Floating Chapel: A Unique Design Opportunity for an Architect
Recently, we went live with our Architecture and Design services page here at Energy Vanguard. And, it got me thinking about what an interesting time this is for architects. We have a golden opportunity to make a serious impact on the future of how our buildings perform with energy efficient design.
It also made me to think about all the buildings I have worked on in my career. I've had a lot of fun creating a lot spaces and a lot of structures for a lot of people. I love what I do!
When I was going through the list, and deciding which ones stand out, and why, 2 unique projects came to mind. The first, a 4,000 square foot sales gallery made up of 5 modular buildings. So far, this is the only project that I was given complete design freedom, with NO budget. Not a single design element or material was eliminated (value engineered) to cut cost. I'll write about this in future post.
The other project was a one-of-a-kind (unique to the Western hemisphere) floating wedding chapel for a client in the Tampa Bay area. It's called Weddings on Water, and it set sail in 2004.
It involved working with a marine architect, and it's one part pontoon boat and one part wedding chapel.
Here's how it functions: The bridal party boards the 'vessel' in St. Petersburg harbor, where it ships out and then sets anchor at some predetermined location in Tampa Bay. All the while the bride and her maids are getting themselves ready. As the magic hour approaches, the grooms party and all the guests arrive via shuttle boat. Afterwards, everyone is shuttled to a beach side resort for the reception. The vessel's captain is also an ordained minister, and the rental includes a coordinator. It's a one-stop shop! Pretty cool, eh?
The last time we spoke, the owners told me that every weekend (and many weekdays) had been booked solid since the day it first set sail.
Pontoon Boat: This was the foundation. It was designed and built much like a framed floor in a home; floor joists supported on girder beams supported on perimeter beams (foundation walls).
Wedding Chapel: Other than the life vest storage compartment in the bridal room, the chapel portion was designed and built the same as if it were on land. Typical wood construction (no steel).
Building code: The Florida Building Code had NO jurisdiction for how this was built. We were required to meet the U.S. Coast Guard's requirements for a 'small vessel'.
One of the many interesting challenges was keeping the chapel structure from moving independently from the pontoon. And, because it works so well with houses on land during a hurricane, I suggested thru-bolt technology. This essentially connects the pontoon structure directly to the top plate of the exterior walls, making it a uniform structure. So, when the waves rock the boat, the chapel goes with it, and vice versa when the chapel is swayed by the wind.
So far, so good! It has certainly seen its share of hurricanes since 2004, and it's as sturdy as ever.
Another interesting challenge that most land architects don't deal with was finding the weight of every single component of the building! The pulpit, the stained glass windows...everything! It took the better part of a week on the phone with the manufacturer to get the weight per linear foot of the mahogany pews.
Windows: In order to meet the impact requirements that we imposed on the project (not required by Coast Guard, at the time), we designed windows with stained-glass as the inner pane, and 3/8" tempered as the outer.
Ceiling: Exposed tongue and groove (t&g) decking on top of exposed rafters. To get our insulation, we specified insulated metal roof panels over a peel and stick waterproof membrane on top of the t&g. The panels were factory cut based on our architectural drawings.
There are a million things I'll do differently the next time a client asks me to design a floating building, but the first time always seems the most memorable.
As for what I will do differently, it is mostly related to energy efficiency (duh!). As cute as it is, in terms of energy conservation this project "missed the boat."
In a future post, I will re-design the chapel as if I were trying to earn the ENERGY STAR label, and include all the energy modeling results.
Have a great Friday all!