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St. John's Episcopal
Tuesday, March 23 2021

Renovation Committee March Update

The Sanctuary is Asbestos-Free
Michael Clifthorne, in his piece "Build for the Lord a New Roof!", writes: “I am ready to be done with The Leaky Roof.” He might have added, '…and The Toxic Walls.' Our Sanctuary has long been plagued by both maladies, the already asbestos- laden walls made even more toxic by water damage and resulting mold growth caused by – you guessed it – The Leaky Roof!

Well, at long last, we can shout, “We’re done with The Toxic Walls!” Advance Environmental finished asbestos abatement earlier this month, on time and under budget. Aside from one broken thermostat (since replaced with a brand-spanking new one), the work went off without a hitch. Below are two panoramic views showing “The Clean Walls,” – rougher and lighter in color due to abatement – but finally asbestos-free and non-toxic.

You’ve seen short videos and photos of this work as it progressed – construction of the containment, the huge plastic “curtain wall” that sealed off the chancel, workers perched in swaying lift baskets 40+ feet up – and now these two pictures. What you didn’t see (because I couldn’t shoot inside the enclosure) were pictures of the extraordinary measures required to protect the workers – and ultimately all of us – from the asbestos itself. Five negative pressure air handlers fitted with HEPA filters ran continuously, exchanging half a million cubic feet of air every hour. Workers in protective suits and full-face air-purifying respirators entered and left the enclosure through an airlock that contained a decontamination shower. All disposable protective gear and removed material was bagged, sealed and stored in a locked shipping container until removed from the site. It was a Herculean task, a kind of bunny-suited-aerial-act high above the Sanctuary floor – and it’s finished!

When we get back in the Sanctuary, take note of the newly exposed window frames and gaps around some of the stained-glass windows on the east and west walls. All those window recesses had asbestos-containing texture at the edges, so workers gingerly removed over 200 windows to scrape away that material, then re-installed the windows. As an extra precaution, they taped over the windows, applied a “fiber lock” spray to the walls to capture any stray asbestos fibers they might have missed, then carefully removed the tape.

You’ll notice too we elected not to expose the bare concrete along the column edges yet, for fear doing so might compromise the stability of windows nearest the columns. Rather than risk damage to the stained-glass, we will have general contractor FORMA perform this work later, as part of the seismic upgrades.

Deleting that work reduced the asbestos removal cost to $112,682. It’s a lot of money, but a good price in today’s dollars to detox our Sanctuary. Four members of our San Juan community – brothers Armando, Juan, and Gabriel Camargo, and Carlos Guzman – worked on this project and were featured in The Messenger on March 14th. Watch for more on them and the entire Guzman family in an upcoming Facebook video post for the capital campaign.

Moving Back for In-Person Worship
Volunteers have reinstalled the speakers, audio-visual equipment, and pews in preparations for resuming in-person worship starting Palm Sunday, March 28th. Thanks to Father R.C., Jim French, sexton Dan Kapsner, Caitlin Bird, the “Pew Crew” (Tom Loranger, Andrew Bird, Ric Weatherman, Tim Tayne, Ray Willard, me) – plus some folks I’m sure I’ve left out – for their hard work to ready the Sanctuary for both in-person and live-streamed worship. Thank you, volunteers!

Preparing for Part I Construction
FORMA staff – project manager Lonny Mason, construction superintendent Mike Hartwig, a safety advisor, cost estimator, and scaffolding sub-contractor – have been on site recently to get a clearer picture of how to translate 2D construction drawings into 3D building reality. Here’s what we know so far.

The first thing they’ll build is an enormous 40-foot high indoor scaffold filling the southern (red doors) end of the Sanctuary. They’ll lay one large plywood deck at the top level so workers can reach the timber purlins and car decking with chain- saws. Roof waste will be brought down in two trash chutes. (We’re checking the possibility of recycling any reusable lumber.) Additional decking along the scaffold perimeter will give workers access to the full height of the columns for exposing the bare concrete and bolting seismic clips spaced two feet apart.

Once the southern half is done, FORMA will take down and rebuild the scaffold on the northern end, in a somewhat different configuration to best access the chancel area. Filling the space between the two organ towers and topped by aluminum I-beams spanning from wall-to-wall above the towers, it will resemble a massive capital T. Heavy plywood decking will provide both a platform for the workers and protection for the organ pipes.

Based on FORMA’s plans, it’s clear we have a lot of work to do after the last of the spring music concerts. We will remove everything from the nave and chancel that isn’t nailed down: pews, chancel furniture, altar table, etc. What can’t be moved will need to be protected-in-place from damage and dust. One big job will be removing the old organ from the east chancel so that FORMA can replace that roof area. A volunteer work party will be needed to dismantle the wooden screens and organ pipes. We’d hoped another church in town that earlier expressed interest might still want the organ (and do most of the work!), but they’ve indicated they’re no longer interested. We’ve yet to determine the final disposition of the organ, but packing and storing it indefinitely seem out of the question.

We expect FORMA to start seismic work in June, first installing the X-braces, new concrete columns and in-fill walls, then replacing the roof in July or August to ensure the driest possible weather for opening up the building. Re-roofing will be done one bay at a time – a bay being the space between any two concrete ceiling beams – to simplify weather protection measures. We expect re-roofing to take about four weeks, with completion by September, before the fall rains arrive.

One related impact will be the loss of some parking stalls, likely just on the north side of the building, due to construction activity. More meetings with FORMA are planned soon, so we’ll pass on more details and impacts as we learn them.

Solar Power Array
We’ve formed a Solar Work Group to study and advise on converting our facilities to sustainable solar power. This effort is motivated by spiritual and financial concerns – the desire to care for creation and seek climate justice, and the need to reduce facility operating costs.

Members of this work group are George and Karen Bray, Dennis Cooper, Bill Van Hook, Anne Hall, and Tom Loranger. They’re vetting the options, including Collective Sun, a nationwide nonprofit that helps churches and other tax exempts purchase and install solar systems at discounted prices and on favorable terms using a range of different funding models. This work group will hold its first meeting on March 31, and report its findings and recommendations to the Renovation Committee and the Vestry sometime in the future.

Please let me know if you have any questions about the renovation.
And please prayerfully consider how you can support the capital campaign, which officially kicks off Easter Sunday.
Sing to the Lord a New Song! Build for the Lord a New Roof!

Lou MacMillan, Chair
Sanctuary Renovation Committee

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