized include a Lutheran church in Virginia operating an organic garden to feed low-income families and an Alabama congregation protecting a group of rare fish.
The LDS Church's efforts at City Creek were honored as Utah's greenest spiritual initiative.
"There is a lot of history with the church doing good urban planning," said Marc Heileson, Southwest regional representative for the Sierra Club. Pioneer-era LDS Church President "Brigham Young was probably the best urban planner in the history of the West."
The new development is on 20 acres between 100 South and South Temple Street, the former locations of the Crossroads and ZCMI malls. It is funded entirely by the real estate arm of the church and is intended to "significantly reduce Salt Lake City's dependence on the automobile," according to the Sierra Club report.
Williams said the project was designed, in part, to increase ridership on TRAX light rail and the walkability of the area.
"The best thing for any downtown is to have a multitude of systems that can get you from point A to point B," he said. "You have the opportunity, living downtown, of not really needing to own a car."
In addition to reducing traffic, the complex will create sustainable landscaping by using only native plant species, use efficiency-oriented water devices and recycle around 50 percent of demolition debris.
The church sees green-friendly development as beneficial to its ventures, said Williams.
"As an institution, we are trying to accomplish things for the long term," he said. "Creating sustainable facilities is prudent for us as long-term owners."
The complex, which is scheduled for completion in 2012, will contain residential, retail and office space, in addition to six acres of parks and a series of streams and fountains.
City Creek's architects hope to earn Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design's (LEED) New Construction certification, an indication of a building's commitment to sustainability, for the project's residential towers. The development is also one of 60 pilot projects selected to help finalize LEED's Neighborhood Development standards for certification, and is an example of an environmentally friendly, multibuilding development, according to Williams.