Construction of the new 1,200-seat sanctuary and administrative offices at St. Paul the Apostle Catholic Church in Nassau Bay, Texas, required careful planning because the new construction was added onto the existing facility, which had to remain in full use during construction.

Photo: John C. Lindy

Work was carefully sequenced throughout the fast-track project so that the worship space was never out of commission.

Hurricane Ike hit in September 2008 when the structural frame of the building was being completed. The project is located 12 mi from the point where the hurricane made landfall, and the area sustained the brunt of the storm.

Fretz Construction Co., the general contractor, implemented its hurricane plan and secured the entire site, which received no damage at all from the hurricane, despite flood waters that rose close to the finish floor of the new building.

The building’s design, which had to comply with the wind-load design criteria for hurricane-zone construction, made building difficult. The city of Nassau Bay has mandated high wind-resistance requirements for any new construction, causing the work at St. Paul’s to be significantly beefed up.

The structural steel design was highly detailed and required extra effort to erect successfully. The exterior walls and roof assembly were engineered to withstand hurricane-force winds.

The inlaid stone in the sanctuary was patterned and cut in the Philippines before being shipped to Houston. The field dimensions were provided from the raw slab, prior to completion of interior walls or installation of pews.

Compounding the installation was the fact that some of the patterned stone was bowed during the shipping, and the tile setters had to carefully bend the patterned pieces in order to make them usable. The job required weights and shims to relieve the deflections.

Key Players

Submitted by: Fretz Construction Co.
Developer/owner: Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, Houston
General contractor: Fretz Construction Co., Houston
Architect: HBL Architects Inc., Houston
Civil engineer: Shelmark Engineering LLC, Texas City, Texas
Structural engineer: Paul Engineering LLC, Webster, Texas
Mechanical engineer: Graves Mechanical, Houston
Electrical engineer: Lakey Electric Co., Houston
Plumbing engineer: Raven Mechanical, Houston