One of the most important things in life to achieve success is to surround yourself with honest hard-working people with a shared vision. This is critical not only in life, but also in construction. Having the right team in place for a complicated project with tight schedule goals the only way to deliver a complicated project on time and on budget. I absolutely think having an architect lead the planning process was critical (obviously I am biased). Our role has been to create base plans for everyone to work off of, establish the scope of problems that needed solutions, evaluate and offer solutions, and be a sounding board for client and contractors. We facilitated meetings, answered many questions, presented findings, offered advice, formed a team, and continue to process questions and information on a daily basis.
Including a mechanical engineer, Suter Engineering, and mechanical contractor, Excel HVAC, was a must to solve this building’s problems. Also, having the future general contractor on the design team also provided him time to be up to speed on the goals and challenges in advance of pricing the project. The pre-planning that was done with Herr & Co. during design also helped a lot also to set limits on construction to stay within budget. Jim and his team were able to walk the building, know the goals and challenges, and bring in the right team of experts to provide solutions. For instance, A-Able plumbing was able to solve a question about source of water infiltration in a basement wall – a pipe in the upstairs kitchen – prior to digging or rerouting on the exterior of the building. This put a plan in place prior to them showing up at the site saving time and money. Weaver’s flooringhelped guide the finish selections for flooring keeping us on budget and the right scope in play. We had lots of questions about durability and indoor environmental quality and they walked us through the best solutions. Mast landscapes and Maust Enterpriseshave been working together to efficiently remove landscaping that was in the way of new equipment or causing water issues. They have also worked together to provide needed drainage of rainwater away from the building. Someone has sent us plenty of rain so we could verify issues that needed to be addressed, thanks God. Valley Roofingcame through for us with a solution that gave the water protection I was looking for, but also saved the steeple that we had reluctantly planned to remove. Blosser lighting was able to find a solution to convert our existing (no longer available) sanctuary lights to LED. Copper Key has found and solved issues through the building to make us safer and to provide electric where it was needed for all our new heating and cooling systems. Schlabach drywallfound the most cost-effective high sound absorbing ceiling tiles to reduce the impact of changing carpeted spaces over to laminate flooring. I may have missed someone on the list. The point is we have a solid team of honest and hard-working folks making this project as smooth as possible. They are working in dirty conditions in a building with no air conditioning in the summer in Virginia. There have been no major tension and things have gone as smooth as can be expected on a construction site. Picking the right team was critical in this project as it is in all projects.
The church renovation project at Park View Mennonite Church has a lot of moving pieces and parts. Once the design process was done and the church congregation unanimously endorsed our design solution, it was time to switch roles again.Herr and Co.left my team and became the General Contractor for the project forming their own team of experts to execute the design solution. I have continued my role as architect and attend weekly site meetings. Eric Beck from Beck Builders was added to the team as the owners representative. This is a great way to keep communications flowing with the many church committees and leaders. The church gave authority to the owners rep, Eric, to make some decisions without taking it to others for approval which speeds up the flow of work on site. The church also has a strong volunteer committee that has gone above and beyond helping on this project to cut costs by cleaning, removing ceiling tiles, removing built-in shelving, wrapping items that need to be protected during construction, and soon refinishing wood floors. This is a huge part of the project outside of all the volunteers that packed, carried boxes, offered office space, coordinate temporary worship space…. the list goes on and on. This project has been a true team effort.
The demolition process is loud, messy, dangerous, and a time to verify design solutions. As you start to uncover things through demolition there are often surprises. In this case through the demolitions process, we learned that the as-built documents used in design did not truly reflect the duct runs and pipe locations. Our mechanical engineer, Suter Engineering, and mechanical contractor, Excel HVAC, have worked closely together to coordinate the right solutions for the space. We did not find any other huge surprises which is always good in demolition work, although it very often happens. The volunteer committee that removed ceiling tiles in advance of demolition helped reduce surprises allowing a view of all the systems above ceiling that needed coordination. Perhaps we should have done this earlier in the design process, but there was a goal to keep the church looking like a church closer to construction starting. Demolition included taking down all ceiling grid, pulling up impacted carpet, removing cabinets and some walls, cutting drywall, and removing 100% of the heating and cooling systems in the building. There were serious air quality concerns during this period of time as the mold in the building was released into the air. The demolition crew did what was possible to seal off spaces during their work to prevent mold from spreading. The demolition finished as planned with air scrubbers running, masks being worn, and anti-microbial being used to control air contaminants. Now about building the right team during construction.
