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Metal Building Systems Serve Diverse Church Building Designs
By: Charles Praeger

A metal building system is not a new concept. It has been used regularly since the 1950s to provide congregations with worship facilities and gathering spaces.

What is new in the industry is the technology and innovation behind the design and manufacturing process. Today, manufacturers have the capability to match a building owner’s needs to create a customized building solution.

Unique Requests
The Bilberry Baptist Church in Orleans, Ontario, Canada, has a growing congregation of both English and French speaking members. The group used to gather in a cluster of permanent and temporary buildings at different times so English and French masses would not interfere with each other.

Recently, the church leaders began looking for a way to accommodate the two groups in a separate but uniting way, while provide additional offices and classrooms. They selected a metal building system with a standing-seam metal roof to add a 7,000-square-foot expansion to tie together their existing structures.

When creating the new sanctuary, the members did not want to obstruct the view with pillars. The clear span offered by a metal building solution created a high, open space that created the “church feel” the congregation desired. These open spaces also can be used for atriums, auditoriums, or other functional places within a religious structure.

Because the congregation was small but growing, funds were naturally limited. Metal building systems can offer cost savings compared to traditional construction because they can be erected year-round without typical weather delays and generally achieve completion in one-third the time of conventional construction.

Metal building systems may also be less expensive because they can be purchased from a single-source supplier. A metal building from a single source can offer faster, consistent and more efficient construction and lower life-cycle costs than traditional construction.

This is possible because metal buildings are fabricated in a plant for bolt-type construction at the site, so weather doesn’t affect the ability to join the metal building system elements.

The architect Ralph Vandenberg of Vandenberg & Wildeboer Architects, Kanata, Ontario, and builder BBS Construction (Ontario) Ltd., Ottawa, Ontario, are credited with bringing this congregation together to have masses at the same time in different sanctuaries while providing common spaces for the entire community to gather. They completed it on time and within budget.

Like the Baptist community in Ottawa, a Baptist community in Monroe City, Missouri, turned to a metal building system to renovate their existing structure. The First Baptist Church was one of the most damaged structures when a tornado swept through Monroe City in 2006.

For various reasons, it took years before the church could be rebuilt. But, the historical church, originally constructed in 1899, did indeed rise again with improvements. With the sanctuary completely demolished, the new sanctuary and educational building are now attached to the existing multipurpose building.

The metal building system manufacturer used BIM software to create the customized layout for the structure.

An engineer with the manufacturing company said, “We can actually see any interferences on the screen, which enables us to eliminate errors and defects before a building is built. Once everything checks out, we send the part drawings to the plant, and they fabricate all the pieces from them. Everything is custom-made from the floor line to the roof.”

Obviously, customization isn’t just for retrofit projects. A new construction project created Bulverde Baptist Church in Bulverde, Texas. A metal building system allowed for the perfect space to be configured for the community.

The builder Moore Erection LP, Garden Ridge, Texas, and architect Building God’s Way, Ogden, Utah, created a high-tech sanctuary for worship, as well classrooms, a nursery, and a third space, or foyer.

According to Don Mahoney, partner with Building God’s Way, the third space is a vital aspect of a church that easily can be created with a metal building system.

He said, “From a ministry standpoint, this third space is just as important as a sanctuary. It builds unity, and it is designed for flexibility to serve as a gathering or meet-and-greet area.”

The metal building system and roofing system were bought from one manufacturer, but they were not off-the-shelf.  The manufacturer created a custom look to match existing church structures: one built after World War II and another added 15 years ago. The newest building is a separate structure only connected by paths and aesthetics.

“They wanted to build a sanctuary that blended into the area. So, we selected a metal roof and natural stones to create the Texas hills look,” Mahoney said.

Metal roofing was installed on all three Baptist churches because metal roofing brings weatherability, durability, low maintenance, and sustainability to projects. Because of coating technology, cool metal roofs reduce the urban heat island effect, have increased solar reflectivity, and decrease energy consumption.

Many metal roofs are also fire and hail resistant, as well as offering superior wind-uplift performance. These traits clearly were important to the First Baptist Church when selecting its new roof.

Ken Lee, partner with Building God’s Way, added, “In Texas, installing a cool roof is important. Metal roofing can decrease air-conditioning operating costs. The insulation also serves to deaden the sound in the sanctuary.”

Metal roofing also brings different aesthetics to a building to evoke a particular design, feel, or look. An added bonus is that metal buildings have the strength and flexibility to support solar roofing panels.

With a metal roof, particularly standing-seam configurations, solar panels can be clipped to the seams without roofing penetrations. An additional advantage of a metal roof is that the solar systems last longer.

Studies indicate that metal roofing can last 50 years or longer compared to 20 years for traditional roofs (according to a Ducker research study). Why would you select a roofing substrate that doesn’t last as long as the PV panels on top of it?

Although a popular option, metal exteriors do not have to be used with a metal building system. The First Baptist Church features a brick façade, and the Bilberry Baptist Church has prefinished wood wall panels. These exteriors were selected to tie into existing structures. Bulverde Baptist Church features stone and natural textures to reflect and blend with its Texas landscape.

When working with a metal building system, the wall cladding can be almost any material because the flexible structural steel frames bear a building’s load. Wall cladding options include wood, glass, brick, masonry, EIFS, or factory insulated panels.

A qualified metal building systems manufacturer will ensure the system and cladding are appropriate for the project because the cladding selection could affect some structural considerations. The building must also meet the local life safety building codes.

Customizing Customs
Religious communities may worship loudly or in silence, with formality or casualness, in various languages and according to a variety of dress codes. But, all congregations, no matter how they worship, require a building that creates a holy space designed to suggest a sense of community, peace, and comfort.

As the examples discussed show, metal building systems provide this while adding customization to meet budget, durability and lifespan requirements.

“Many customers often think of manufacturing facilities when we tell them we want to build their church with a metal building, so we need to get them to think outside the box,” Mahoney said. “Using a metal building is an inexpensive way to create a space with flexibility, and customers soon realize that.”

Charles Praeger is the assistant general manager of the Metal Building Manufacturers Association, Cleveland, Ohio, and past chairman of the Cool Metal Roofing Coalition. To learn more about other church projects, visit www.mbma.com.

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Religious Product News