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Solomon Awards 2019 – Severns Valley Baptist Church (Building Contractor)

Severns Valley Baptist Church has been serving their community in Elizabethtown, Kentucky since 1781. As you can imagine in a church with that much history, it is important to remember the past, while still looking to the future, for a design that inspires and draws the community. In 2007, the church relocated to a new campus, but the previous project did not include a worship center, because of budget cuts required to just get onto the new site. Once the debt from that project was paid off, the church decided to pursue their missing link, which was a high-tech, energy-efficient, concert-quality 1,400-seat worship center, and Visioneering Studios was brought in as the design-builder with Visioneering Studios Architecture providing design, and Visioneering Studios Construction providing construction.

“We believed we’d get a better facility, better renovation and outdoor community space — and save money in the process — through design/build,” Executive Pastor Jeff Wilson said of his decision to hire Visioneering. The project began with a new master plan for the full 70-acre property, in an attempt to tie in the previous work with the proposed new additions, and other future phase projects including a Chapel, Student Ministry building, Music School, Education Facility, and Retail/Office buildings.

The new worship center includes sections of stadium seating risers, allowing every person to have a great view of the platform and still feel part of the same experience. There are also upstairs and downstairs lobbies, letting worshippers enter the auditorium from the first or second floor. Renovations in the existing Student’s and Children’s areas provided a more open and welcoming experience, by removing some walls at entry areas and installing updated interior finishes.

Site Development included an 80-foot cross and replacement of the previous detention pond with an underground storm drainage system that transformed the area into the Grand Lawn that is now used for outdoor gathering events, that welcome all people into the community experience. Key to the church’s project vision is the ability to connect with the community to become a regional church.

Visioneering was candid about the ways in which the existing campus did not support that objective. “They were just very upfront,” Wilson recalled. “They said, ‘Your buildings are brick-and-mortar, very traditional. People told us it looks like a college campus, a federal building, a library. And you can’t see the main entrance from the two major roads that go by the property. You need to have a face that faces the community, instead of the rear of your building facing the community.’”

Visioneering helped Severns Valley think beyond the worship center, resulting in added-scope items, including 45 more parking spaces, replacement of all sodium outdoor lighting in parking and entry roads with energy-efficient LED lights, plus new strategically-placed aesthetic lighting, which has had a big impact on the guest experience.

Powered by energy-efficient LED, RGBW lights, both the 80-foot cross and the two hallways that face the community can be lit in different colors, which is especially impactful at night.

For Good Friday, the hallways and cross were lit red. For Easter Sunday, as people arrived for services while it was still dark outside, all three were lit purple. “The community has just raved about it,” Wilson said. “We’ve become a landmark.”

Visual impact is one thing, but when those changes can also come with a cost savings, then the impact is compounded. Overall, the project came in more than $500,000 under budget, including the added-scope items. Those savings funded a new sound system and an LED wall, among other upgrades.

As part of the design-build process Visioneering worked closely with subcontractors on energy efficient building systems, resulting in a 75 percent reduction in heating and cooling costs. “We’re already seeing a savings to cover the cost of our LED lighting and exterior LED lighting around the building,” Wilson explained. Further efforts were made by Visioneering to keep the project within budget, including working with a steel company to prepurchase materials and lock in the price, which saved about $75,000.

In keeping with the church’s goal to be a community church, perhaps no element of the project speaks as loudly as the Grand Lawn, three acres of pristinely maintained outdoor event space. The church hosts a monthly “Lunch on the Lawn” that includes games, the church’s roastery selling coffee, and numerous food trucks. “They’ve nearly sold out of food, because of the number of people that were coming,” Wilson said. “It’s been really cool.” Additionally, well-lit walking trails have been added to the property. “At all times of the day and night, we have people walking around the perimeter of our property,” Wilson said. “We love our facility, and we love what we have, but we didn’t build a building just for ourselves,” Wilson pointed out.

Given Visioneering’s deep integration of the church’s leadership team into the process, the church wasn’t surprised to come in under budget, despite an expanded scope, but the savings have come as a surprise to other church leaders. “We’re contacted often by church leaders about our project, and they’re somewhat skeptical when we mention it,” Wilson said. The church has hosted a number of events since moving in, including the Kentucky Baptist Convention Evangelism Meeting. “We were giving tours on a regular basis, and they always asked, ‘What was the budget? What did it actually cost?’” Wilson recalled. “When we tell them we were under budget, and that we added scope, they can’t believe it.”

For churches like Severns Valley, a great design is only as great as it is cost-effective, because good stewardship is always a fundamental requirement. The integration inherent in Visioneering’s in-house design-build process generated a great design at an affordable price, resulting in a unique project that the church is now utilizing as a tool for ministry to better impact their community.

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