At this point, my volunteer work was becoming more than what I could give for a church renovation. I switched roles a bit and was hired as an architect to build a team of professionals to coordinate the design for our church renovation. We were given the air and surface test report which told us that almost all the duct work and heating / cooling units in the building had been compromised. Our team of designers started documenting all the leaks around the building. We not only had water coming in from the roof, but also leaking boiler pipes and water infiltrating the basement walls. We added Suter Engineering and Excel HVAC to our team to provide a solution to replace 100% of the heating and cooling systems. This solution would be a major expense, but the only method of treatment for mold that the EPA endorses is a full removal of the impacted equipment. We wanted to do all we could to solve this indoor environmental quality problem and it was a complicated solution. Suter and Excel were able to put together a plan and a budget to fix the mechanical systems in the building. They were also able to convert all heating / cooling systems to electric eliminating the need for natural gas for anything other than stove and water heating. This will allow our solar PV to supply most of our energy needs and for us to reduce our environmental footprint. While the mechanical system is the biggest part of the work that needed to be done, that is not the entire story for this church renovation.
Through the design process we were able to document almost all of the leaks and the causes. There were roof, flashing, and grade leaks / issues. There were gutter leaks and downspouts clogged. There were leaking boiler pipes and carbon filters. There were leaking drains and plumbing issues. From all the water issues in the building we also found drywall and insulation that needed to be replaced. One of the biggest, literally, problems we needed a solution for was our steeple was leaking. I presented the idea of removing it and adding a more traditional roof in place and to my surprise the congregation agreed to it. More on this decision later. The indoor fabric surfaces were impacted by mold growth and needed to be cleaned or replaced. This was also a good chance to update the warming kitchen and to add a needed family restroom. We added Herr and Co. to our design team. Bringing a contractor into the design phase is a good option to maximize the effectiveness of your team. They are able to guide and direct based on best practices in the field and to price the project as it is designed. They also offer a different perspective on solutions. This led to our ability to save the steeple!
Park View Mennonite Church is going through a church renovation. This project started several years ago and has developed into a major overhaul of systems in the building. It is complicated, expensive, and needs to be solved quick. Working on a church renovation means working for a committee or even several committees. This creates its own set of challenges.
So let’s go back to the start, at least the start where I joined the project. Soon after starting to attend Park View Mennonite Church I found “my people.” The creation care building committee welcomed me to their group and the work they had already started. One of the first conversations I encountered was about adding solar pv to the roof – I had really found “my people.” The goal of the committee work was to reduce our carbon footprint here in Harrisonburg. You see as a missions based church we want to help people around the world. It turns out that those most impacted by climate change are among the poorest in the world. Our actions locally and our energy usage locally impact them. Our goal on the committee was and is to reduce our carbon based energy usage as much as possible. The committee had already, before my involvement, done an energy-audit and insulated some of the biggest air leaks in the building. After I joined the committee we continued that work, added solar pv, and started replacing light bulbs with LED bulbs.
However, something was wrong in the building and it was becoming more and more clear it was time for a church renovation. The building was suffering from water leaks that had been occurring since the addition was added 26 years ago. It seemed each time we corrected a new leak that water would find a new path. Venture Builders repaired a failing basement wall that had water issues. We started a service contract to have a company clean out the gutters to keep water flowing in the right paths. We added a dehumidifier in the basement. Beck Builders adjusted a concrete slab that was draining water into a wall. We caulked, repaired, adjusted – but something was still wrong. We were trying to put a band-aid on a gash. Our work was not catching up to the problem and it was becoming clear that we needed more than just volunteers to coordinate the fix. We hired an expert to evaluate our indoor environmental quality and he provided an extensive report of all the issues we had in the building. It was time to start the church renovation.