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Finishing Up

Launch Slideshow

Rebuilding on the Gulf Coast

Finishing touches

Rebuilding on the Gulf Coast

Finishing touches

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    The 32-foot-long structural ridge beam fit into reinforced pockets in the gable SIPs.

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    The nonstructural skirt wall and lowered entry deck make the church appear lower to the ground than it actually is.

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    There's elevator access from the finished slab underneath the building.

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    With the arches and finish ceiling intact — and the original stained-glass window back in place — the interior looks almost unchanged.

Since the bottoms of the SIPs were 14 feet above grade, we wanted to disguise the overall height of the church with a conventionally framed “skirt.” To satisfy FEMA requirements, this skirt had to be nonstructural and somewhat less substantial than the SIPs so that it would break away in the event of flooding. Therefore, we framed 30-inch-tall wall sections with 2x6s underneath the glulams. Where the deck, stairs, and hvac platforms would be attached, we bolted PT 2x12 ledgers to the piers at the same elevation, helping to create the illusion that the church is only 10 feet above grade (see slideshow).

Cost. The SIPs package cost $128,000, including all of the associated fasteners and hardware and two weeks of site time by the factory’s trainer — a small percentage of the project’s $1.9 million total budget. And even though we’d never worked with SIPs before, it took less than four weeks for my five-man crew to assemble the panels. I doubt we could have stick-framed and insulated a building this size with the same energy efficiency and hurricane resistance for anywhere near that price.

As we moved on to the housewrap and trim and reinstalled the stained-glass gable-end window — salvaged from 4 inches of mud in the church parking lot — the old building’s familiar profile began to reemerge. But this church will be much better equipped than its predecessors to weather the next storm that hits Pass Christian.

Matt McBride owns More Than a Carpenter, a general contracting business in Pass Christian, Miss.