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Sudbury dome church nearing completion

Watching the installation of acoustic panels in the ceiling of the 550-seat auditorium at All Nations Church’s new building, Pastor Jeremy Mahood looked perplexed.
All Nations Church is changing Sudbury’s skyline, with its monolithic dome construction. It will be ready for occupancy early in the new year.

Watching the installation of acoustic panels in the ceiling of the 550-seat auditorium at All Nations Church’s new building, Pastor Jeremy Mahood looked perplexed.

Based on plans for the auditorium, Mahood had estimated the panels to be placed differently, and he’ll now have to find a creative way to adjust to the change in design.

“That’s one thing about the project,” Mahood mused. “No matter what is drawn on the plans, we always seem to be making adjustments.”

It’s a lesson he’s learned well over the last five years as the monolithic dome — the first of its kind in Northern Ontario — has taken shape on a hill overlooking downtown Sudbury.

Following a loan agreement of $2.3 million from Northern Credit Union last year that has allowed the church to finish construction, Mahood estimated the project would reach substantial completion by Dec. 23, and the church would be ready for occupancy by mid-January.

The project, which began in 2011, comprises a 13,000-square-foot monolithic dome attached by a covered walkway to the 4,000-square-foot “Core” building, an office complex and youth centre. The congregation has built the structure on a pay-as-you-go system, raising $4.5 million toward the project.

Construction hasn’t been without its challenges. The HVAC system came in at $250,000 over budget and had to be redesigned, so the planned use of heat pumps has been replaced with natural gas.

The LED lighting also came in over budget, and the carpeting, which still has to be manufactured, is late in arriving.

But Mahood isn’t swayed by these setbacks and still believes the church is a great example of using industrial design for a sacred space.

“It’s frustrating when things come in way over budget,” he said. “Our goal is still to be as green a building as we can be, and we still will be one of the greenest buildings in Ontario.”

Once construction is complete, the church will pair up with the program Greening Sacred Spaces to use All Nations Church as an example of green building.

“We’re hoping that what we’ve learned in terms of green energy and green construction, we’ll be able to pass the information along to other large buildings,” he said.

The centrepiece of the project is the auditorium where services will be held. It includes finely tuned acoustics specially designed for the space, image magnification technology for broadcasting purposes, and sloped seating of 550 seats, with no seat being more than 50 feet from the stage, so every participant has a good view.

Some of the major trades work went to local contractors: T&G Electric, Lopes Mechanical, Centis Tile & Terrazzo, TerraNorth and Pioneer Construction. Manitoulin Transport and Manitoulin Global are doing all the shipping.

Mahood said all the local businesses, from the tradespeople to Manitoulin Transport to Northern Credit Union, have been “fantastic” with their community-minded approach to the project.

But the high cost of hiring local tradespeople in the smaller skilled trades forced the church to bring in workers from outside of the North. The painting, drywalling, and carpentry are being done by crews with Hawkey Church Management, the general contractor for the project.

“Given the shortage of trades, their costs are at a premium, and we just couldn’t do it,” Mahood said. “We can’t afford to pay the premium, because we don’t have an end user to pass that on to.”

After the church has moved into its new facility, it will celebrate its opening with a number of events, including a public open house, which will likely be held next spring.

When complete, the building will be characterized by a beacon of light projected through the Core building’s skylight into the sky.

For parishioners, the beam symbolizes hope, a reminder to Sudburians to carry that hope through their daily lives. But for secular admirers, the beacon will also highlight an innovative new building style that holds promise for the North.

“I do believe it’s going to be a showcase for a green sacred space that Sudbury can say they’re first out of the blocks at, and one of the first in Ontario,” Mahood said.