Sacred synergy achieves goals for religious education [2013 Building Team Award winner]

A renovation/addition project at Columbia Theological Seminary unites a historic residence hall with a modern classroom facility.

The tower at the Vernon S. Broyles Leadership Center unifies a new addition (lef
The tower at the Vernon S. Broyles Leadership Center unifies a new addition (left) with the rehabilitated Simons-Law building (right). The glass tower, which was built to support a future carillon, features brick piers that reinforce the project’s neoGothic style.
June 12, 2013

Columbia Theological Seminary, just east of Atlanta, offers graduate degree programs and continuing education for professionals and lay people in the Presbyterian Church (USA). Devoted to the spiritual growth of students, the seminary’s Vernon S. Broyles Jr. Leadership Center features a modern new classroom facility plus a renovation of the adjacent Simons-Law building, a historic dormitory built in 1932. The project represents a successful collaboration between the owner and other Building Team members—fitting for an educational institution that ranks teamwork and cooperative decisionmaking among its core values.
 
The original master plan called for the demolition and replacement of Simons-Law. But team members Lord, Aeck & Sargent and New South Construction saw the building as important to the campus, and presented stakeholders (including donors) with a detailed cost analysis that compared new construction with an addition/renovation. They convinced the client to retain the historic structure. Smaller spaces such as offices and seminar rooms would be reprogrammed into Simons-Law, and a 16,000-sf L-shaped addition would house large lecture halls, high-tech seminar rooms, the campus bookstore, a media center, informal study spaces, and a gallery concourse devoted to religious artifacts.
 
To rehabilitate Simons-Law, the team replaced lighting, HVAC, plumbing, exterior windows, and interior walls and doors. Roof shingles were replaced with synthetic slate, and the structure’s brick and cast stone walls were cleaned and repaired.
 
The architect also took care to ensure the seamless combination of the Gothic building with its new neighbor. An arcade links Simons-Law’s iconic arched passageway with the new building, creating a cloistered courtyard that also functions as an outdoor classroom.
 
Daylighting was a concern for the large classroom spaces in the addition, which were outfitted with high-tech A/V systems. The goal was to minimize use of artificial lighting while also avoiding the need for motorized shades. After careful study, the architect, A/V consultant, and CM created a classroom environment that makes excellent use of natural daylight while also ensuring that students will be able to see projections.
 
Other sustainable strategies included construction of a cistern, allowing rainwater to be collected for irrigation; a new energy-efficient variable refrigerant flow mechanical system; and the harvesting of wood on-site for flooring. The efforts paid off in a successful bid for LEED Gold certification.
 
The focal point of the project, melding old and new construction, is a neo-Gothic glass-and-brick tower that welcomes visitors to the center. With flooring made from a tree that once stood where the tower was built, this element was designed to unite all aspects of the project. The Building Team provided appropriate structural support for a planned belfry carillon, which will ring chimes for future generations of leaders as they make their way across the scenic campus.
 
Project summary
BRONZE AWARD
 
Columbia Theological Seminary
Vernon S. Broyles Jr. Leadership Center
Decatur, Ga.
 
BUILDING TEAM
Submitting firm: Lord, Aeck & Sargent (architect)
Owner/developer: Columbia Theological Seminary
Structural: Uzun & Case Engineers
MEP: AHA Consulting Engineers
Program manager: Morgan Constructors
A/V consultant: Waveguide Consulting
Construction manager: New South Construction
 
GENERAL INFORMATION
Project size: 36,500 sf (16,000 sf new + 20,500 sf renovated)
Construction cost: $8.2 million
Construction time: February 2011 to January 2012
Delivery method: CM at risk
         
 

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