Elizabeth Cramer Chapel at Arborlawn United Methodist Church

Arborlawn United Methodist Church is a large, busy, growing church located in Fort Worth, Texas. With an expanding congregation, the church was in need of a separate chapel for weddings, services and traditional musical and choral events in a smaller, more intimate venue. The church is contemporary on the outside, but the desired look and feel for the chapel addition needed to be somewhat traditional. The architectural firm Hahnfeld Hoffer Stanford and its design architect David Stanford created a clean, simple, elegant design with both traditional and contemporary church elements.

Arguably the most striking aspect of the Elizabeth Cramer Chapel addition is that it is shaped like an ark, with technically challenging radiused walls and ceiling. The vaulted ceiling provides an airy feel, while the stained glass windows and woodwork lend interest and warmth. In addition to the chapel, there is a bride's room and restrooms.

As with any project, Arborlawn UMC had budget and schedule needs. The project delivery method was design/bid/build, with the bidding process taking a "competitive sealed proposal" format. A select bidders list was invited to bid, with contractor qualifications submitted by each bidder. They included samples of similar work, references, financial stability documentation, key personnel profiles, a proposed schedule and the bid amount.

Elizabeth Cramer Chapel (Arborlawn United Methodist Church)

Fort Worth, Texas
Project Size: 801-2000 seats
Completion Date: April 12, 2013

The biggest need of the owner during construction was for all work to be scheduled around church activities no small challenge since the building operates nearly 24/7 with church services, Bible study, group activities, weddings, funerals, performances and choir and music practices. Steele & Freeman made sure work was done around Arborlawn's schedule, particularly when it came to anything noisy or disruptive. Superintendent Garth Rogers coordinated on a near-daily basis with Arborlawn UMC's facilities manager, Bryan Bellamy.

For safety reasons, since the main entrance to the building from the parking lot was part of the addition project, parishioners were routed to alternate entrances of the building. Other safety measures ensured the congregation was kept separate from construction by the building of temporary walls, barricades and fencing. The jobsite was cleaned before the work crews left each day. Work and safety were reviewed in weekly subcontractor safety meetings. Before opening the parking lot, handicap parking was added.

The chapel walls and ceilings are acoustically engineered with acoustical "clouds" to reduce noise transmission.

There is a sophisticated, very quiet HVAC system to accommodate a sudden influx of people, or to provide heating and cooling for a smaller group. Music is provided by a piano and electric organ, and there is an audio system in a separate sound room. The altar backdrop wood paneling is actually a pair of large doors that roll open to disclose a projection screen.

The wood pews add a traditional look. The seven stained glass windows on the south elevation illustrate books of the Bible. Future stained glass on the north windows will be scenes from the New Testament. The west wall stained glass behind the altar is a representation of Joseph, Mary and Baby Jesus.

The 4,358-square-foot, $1,746,592 addition is a welcome worship space for Arborlawn UMC.

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