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Union United Church of Christ – Neff’s


This $770,500 project includes a two-story and basement addition totaling 5,523 square feet. The addition includes a new elevator and stair tower along with a new accessible toilet, additional meeting spaces and offices.

Miller, Miller & McLachlan was involved early in the project design to develop construction cost estimates and provide value engineering. The project was constructed on an “Open Book” Construction Management Basis with 100% of the cost savings returned to the Church. At the end of the project, we returned nearly $13,000 in cost savings to the Church.

Challenges began during the design and value engineering phase when we looked at several different construction techniques and materials to construct the shell of the building. We had to consider that the exterior of the building needed to match the brick exterior of the existing Sanctuary, which was constructed in 1872. Careful attention was paid to the church’s intricate brick details and the gable ends that had been crafted by 19th century masons. The new addition was constructed as a separate building, isolating it from the existing buildings with two-hour firewalls. We also had to be attentive of the Church’s limited budget. After reviewing several options, we settled on a non-combustible structure with an isolated wood truss roof structure.

The limited power supply coming to the building had to be considered. A new 800 amp service and sub -panels were installed to carry the additional load of the new elevator, air conditioning system and the proposed air conditioning system for the Sanctuary. The exiting emergency light system was reviewed and a new backup generator was installed.

The Township required that no additional impervious surface be created since the exiting facilities already exceed the limits for the property. To accomplish this the building was designed with only an 1,841 square foot print. By removing an existing paved driveway between the Church and the cemetery and adding limited walks, we were able to meet their requirements.

Beginning with the foundation excavation, it was discovered that the foundation under the existing pulpit was shallow, which then was excavated in sections and underpinned.

Interior details of the addition also follow the patterns of the parish house built in 1957. The new hallways flow directly into the existing hallways. This required removing a 14” thick x 6’-6” wide by 7’-8” section of the existing concrete foundation wall. The 4.3 ton piece was cut out and removed by a crane in one piece. The doors that separate the new hallways from the existing building hallways are two-hour fire rated doors. Many options were reviewed to get the most glass allowed for a two-hour door. We also installed hold open devices on these doors that are tied to the fire alarm system. This way the hallways along the back of the building can remain one flowing hallway and yet offer the protection of a two-hour firewall.

We modified two existing points of egress. One was modified to meet ADA requirements and the other to meet egress requirements. The door to the existing balcony was changed to meet the two-hour firewall rating and still match the 19th century door to the other balcony.

Since there were no as-built drawings of the existing structure and the older structures were not square or plumb, the dimensions of the structural steel, joist and trusses had to be re-adjusted during construction and changed to fit in the space provided.

The safe, daily use of the original buildings was another challenge. Initially two points of egress had to be eliminated during the excavation of the foundation. The area of the old stair tower was being changed to enlarge the Nursery Area and add a Sexton’s workspace. Removal of the old stair tower had to be delayed until the new stair tower was constructed and weather-tight because it was one of only two points of egress to the second floor offices, meeting rooms and balcony.

Many changes from lighting designs to the placement and size of the windows were all made during the construction process to assure that the end product met the needs and expectations of the church members.

The project includes a new three-stop elevator, Sacristy, accessible toilet, offices, Choir Room and Youth Room.

Phil Wehr of the Building Committee wrote: “I have watched with delight as the project developed and grew. Representing the building committee, the pastors, the staff and the congregation, I am very pleased with the final product. All of the people working in all the different trades have truly done a terrific job in creating this new space for our church which will be used for many years and decades to come. Our dream has finally come true. Thanks to all of you.”

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