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  A DIVINE EXPANSION AND RENOVATION TURNS TO BENCHMARK ARCHITECTURAL SYSTEMS FOR A CONTEMPORARY REVELATION

The new Westminster Hall of The First Presbyterian Church chose the Designwall 2000™ for its contemporary tone and thermal efficiency.The First Presbyterian Church in Morehead City, North Carolina had a wake-up call recently. Their congregation had outgrown the original sanctuary building and they needed to expand their preschool and Sunday School programs, church offices and approximately half of the area needed to support those church programs. And so, a decision was made during a Master Planning Phase led by the original architectural team of Stephens & Francis, p.a. to build a new fellowship hall, able to accommodate 250 diners with necessary support space, renovate remaining structures, and expand existing offices, educational facilities and the music department.

Charles R. Francis, lead architect, was looking for not only a thermally efficient metal panel but also one that would add a contemporary tone to the project. He found that in Benchmark Architectural Systems, Inc. of Columbus, Ohio. Benchmark Architectural Systems Inc. manufactures premium foamed-in-place and laminated flat architectural wall panels. For the Westminster Hall project, Francis chose the Designwall 2000™ Series, featuring a double-gasket shiplap joint. Specific to the Westminster Hall project, this double-gasket shiplap joint in a horizontal application will maximize thermal efficiency and create a double barrier against air and water penetration. The laminated construction of the Designwall 2000 Series allows for maximum design flexibility of custom fabrication. At Westminster Hall, Francis chose expanded polystyrene as the optional core material, in a 2-inch thickness with a ˝-inch reveal and in modules of 24 inches and 36 inches. The exterior surface is 0.040-inch aluminum, painted in the co or Parchment as supplied by Design Coat I from Benchmark Architectural Systems Inc. The panel system, supplemented by fiberglass insulation in the stud space delivers an RValue of over 13.0.

The Designwall 2000™ series of Benchmark architectural wall panels allows for a rapid schedule of construction.“The insulated metal panels allowed for a more rapid schedule by cutting the amount of masonry to be laid with its problems of scaffolding scheduling, etc.,” Charles Francis, architect, describing the construction process. “From a design point of view, it gave us a very crisp clean design that contrasts nicely with the little bit of brick work involved.” He continues, “As far as our reason for selecting the Benchmark panel, we had experience with the panel approximately 18 to 24 months prior to this project with roughly 16,000 to 17,000 square feet of the product on another project and were impressed with the Benchmark product.”

The First Presbyterian Church’s new fellowship hall accommodates 250 diners with the necessary support space.With the Westminster Hall completed in November of 2002, the owners and congregation are pleased with the building. The gabled bays along the street elevation echo the design of the first and second sanctuaries, as does the red brick veneer. The insulated metal panels add a touch of contemporary flavor. Roof trusses exposed on the interior add drama and height to the space. Office and storage rooms augment the church’s existing facilities. Four colors of vinyl tile create a basketball court layout on the floor that is indistinguishable when the hall is furnished for dining. A stage at one end of the facility allows for musical productions, lectures and other presentations. Involved in community recreational activities, the space is appropriate for basketball and volleyball, and is supported by showers and a laundry facility. The former fellowship hall will be converted into offices and the adjacent education wing will be updated to suit current and future education and music program needs. Since the completion of Westminster Hall the architectural firm of Stephens & Francis, p.a. has been dissolved and C.R. Francis / Architecture, p.a. is the successor firm handling all subsequent phases of the project.


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