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Woodstock Baptist Church – Structurally Sound, Relatively Inexpensive Curved Walls

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The Woodstock Baptist Church is unique. How many places of worship can boast a 300-foot dome with a giant cupola that anchors a 30-foot-tall, steel-and-aluminum cross? Woodstock ‘s dome, cupola and cross together weigh more than 50 tons. Therein lay the challenges. Complexity. Weight. “We needed real design experts, a knowledgeable team of engineers and a strong, light-weight and flexible building system for this project,” says Don Allen, P.E., DSi Engineering, Norcross, Georgia, who worked on the church while at Starzer Brady Fagan Associates, Atlanta.”The structure had rather difficult details. Cold-formed steel was the prefect choice.”

The Woodstock Baptist Church is the size of a small sports arena. Its main auditorium, or sanctuary, has 1,000 square feet of floor space. Clearly, structural steel was needed to support the dome overhead. But what material would make the best choice for the exterior curtain walls -not just to save money, but also to provide a framing assembly flexible enough to accommodate an interesting design and even out-of-tolerance construction? “We gave little consideration to other products;’ Allen says. “Cold-formed steel was the only real choice to accommodate the large spans and the expansive curved outer walls.” The costs of constructing a massive, arena-sized church could easily get out of hand. Woodstock, for example, has monumental windows, large vertical spans and curved walls throughout. Cold-formed steel framing system proved flexible enough for use in long-run spans, creating the arcs and in constructing many special features, the design aesthetics specified by the architects. For example, large exterior, overhead “fins,” feature cold-formed steel framing and furring to support aluminum cladding. The curved┬ácupola walls included openings for windows and louvers.

“These curved openings were especially challenging, because we had to design headers to resist both lateral and gravity loads,” Allen says. “Using steel, we were able to pull from our standard details and our design tables for this type of opening, altering chem only slightly co account for the curvature.”

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