Springing up year-round
April 20 2001 by Mark Wingfield , Associated Baptist Press

Springing up year-round | Friday, April 20, 2001

Friday, April 20, 2001

Springing up year-round

By Mark Wingfield Associated Baptist Press DALLAS, Texas - Sprung is springing up all over. A unique new structure called a Sprung building is gaining popularity among innovative and growing churches as an alternative for creating temporary space quickly.

Sprung comes from the name of the family-owned company that manufactures these high-tech tents, but they do virtually spring to life in a matter of days in all sorts of locations.

The structures are made of an incredibly strong synthetic membrane stretched tightly over a skeleton of aluminum beams. Insulation is placed between an outer membrane and an inner membrane, creating an insulation factor of R-28.

Typically, Sprung buildings are white, but they do come in other colors and patterns as well. The appearance of the completed building has been compared to a hard-shell circus tent, a giant marshmallow and a big bubble.

Although the company that manufactures these space-age structures has been around for more than 100 years, its structure division is less than 30 years old. Churches have begun using the pre-fab buildings only in the last decade.

Lawton Searcy was pastor of the third church in the United States to use a Sprung structure. In 1994, as pastor of a new congregation, he turned to Sprung to solve a crisis.

The young church had purchased property in Baton Rouge, La. but did not intend to build for up to 18 months. The landlord of the facility they were leasing at the time, however, gave them a 30-day notice to get out.

"We needed a worship space for 300 people immediately," Search recalled. "I thought about a tent, and the only person I knew who had a tent was Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church in California."

Searcy called Warren, who told him about Sprung buildings as a better alternative to a tent. Saddleback was using a Sprung building to accommodate its rapid growth.

Other than Saddleback and a Catholic church in California, no other U.S. church was using the unique manufactured buildings, Searcy said. However, he learned the structures had been used in an Olympic village, in Operation Desert Storm and in the arctic.

"Finally, we decided if it's good enough for the Olympic village, we're going to take a shot at it," he said. "We ordered the building, and six weeks later we held our first service in it."

Just as important, he said, his young church put up the Sprung building for 30-40 percent of the cost of a traditional building.

Churches using Sprung buildings fall into two general categories, Searcy said. The first group is new churches that need an immediate facility but have limited funds or can't get a traditional building erected fast enough to meet their needs. The second group is large churches that are growing so rapidly they don't have time to build an adequate traditional building without impeding growth.

"It's fast. It's flexible. You can resell the building or relocate it. It doesn't interfere with your master plan," Searcy said. "It can keep churches growing until they can build what they want to build."

That's exactly what happened at Southcliff Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas, where the congregation has worshipped in a 70-by-120-foot Sprung building for more than 18 months.

Southcliff moved into a new permanent worship center Easter Sunday - one that was built on the same spot as the old worship center. In the meantime, the 700-seat Sprung worship center erected on a church parking lot has helped the church not miss a beat during construction.

"We've had a great experience with it," said Joshua Whitehead, minister of evangelism and outreach and overseer of church facilities.

Southcliff bought the temporary building for $187,500 - about $22 per square foot. The church spent quite a bit more, however, to put carpet on the floor, build a stage, install heating and air conditioning and install theatrical lighting and sound equipment.

Now that the new worship center is nearly complete, Southcliff is seeking to sell the Sprung building. Whitehead said he does not yet know what the resale value will be or how easy or hard it will be to sell the structure.

Cost and flexibility are major selling points of the Sprung buildings, Searcy said, noting the inside of the domes can be finished any way a church desires. Some churches put up drywall framing inside to create traditional rooms. Others use the structure as is, only moving in chairs and other furniture.

Because the structures have no corners, the acoustics are exceptional, he said. And the covering is fire-resistant and wind-resistant. The Sprung building he erected in Baton Rouge survived a tornado, he said.

Total cost of erecting a Sprung structure depends on how the building is finished out and equipped, Searcy said. But for an average church application, the total cost per square foot averages between $25 and $55, he said.

That compares to between $40 and $60 per square foot for construction of a metal building or $70 to $130 per square foot for construction of a permanent traditional worship center, according to Keith Crouch, director of the Baptist General Convention of Texas church-facilities office.

As with any church construction project, Crouch advises caution and careful deliberation about all options. Whether a Sprung building is appropriate for a church will depend upon factors such as a church's mission strategy, location, community expectations and long-term goals, he said.

(EDITOR'S NOTE: For illustrations of Sprung buildings, visit the Web site of Southcliff Baptist Church, www.southcliff.org, or Sprung Instant Structures, www.sprung.com.)

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4/20/2001 12:00:00 AM by Mark Wingfield , Associated Baptist Press | with 0 comments
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