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Christ United Methodist Church
By: Jennifer Walker-Journey

When it came time for Christ United Methodist Church in Plano, Texas, to build the fourth and final phase of its master plan – a large worship center, narthex and connector buildings – church leadership wanted the building to be constructed in a way that would not only stand for generations to come, but respect the environment on which it was built.

“We just thought it was the right thing to do,” said Rev. Don Underwood.

The senior pastor preached a series of sermons on creation with a focus on how important it is to preserve what God had created.

“If you just make incremental differences in terms of the environment, if everyone does that, it makes a difference,” he said.

To build the church with the “green theme” in mind, the church selected Rentenbach, a general contractor who had experience with LEED experience.

LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is an internationally recognized green building certification system developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC).

In order to be LEED certified, construction projects must incorporate strategies into the design and construction of the building that improve performance in metrics, such as energy savings, water efficiency, CO2 emissions reduction, improved indoor environmental quality, and stewardship of resources and sensitivity to their impacts.

When Rentenbach was hired, church leadership outlined its primary needs – environmental stewardship, quality of the “spoken word” through quality sanctuary acoustics, cost efficiency (including construction costs and operating efficiency), quality of systems and interior finishes, and minimal disruption to parking and existing church operations during construction.

The most challenging request would turn out to be the latter point – constructing the church without interfering with its day-to-day operations.

It was no small project. Rentenbach was to build a 54,832-square-foot worship center including a 1,200-seat sanctuary, narthex and connector building on the large, existing church campus.

For the connector building, existing outdoor covered walkways would be demolished and replaced with an enclosed, conditioned concourse. The narthex, to be built adjacent to the sanctuary, was made to be spacious to allow for gathering and fellowship and featured a two-level height, balcony walkway, grand staircase, new restrooms. It blended into the adjacent, existing education building.

The new sanctuary was designed with balconies on three sides, (upper and lower), a large pipe organ, choir and orchestra rehearsal rooms, administrative offices, large stained glass windows (some of which would be moved from the previous sanctuary), 10- to 12-foot diameter chandeliers, audio-visual systems, acoustical treatments, sound booth, and a “cry” room.

About a year before construction was to begin, Rentenbach worked with church leadership and the design team to perform various preconstruction services. Ground was finally broken in September 2009, and the project was completed May 2010. The 20 months crews were on campus to build the new church building, Rentenbach were careful not to disrupt day-to-day operations at the church.

“We overcame this challenge by maintaining an open line of communication with the church staff and keeping them apprised in the advance on construction events and progress that may affect them,” said Michael S. Smith, assistant vice president/senior project manager and manager for the Christ United Methodist Church project. “Also, a significant portion of the existing parking had to be removed to accommodate the new building; therefore, we geared our scheduling toward replacement of the parking early on in the project, and ultimately ‘gave them back’ more parking capacity considering the new parking areas.”

Perhaps the most significant aspect of the project is that it was made to be green, and thus became the first LEED-certified worship center in the state of Texas.

The facility received a Silver LEED rating for incorporating initiatives, such as recycling of waste materials in lieu of hauling them to a dump site, use of material sin the project that contained recycled content, use of materials with low VOC properties (volatile organic compounds such as stains, paints, adhesives, and the like), maintaining a clean working environment during the construction of the project, and the design and installation of a high efficiency/energy friendly HVAC system.

Incorporating these strategies required crucial meetings during the design phase between church leadership, the design team, and the contractor.

The church also assigned a LEED coordinator to the project to manage the process, submit the documentation, perform follow-up and procure the final certification from the USGBC.

“A lot of people got excited about the (green certification) once we got into it,” Rev. Underwood said, especially when the project was completed.

Many people who live nearby have said they are proud to have the church in their neighborhood.

Since the church moved into the new building, not only has Sunday worship service attendance increased by about 23 percent, members have also become more involved in small group studies and hands-on mission projects.

Rev. Underwood said, “When we add capacity, we ramp up everything we do. Our missions programs go up, and we involve more people than before.”

And, because the building was made sustainable, it will be around for many years to come.

“One of the mantras, one of the things we always said since we relocated to this site in 1996, was that we were not doing this for ourselves but for our children and our grandchildren,” Rev. Underwood added. “A lot of people were sacrificial not only in funding this project but also in their volunteer work and in the life of the church, because we are really focused on the next generation to be born.”

Rentenbach has offices in Dallas/Fort Worth; Knoxville, Tennessee; Greensboro, North Carolina; and Chattanooga, Tennessee. The company specializes in general contracting, construction management, and design/build projects, www.rentenbach.com.

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