Thursday, May 16, 2013

More on the Air Conditioning

The framing around the new air conditioning ducts in the church is now complete, though its surface is still unfinished. (See “Surprises at Church.”) I was assured that the installation would be more attractive at this point, and indeed it is. Some, but not all, of the asymmetry has been eliminated. Below is a view from the nave. (Photos were taken tonight. Click on photo for a larger image.)

The picture below give a sense of how big the duct coming up from the undercroft is.

Of course, even if the new installation qualifies as not horribly ugly, one still has to ask if a project that altars the aesthetics of the church while only cooling part of the church is really worth the effort and expense.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Surprises at Church

I attended Saturday Bible Study at St. Paul’s today and found some surprises. Well, the first surprise was really no surprise at all. The late service tomorrow has been postponed from 10:45 to 11:00 because of the visit of Bishop McConnell. So, did we change our sign on the front lawn? Do you have to ask? Below is a picture from this morning of what has become our set-it-and-forget-it sign.

St. Paul’s sign

I did not attend church last Sunday and so did not hear the announcement that we were actually installing air conditioning in the church. This morning, I saw the results of the installation so far.

The first thing I saw was duct work visible in the undercroft. Because I just posted a picture of the newly renovated undercroft, it seems appropriate to begin with this picture. Notice the new duct work at the end of the room covering part of the rightmost air conditioning register in the bulkhead.


Here is a close-up view:

New duct work in the undercroft

Presumably, this will be prettied up some, but the bulkhead will surely be asymmetric in the end.

The duct in the undercroft goes through the floor at the back of the nave.

Duct through nave floor

This is how the back of the nave looks now:

Ducts at the back of the nave

Doing a little checking around, I can report on details of the air conditioning plan, which has not been explained to the congregation and may not be completely clear to everyone on Vestry. (Apparently, the Vestry has been presented with a number of air conditioning plans recently.)

Parishioners may be surprised to know that the new air conditioning being installed will be supplemented by the portable units we have used it the past. One doesn’t have to be a rocket scientist to realize that the four registers at the back of the nave cannot cool the entire church, at least as long as the air isn’t being pushed through at supersonic speeds.

I am told that the existing air conditioning at the back of the undercroft is more powerful than is necessary. It will be replaced with new equipment with even greater capacity, a smaller footprint, and greater efficiency. The upgraded equipment will be used to cool both one end of the undercroft and one end of the church.

Why are we implementing this particular air conditioning plan, which will not eliminate our use of portable units and may have other disadvantages? (More on this later.) The simple answer is money. To do the job right apparently would cost about three times the estimate suggested in the capital campaign literature. (I never thought the numbers were credible.) Apparently, however, we said we were going to air condition the church, so our leaders felt it was necessary to do so, even if it had to be done on the cheap.

Frankly, my reaction  to seeing the work being done was one of disbelief and dismay. Let me begin by stating the obvious. The new duct work is very obtrusive and, although it will be enclosed eventually, it will mar the symmetry of the undercroft and greatly alter the back of the nave. My understanding is that a new wall will be built in front of the ducts, but this will require people moving from the narthex to the nave to walk through a kind of tunnel. Furthermore, the balcony will be offset from the new rear wall, which will look odd. (One could take the opportunity to increase the size of the balcony, which would be helpful, particularly for the choir, but that would entail more expense.)

I have never been a fan of the portable air conditioning units, but, though less than ideal, they made summer worship in the church bearable, bordering on comfortable. St. Paul’s is now spending a good deal of money on what is an obviously temporary expedient likely to improve summer cooling only marginally. We will, however, have increased the incentives to sit at the back of the church, rather than at the front.

I believe it would have been wisest to admit that we do not have the money to air condition the church properly and to continue using the portable units until the job can be done right.

If money were no object, I’m not sure what would be the best plan for putting cold air into the building.  Retrofitting a building like St. Paul’s is not at all straightforward. I suspect, however, that one of the best plans might have been to run ducts along the roof trusses, thereby supplying cold air from above. One can offer aesthetic objections to such a plan, but it is commonly used in restaurants and other public buildings and often goes unnoticed.

Church celing
Would ducts above the congregation be too obtrusive?

Update, 5/7/2013: I may have misunderstood just how the ducts in the nave are to be sheathed. The intention may simply be to box in the ducts, rather than create a new wall at the back of the church. (I have not actually seen any plans.) I fear that we could end up with a wall that looks like it is being parasitized by some giant fungus.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Another 1992 Picture

I discovered the photograph below hiding behind the photo I posted earlier today. It is of a principal Sunday service after lighting improvements were made in the church. For many weeks, there was scaffolding in the church, which was a particular burden for the choir. Choir members made jokes about needing miner’s lamps to read their music.

Of course, the new organ was installed only later, so there are no exposed organ pipes visible in the photo, and the choir is still singing from choir stalls running parallel to the long axis of the church. More women seem to be wearing hats than one can see in 2013. (Click on photo for larger image.)

Worship service after lighting improvements

Our Shiny New Undercroft

Going through old photographs today, I ran into the picture below. It was taken just after renovation of the undercroft had been completed, financed by the Building the Vision campaign. I had been documenting the renovation in the building with my Construction Update Bulletin Board. The photo was taken sometime in the spring of 1992. (Click on it for a larger image.)

How many people remember the old undercroft? It was very gloomy, and our shiny new undercroft was in sharp (and welcome) contrast. I find it hard to believe that Building the Vision happened more than twenty years ago.

Lionel in the brand new undercroft

Help Washington National Cathedral Win a $100,000 Grant (at no cost to you)

Partners in Preservation is distributing $1 million in grants to non-profit organizations in and around Washington, D.C., for preservation and restoration. Washington National Cathedral is seeking a $100,000 grant to allow safety netting inside the building to be removed. The netting was erected to protect worshipers from falling debris caused by the 2011 earthquake. You can help the cathedral win its grant by voting on the Web. Details can be found on my other Web site here. You may vote once a day through May 11.

Netting in cathedral nave

Update, 5/15/2013: Washington National Cathedral did win the $100,000 grant. Read the announcement here.