Westside Baptist Church
“When the winds come — and you know they will — of all the buildings in this county, I have a real comfort level that this one will fight the wind,” says Dale Ingersoll.
Pastor Ingersoll understands the ferocity of wind. For the past 23 years, he has served the congregation at Westside Baptist Church in Ft. Pierce, Florida. Situated on the Atlantic coastline in the southern part of the state, the area has endured its share of hurricanes.
When Westside Baptist decided to build a new worship center, the pastor called on two trusted resources: Glenn Pate, of Pate Architectural Group, an architect in West Palm Beach, and Richard K. Davis Construction Corp., a Butler Builder in Ft. Pierce.
“Davis did a design-build project with the church in 1991 for a 600-seat worship center, then four years later Davis embarked on another project: a 7,500-square-foot classroom building,” says Roger Priest, project manager for Davis. “In 2000, we built the gymnasium, a part of the family life center.”
By 2008, the growing congregation was filling four services a week and had moved 700 chairs into the gym for worship. With 18,000 new houses slated for the area, Ingersoll says it was time to move ahead.
“We had land that we’d purchased three years before that was adjacent to our campus, so we decided to build a new worship center,” he explains.
Sold on Butler Systems
Since Davis had constructed one other Butler building for Westside Baptist and had installed a Butler architectural roof system on every building on the campus, Ingersoll says he was sold on Butler quality. In addition to his own experience, he also had visited another large church that turned to Butler after having problems with a different company’s steel systems.
“I for sure wanted to go with Butler. We didn’t have the money to do it over again,” he says.
Built on 23 acres of the 49-acre campus, the new 54,878-square-foot worship center includes a 1,740- seat auditorium with more than $1 million worth of high-tech audio, video and lighting equipment, performance and production rooms, along with a choir rehearsal studio. Restrooms, class and meeting rooms add function to the facility.
“Pastor Ingersoll wanted a fan-shaped theater seating arrangement with a large platform for the choir, which is a big part of their worship service,” Pate says. “We worked very hard to squeeze every square foot out of the building and to make it as efficient as possible.”
Administrative offices occupy the front, providing plenty of room for growth. A specially designed bookstore area was tucked into the space created by the riser seats.
“We knew moms wouldn’t want to take their babies a quarter mile to the south campus, so we built a nursery too, with TV, sound and security,” adds the pastor.
While not trying for LEED certification, the church was concerned about lowering ongoing energy costs. Estimates predicted monthly electric bills of $17,000 for the campus.
“Davis Construction helped us think about what to buy. We spent more money up front to purchase a chiller system, but so far we’re paying only $10,000 a month for electric,” Ingersoll says.
Tying It All Together
The first logical move, according to Pate, was to use the Butler architectural roof system chosen by the church for the other buildings on campus — for consistency and for durability. The Ft. Pierce area experienced the brunt of hurricanes Frances and Jean in 2004 and Wilma in 2005, with extensive damage caused to many buildings.
“Of all the Butler architectural standing seam roof systems we’ve put on down here — and there are many — not one has been damaged during the hurricanes,” says Doug Davis, president of Davis Construction. “They are more durable than asphalt roofs, and sturdier than other steel roof systems because of the way the seams are rolled.”
“Butler makes the best roof system in the industry,” Pate agrees. “It was a natural fit to use a Butler roof system.”
A courtyard effect also was used to tie the buildings together. A circle of brick pavers connects the campus buildings.
“People sit on the benches and enjoy the fountain. It’s just a very comfortable, warm environment,” Ingersoll says.
Huge Project, Huge Savings
Ingersoll attributes part of the cost savings and efficiencies to the congregation.
“We didn’t have a building committee,” he explains. “We have 2,600 members and we wanted members who have the skills to work on the project. I put Davis in charge — Doug Davis and Roger Priest both belong to the church. Then we brought in members who are plumbers and electricians and other trades to value engineer as we went along. And it paid off.”
At first, Doug Davis says he had doubts about taking on the new worship center. With a $12 million budget for a 54,878-square-foot building, it was just bigger than anything his company had ever done. But when the pastor and two trustees asked, he agreed, pulling Priest in as project manager.
“Our church said, ‘This is a way to stretch yourself and we have the confidence that you can do it.’ So we did,” Davis recalls.
“For us, this was a very unusual building,” Priest explains. “It is basically a hybrid building — a Widespan structural system married with light gauge steel trusses and lots of conventional construction methods.”
Both builder and architect credit Butler engineers for working out the details, saying, “Butler has done many buildings like this, and their engineering team solved the design issues very quickly, efficiently and economically.”
“Every time I have worked with Butler, they’ve been extremely proactive and helpful,” Pate adds. “It’s been a wonderful experience. They even sent engineers to South Florida to meet with my engineers.”
The only snag came from — you guessed it — the weather.
“Tropical Storm Faye completely flooded us. We had standing water everywhere,” Priest recalls. “Fortunately, we were already erecting steel, with the foundation poured, when it hit. We were able to work around it, but the recessed floor was a huge swimming pool for months.”
A Very Satisfactory Result
“Davis Construction delivers far beyond the contract,” says Ingersoll. “We’ve never been over budget on any of our projects with them, and we’ve never missed a deadline. Their quality is extraordinary, and I can say that after living 20 years with these buildings.”
Despite their initial reservations, Davis and Priest are both very proud of the results.
“What made it comfortable to do a complex project like this was having a partner like Butler. We’ve worked with them for over 45 years now, and they really performed for us on this job,” Priest says.
Ingersoll says he feels confident that the church, like its congregation, will continue to exist for a long time, saying, “We didn’t even take wind insurance on this building. If this building comes down, there will be no need to rebuild because the town will be gone— truly. That doesn’t mean it can’t be defeated if there’s a category five hurricane and it’s God’s will, but as good as a man can build a building, this is it.”
Butler Manufacturing provides a comprehensive combination of design-build construction services and innovative building technology to the nonresidential market, www.butlermfg.com.