Church Addition – From Plans to Reality

When Northstar Community Church selected Childress & Cunningham to develop plans for a Care Center Ministry addition, they also selected our construction management expertise to oversee their construction. Over the past several months, the design has come together. Architect-led construction management keeps the church and their architect in control, well after the drawings have been approved and building permits issued.

Take a look at some of the design and construction challenges faced along the way…

How Do You Integrate New Functions Into An Existing Facility?

A driving force for expansion can be when a church wishes to add programs or ministries that need their own dedicated space. In the case of Northstar Community Church, major goals included creating a Care Center Ministry that could operate throughout the week, plus the addition of more classroom space. The addition that C|C Architects designed encompasses three distinct areas, which were designed to blend into the existing forms of the building.

The first area is an expanded lobby, which establishes a separate entry to The Care Center while serving as auxiliary lobby space for the Sanctuary on Sundays. The new entry gives The Care Center identity, but is left secondary in scale and is entered off-axis, so that it does not compete with the main entrance to the church. The new lobby extends an existing roofline that anchors the western edge of the addition beyond. Incorporating the floor space of a former Youth Room, an existing structural column in the middle of the new space was treated as an opportunity and engaged with a double-sided fireplace that defines zones and conveys comfort within the lobby.

Care Center Lobby and Fireplace

The second area of the addition provides consultation and resource spaces for the Care Center, plus meeting & training spaces used on the weekend as additional youth classrooms. This addition stretches the existing roofline over the new square footage by overframing with a slightly lower-pitched roof down from the existing roof ridge. This approach avoids the creation of additional prominent building forms or roof gables, helping the addition to feel like part of the original building. The over-framing also reduces the opportunity for leaks to form in the roof. While the existing church was erected as a pre-engineered metal building, the addition uses framed walls and trusses, with care taken to combine the different materials and structural systems.

The third extension of Northstar’s facility is the new Youth Suite. This new multi-purpose room allows for expansion of the Youth program area, and includes a snack center, dedicated storage, and improved acoustics. Abutting the southeast corner of the existing church, this extension reflects the form and roof slopes of the existing building’s Narthex southwest wing. Here, as requested by the church, the trusswork is left open to view from inside and painted black, to create a casual, buoyant feel.

How Do You Approach Code Challenges With Large Church Plans?

With a floor plan that was already near the code limit for a church building without sprinklers, Northstar Community Church had to consider how they might proceed with expansion. The new areas being added/expanded were separated by fire walls so that each fire area would be evaluated as a separate building for code purposes. This ensured the design of the new structures would not trigger adding sprinkler systems or other costly upgrades to the existing Sanctuary. A cost-benefit analysis was performed showing both initial savings as well as yearly maintenance savings.

The fire areas are carefully designed to allow natural egress paths through them based on an analysis of aggregate occupant loads. Several existing walls needed to be upgraded in order to meet the requirements of a fire wall, while existing fire walls were kept intact or extended.

How Do You Handle Unforeseen Conditions During Construction?

On any project that involves renovation, one is likely to encounter conditions that call for design adjustments and clever thinking. As both the designer and construction manager, Childress and Cunningham is able to expedite field changes to keep the construction team moving forward. When unexpected steel bracing was exposed by demolition, the affected drawing details were quickly revised so that critical fire ratings would be maintained.

New Care Center entry door

In the case of Northstar, responsiveness took on a whole new meaning during the Covid-19 pandemic. At the site, work continued throughout the spring and summer of 2020, with social distancing and safety precautions in place, especially noticeable during on-site meetings. The pandemic’s cloud does have a silver lining though, as the church was not meeting during most of the period of construction, so work was able to proceed without interference from many church services and ministries.

Other case studies:
Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church is another example of previous Architect-led construction management, where the building also functions as a school during the week. There, a classroom addition fits into a long-range master plan that C|C developed for them.

Michael Rountree
Latest posts by Michael Rountree (see all)