“The fire was heartbreaking. But we made the decision to rebuild almost immediately,” says Pastor Rev. Roman Galadza in explaining how the congregation, whose members come from a wide swath of the Greater Toronto Area, came together to overcome the tragedy.
Now that collective vision and effort is close to fruition with construction completion expected before the end of this summer.
Located in a still undeveloped area of the city, the heavy timber and glulam long-span truss building will be distinguished by five copper-cladded domes, the largest of which weighs 18,143 kilograms.
It was designed by New York-based Zimmerman Workshop, with structural design by Moses Structural Engineers. Santoro Construction Inc. is the general contractor and Markham, Ont.-based Timber Systems Ltd. is the fabricator and supplier of the array of long, deep columns, beams and trusses that have been erected by its subcontractor, Belleville, Ont.-based BHE Enterprises.
Design work was underway by December 2014 and was 95 per cent complete by the spring of 2015 when the tender was issued, says David Moses, principal with Moses Structural Engineers.
The challenge facing the design team was capturing the spirit and style of the original church while incorporating new technologies and adhering to new building code changes that have come into effect since 1995 when the original church was built, he says.
Also, the design had to take into account the heavy weight of the domes, especially the largest one, which sits over the main church space or nave on a truss system that the engineer describes as a truncated pyramid with the top lopped off.
An assembly of supporting components including the 13-metre trusses, tension rings and angled struts (or braces) are, in turn, supported by four corner mega columns.
Just under six metres tall, the mega columns were designed to resist gravity loads over their height and a very large bending force from the struts, Moses says.
Smaller versions of trusses or beams are used to support the other domes.
All of the post-and-beam structure is carefully connected to the stick-frame in-fill walls to make sure the wind forces are transferred to reinforced concrete foundation walls. The original foundation was removed after the fire.
“We designed the entire heavy timber structure for tender, but allowed the bidder to finalize the details of the connections and the dome layouts to optimize to their shop capabilities. The parameters we provided them were geometry, member sizes, forces and a requirement to conceal the connections,” Moses adds.
Embedded steel connection plates weighing approximately six tonnes each were embedded into 13-metre-long glulam trusses pre-assembled in Timber System’s Markham plant. That technique was possible because of the development of new fastener technologies, primarily used in Europe during the past 20 years, says company president Gary Williams.
Four truckloads of structural wood members of Douglas fir glulam, solid sawn Douglas fir and Western red cedar were required for the main timber framing, says Williams, whose firm was also the timber supplier for the first St. Elias Church.
Almost all the various components were prefabricated and then delivered as an entire package, he explains.
In highlighting other aspects of Timber System’s role, Williams says glulam trusses and shaped glulam build-ups were used to create the “iconic Ukrainian forms” for the five domes. Wood cladding was then applied to support the copper cladding which was then added as part of the on-site assembly process.
From Santoro Construction’s perspective, one of the project’s most complicated and delicate tasks was lifting and setting into place of the largest dome by a 260-tonne crane in mid-June.
“The lift took three-and-a-half hours and we had to be careful of any wind movement,” says site superintendent Joe Zucchiatti. The other four should be in place by the end of this month, he says.
A formal reopening of the church is planned for early October, says St. Elias’s Galadza.