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First UU Church of Wichita, Kansas

New Wichita church full of spaces for children

New UU building also has 'safe' rooms built to withstand tornadoes.
By Jane Greer
Fall 2009

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The 130-member First Unitarian Univer­salist Church of Wichita, Kansas, had children very much in mind when they planned their new building. The new 7,000-square-foot building includes three religious education classrooms that take up 40 percent of the building, said Marsha Diggs, the congregation’s former president. “It was very much a concern that they have great rooms.” The congregation has intergenerational worship, shown here, twice a month.

Completed in February 2008, the new building reflects the congregation’s desire for three things, Diggs said: a feeling of connection with the outside, universal accessibility, and visibility in the community. It scored on all three counts, she said. Large windows give congregants a sense of connection to the Kansas landscape; universal accessibility has brought some congregants back who were unable to access the old building; and the church’s new location on a busy street has led to new members.

The building’s clean, simple lines replicate the Kansas landscape. In addition to the religious education rooms, the building includes a fellowship hall, library, kitchen, and offices. The fellowship hall is being used as a sanctuary until the congregation can raise money to build a new one. Three rooms have been constructed as “safe” rooms with 18-inch-thick concrete walls to withstand Kansas tornados.

Set on a 5.5-acre lot, the building was built using many green construction techniques, inclu­ding using low-emissivity glass windows to lower the total heat flow, putting the ductwork inside rooms instead of in the ceiling, and buying dual flush toilets to reduce water consumption.

Photo by Jack Regehr. See sidebar for links to related resources.

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