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Hominy Baptist Church
By: Jennifer Walker-Journey

Less than a month before Hominy Baptist Church in Candler, North Carolina, was to celebrate its 200th anniversary, Bob Smith, III of Talley & Smith Architecture got a call. The pastor said he was familiar with the firm’s work on other churches and was seeking guidance on an exciting new expansion at Hominy. A generous benefactor had offered to pay for a new Family Life Center to serve not only the church, but others in the community. The catch was that Hominy wanted to unveil the plans during its 200th anniversary celebration just three weeks away.

Typically, churches invite several architecture firms to present ideas for expansions. But Hominy sought out no other architects. Talley & Smith Architecture had worked with several churches in the area and that was enough to win the trust of the leadership of Hominy Baptist Church. Smith met with the pastor to gather ideas, surveyed the church grounds to determine placement for the new Family Life Center, and then sat down with the benefactors who had agreed to put up the $2-$2.5 million to pay for the new building. 

For decades, Jack and Carolyn Ferguson were careful with their money, investing Jack’s earnings as a hardware store manager wisely in the stock market. When those earnings turned into big profits, the Fergusons wanted to share their wealth with the community. The Fergusons wanted the Family Life Center to serve church members, and also community members who would not otherwise have an opportunity to visit the church.

They wanted it to have a NCAA regulation-sized basketball court that could be transformed to hold other sporting activities such as volleyball, badminton and pickleball; a walking track that circled the court; a residential-style kitchen; a fitness center; a conference room; a classroom; storage space; bathrooms for men, women and families; and men’s and women’s locker rooms equipped with showers. The locker rooms would also provide much needed space for homeless women who sought shelter and job training at the church twice a year as part of the church’s ministry. The facility would also be fitted with audio and visual systems to accommodate speakers, worship services, and musical concerts.

But Mr. Ferguson also wanted the building to be sustainable and highly energy-efficient, and he was willing to cover extra costs to ensure the building’s utilities didn’t become a financial burden to the church.

Hominy Baptist Church was a traditional-looking red brick church with white columns and a steeple. The sanctuary sat prominently on the property along side three other buildings for Christian education and fellowship. The grounds also held softball fields that were used often by the church and community. There was really only one place for the new Family Life Center to go on the property, into a steep bank that would allow access from both the upper and lower level of the new building. Because of storm drainage issues requiring retaining walls and other work, the site work alone would cost about $550,000.

As the designs were developed, it was determined that it would be far more practical to scale back on the NCAA-sized basketball court and put in a high school regulation-sized court. The difference was only about 10 feet, but allowed for plenty of room around the court for the walking track. The locker rooms and kitchen were located on the lower level with the gym. The conference room, meeting room, fitness center and bathrooms were placed upstairs. An elevator was also added for increased ADA accessibility. And a single unisex bathroom with an exterior door was added to provide access during softball games without the necessity of opening the entire facility.

The exterior of the building made use of matching brick to complement the traditional sanctuary building. But the roof was remarkable. The solar energy system, known as a photovoltaic system, or PVs, employs solar panels composed of a number of solar cells to supply usable solar power. A total of 552 PV panels would cover the roof of the Family Life Center.

The panels collect solar power, which is then sold to the local energy company, which in turn gives credit on the church’s power bill. The credit can be so large at times it could cover about 80 percent of the church’s bill. Another benefit is that the PV panels should not need to be maintained for about 25 years.

The PV system wasn’t cheap, ringing in at about $700,000. But the use of the panels was so important to the Fergusons that they agreed to nearly double their donation to $4.5 million to include the panels and other amenities they felt were important to the center.

While the church didn’t plan to seek LEED Certification for adding the PV panels and other environmentally friendly elements to the building, Smith says he believes the building would easily receive at least the Silver level certification. LEED status is given by the U.S. Green Building Council, which provides the certification as an incentive to companies to build “greener” buildings.

In another trusting move, church leadership asked Smith to hire a contractor rather than the church going through a bidding process, or hiring a design-build team from the onset. Smith had worked with contractors and knew he could trust Cresent Construction to serve as the general contractor for the project. The two began working hand-in-hand even before the designs were completed, which helped move the process along.

By October 2013, the church was ready to begin construction, and just more than a year later, on November 16, 2014, the church dedicated the Ferguson Family Life Center in honor of Jack and Carolyn Ferguson.

Talley & Smith Architecture, based in Shelby, North Carolina, offers a complete range of architectural services, emphasizing careful planning and attention to all its clients’ needs, www.talleysmitharch.com.

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