Sometimes small projects turn into big projects in the building business. In the case of Camp Warren, a dining hall replacement led to a much larger event facility project — something easily accomplished with the flexibility of a post-frame structure.
Jim Montgomery and Kevin Miller of Custom Structures have seen it all from their Ashland, Illinois location. A veteran builder of 42 years, Jim has been in the business long enough to know that there are many changes with a building project from start to finish.
Camp Warren is a perfect example of how fluid these projects can be.
From the Ashes Rises a Bigger and Better Facility
Camp Warren is a mid-sized camp and retreat facility, operated by Illinois Ministries of the Church of God. The multi-building unit, located in beautiful Decatur, Illinois, hosts retreats, family gatherings and recreational camps.
After experiencing a fire in their dining hall in January 2008, they needed help. They reached out to Jim and Customer Structures, with the intent of doing more than just replace the hall. “We found out they also wanted a rec facility, gymnasium, a state-of-the-art kitchen and a dining hall,” Jim said.
Camp Warren was to be a turnkey project, and it was on a deadline. The gym, used for assemblies, was also the site for the summer annual church meeting, held the last Saturday in July. Custom Structures would have to work fast.
They also would have to work in a way that allowed the owners to remain focused on their ministry. “We didn’t want the building to take away from what we were trying to do,” said Eric Livingston of the Illinois Church of God. “It was nice to rely on Jim.”
Challenges Early On
Jim and his team of contractors had tackled event facilities before, so they had a good sense of what would be required of them. One of the initial challenges, however, was bidding the project properly, as Camp Warren did not hire an architect to develop a list of specs.
Relying on past experience, and knowing how projects tend to require more time and resources than you think, Jim assembled a complete list of materials needed for the project.
There were also challenges outside Custom Structures’ realm of expertise. The septic system was shot, and there were specific life safety requirements for the building. Jim worked with outside experts, including an architect, to ensure they were in compliance with all requirements.
Sensitive to the Budget, Recommending Improvements
The Board of Directors had to approve the plan, which added a number of different perspectives to the project. Jim worked with them on their proposed ideas, showing the costs and finding compromises where needed.
“If we came to him with an idea or a change – instead of just doing it, he would listen to us and make another suggestion that might be better,” Livingston said. “He was sensitive to our budget and seemed to care about it just as much as we did.”
Eventually, with the insurance payment and board approval, Custom Structures was ready to build.
Camp Warren’s Unique Features
Camp Warren wanted the facility to be used year-round. Open to other denominations, their mission is to bring other adults and teenagers in on weekends. The facility had to be both beautiful and functional, with the ability to accommodate large groups.
Jim described a number of the project’s unique features:
Pleasing exterior. In the wooded, rural setting, the goal was to create an exterior that enhanced the natural scenery, instead of intruding upon it. The angles of the roofline created the unique look for Camp Warren. “The challenges was ensuring all the angles were right,” Jim said.
Sound absorption. Music is a big part of Camp Warren’s allure. With a service for younger people that includes some louder music, the facility needed to be able to absorb the decibels. Custom Structures installed 8’ plywood on the walls, with carpet to decrease the sound.
They also installed a 6’ band of perforated acoustical steel around the top of the room. “The holes let the sound get through,” Jim explained. “It’s unique in the column frame industry.”
Air conditioning unit. The Camp Warren denomination holds its big annual meeting in July, so the facility had to be able to accommodate the heat and humidity of summertime in the Midwest. The air conditioning unit had to be sized properly to handle a packed auditorium.
Dining hall and kitchen facilities. A big part of any event facility is the kitchen and dining area. Jim and his team had to consult with a number of restaurant suppliers on the types of appliances and other details a facility of that size would require.
“You can’t know everything in the industry,” he said. “You have to rely on good subcontractors.”
The Post-Frame Advantage Plays Out
In the end, the post-frame structure was the right choice for the Camp Warren project, for a number of different reasons.
Visual appeal. Aesthetically, the post-frame wood frames were more appealing than the steel frame. “I’ve done a little steel in the past,” Jim explained. “The wood frame just looks better.” It is also an ideal fit for the natural setting.
More economical. Despite the insurance payout, Camp Warren’s wish list was extensive. The post-frame allowed Jim and his team to turn many of those wishes into reality.
Superior insulation. The improved insulation aspects of post-frame structures, which allow for lining ceilings and walls with insulation, helps Camp Warren battle the highs and lows of Illinois summers and winters, respectively.
The Camp Warren facility is open for business, and judging by the facility’s use and the happy response from the owners, construction has been a true success. “We’re very pleased with the facility,” Livingston said.
Funny how plans change in a building project. It’s why choosing the right framework, right from the start is the most important decision you can make.
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