Church Expansion Challenges

By Curt Grandia | September 28, 2010

Larson & Larson Construction, LLC of Des Moines, Iowa, is the general contractor on a multimillion-dollar, 70,000-square-foot expansion project at Lutheran Church of Hope in West Des Moines. The project's main feature is the addition of a 50,000-square-foot, auditorium-style, 2,500-seat worship space.

Besides the new worship space, other features of the addition include expanding the existing worship area into a fellowship space and new kitchen, increasing prayer space within the worship area, and adding a 12,000-square-foot basement that includes classroom, storage and mechanical space.

"The project will triple the size of the existing worship area," said Larson & Larson Project Manager Brent Cooper. "The design includes a coffee-house worship incorporating a full-service kitchen where breakfast is prepared for two Sunday morning services in the new fellowship expansion."

Larson & Larson began the project in July and is working toward a late fall completion. Their challenges have included weather, steel acquisition, and meeting the requirement of a complex design.

"There was some demolition required at the beginning of the project and that is always somewhat of a challenge when you are adding on to an existing structure," Cooper said. "The weather was also a big challenge, especially on the basement construction. Because of the soil conditions, we installed a Geopier Foundation System and getting the geopiers in with all the rain we had last fall was difficult. The weather forced us to rearrange our schedule and our approach.

"Right now our biggest challenge is steel delivery. Just trying to get the raw materials for the columns and beams took us from July to November, let alone having the steel fabricated."

Another challenge has been the detailing of the building from a design standpoint, Cooper noted. "We have walls with radiuses that are more than 200 feet, so the layout and overall detail of the plan are complicated."

The general contractor has overcome those challenges with a good team, led by Larson & Larson superintendent, Dan Kochel.

"Working as a team and developing a team that performs has been the key to our success to this point," said Cooper. "We've got Cameron-Mitchell doing the concrete, as well as Boucher Masonry Contracting, U.S. Steel Erectors, and Commonwealth Electric working on the project. They have been working with us to make sure we stay on schedule."

Cameron Mitchell, our concrete contractor, led by Project Supervisor Mike Ogle, has done a good job and has worked very hard to stay on schedule."

Despite the challenges, the project was on schedule inmid-January.

"We're 99-percent done with our foundation and about 80-percent done with our backfill," Cooper noted. "We're currently backfilling the basement and we just finished pouring the basement floor slabs. By the end of January, we plan to pour the topping slab over the decking of the basement."

Crews set the first third of the pre-cast stadium seating in the worship area in early January and Larson & Larson planned to have the remaining 2/3 set in February.

"After we set the stadium seating, our next big milestone will be when the steel arrives for the main structure in March. From there we'll spend the next two months enclosing the structure and getting ourselves ready to pour floor slabs. We plan to start the finishes in May and work toward completion of the project around Thanksgiving."


Lutheran Church of Hope Expansion

  • Owner: Lutheran Church of Hope, Ashworth Road and Jordan Creek Parkway, West Des Moines
  • Architect: RDG Planning & Design
  • General Contractor: Larson & Larson Construction, LLC
  • Major Subcontractors: Cameron-Mitchell, concrete; Johnson Machine Works, steel fabrication; Commonwealth Electric; Boucher Masonry Contracting, Inc.; Geopier, Foundation Service Corp.; DeCarlo Demolition; U.S. Erectors, steel and precast erection; Moline Concrete Products, pre-cast fabricator; Olympic Wall Systems, framing; Fulton, mechanical; Waldinger Corp., mechanicals.