COG Blog: Weekly Updates on Construction

Thank you, Alice Dunn and Valerie Perkins, for your tireless work and your weekly updates! Click on any photos to enlarge. Also, you can check out photo galleries from Joe Turner here.

The latest photo gallery from Joe Turner shows the eye-catching run-off tanks!

August 15 Update from your Construction Oversight Group (COG)

Hello from Mid-August! The windows are on their way, at last, and the openings are being prepared for quick (we hope!) installation. We expect to see some going in next week. Siding is going on, with most of the north side done by now. Inside, the HVAC work continues, sheetrock is being installed in the undercroft, and the elevator cab is being assembled in the hoistway. Off-site, the railings are being fabricated and our Community Center Kitchen cabinets are being made, and lots and lots of materials and fixtures and appliances are being ordered and stored, ready for installation.

Here’s part of the COG team, along with Rosemary Trowbridge, our valiant President, checking out the new concrete pad for the chiller (the unified condenser unit that will manage the cooling for the church) and the AT&T cell antennae condensers (which we are under contract to relocate). The pad is set well below the level of Barnes Place, and the entire thing will be surrounded by a retaining wall and fencing. The red ‘dot’ behind Stephen is the end of the giant conduit from the Mechanical Room, that will be buried.

The site contractor is starting to layout out all the pathways, and the forms for the concrete walkways will be set tomorrow. Our engraved bricks are on site, both new and old, ready to be placed, sometime in the next few weeks. The other photos (below) show site work under way, as the landscape crew ‘planted’ our really big rock (only 1/3 is exposed, like an iceberg) near the new walkway to the new ramp up to Marshman and the terrace. This is a locally-sourced rock!  (It was excavated from the site and was too big to move elsewhere!)

In the other photo, other rocks await their turn, next to our new gas meter and service. After a long wait, we finally have full gas service, ready for our new boiler.

We remain cautiously optimistic, but there is still a lot left to do, to get to our Certificate of Occupancy in September.  We will keep you all posted

Ever onward, Alice and Valerie

August 8 Update from your Construction Oversight Group (COG)

And now, back to your regularly scheduled COG update. The news continues to be that we won’t have Certificate of Occupancy by the end of this month, but are crossing our fingers for mid-September. If you didn’t see the congregation-wide letter, click here.

In the meantime, the site is humming with activity. Our new electric service is up and running and our new gas service is almost complete. The chiller pad is in place and the unit can be installed now. The HVAC ducting installation may be complete next week and the windows should start to arrive – finally – next week! What a huge difference that will make!

The upstairs rooms and office walls have been primed for painting. And check out these photos of exterior finish work: exterior siding and loggia ceilings are going up. It is looking better every day!

Ever onward, Alice and Valerie


July 25 Update from your Construction Oversight Group (COG)

So much progress since we last wrote, two weeks ago! Last week, Joe Turner’s cool drone photos showed our ‘submarines’: the drainage structures…this week they are fully buried, and the last pieces of drainage piping are due to be completed very soon, so that our new walkways and exterior ramps and steps can be built. The concrete pad for the chiller (the large air conditioning unit between the CC wall and Barnes Place) is next, as are the block retaining walls for the chiller and the new CC side entry to the playground.
Inside, the elevator company has started assembling the hoistway parts. The painters are busy pre-treating all the trim for the baseboards and door and window casings (all the wood on the racks is stained and drying)

And we all reviewed a ‘mock-up’ of our interior stairway railing system. There will be a maple cap on the top of the guardrail, ultimately, and our architect, Doug Jack, is holding the metal handrail part.

We have been enjoying watching the plasterers – those women are so capable on their stilts!

We also toured the whole site today with our bank loan managers, who were very impressed with the scope and progress of the project. This is encouraging to those of us living with it every day – the windows will be here in mid-August, and it was a pleasure to explain the impact those will have!

Still keeping cool, Alice and Valerie

July 11 Update from your Construction Oversight Group (COG)

We’ve had many coordination meetings this week, with lots of problem-solving and detail-sorting, typical of many a construction project. Sprinkler piping, HVAC ducting, venting, flooring selections for the CC Kitchen (a beautiful cheerful blue!), handrails and wood trim…the list goes ever on. We’ve had our last concrete and steel inspections, finally!

The contractors are working their way down from the top. The drywall is largely complete in all the upper levels, taped and ready for painting – even though the windows and the glass panels/doors of the storefront system won’t arrive until August, they have still been able to do lots on the inside, and will be able to put up siding soon, too. With the final roofing connections to the new loggia roofs, on both sides of the Sanctuary, the CC and undercroft level will be dry and ready for HVAC work and for finishing the walls.

Progress, progress!  Alice & Valerie

Here are some photos:

Maryann Thompson, our lead architect, hoping to spot the hawk on the steeple, through the new skylight view in the Sonin Room! The ceiling is ready for the new maple trusses and then for the new acoustic ceiling treatment and tinted pine board finish.
The top of the North Stair, with temporary staging (and Pereira electrician). The ridge will be finished in wood, and the black spots up by the ridge are for the five lovely pendant lights, that will hang at different heights all the way down the open area of the stair.

The North loggia roof and the new ‘eyebrow’ roof, that will define the glazing above and below. The terrace is really starting to take shape!
And in case you are wondering about the ‘up-periscope’ look of those big green pipes – those are our drainage retention chambers with their own clean-outs. Those green pipes will each be trimmed with a 12” Ø hatchway and will be buried below our new lawn; if we need access, we use a magnet (and our as-built drawings) to locate them.

July 3 Update from your Construction Oversight Group (COG)

Happy July 4th, Everyone! This week is a story in pictures.

Is that giant hole in the front lawn for a swimming pool? or a hot tub? No – it’s for our new Cultech drywell system. The storm water, gutter and drainage lines all have to go somewhere on our property, and that’s where many of them will end up. And there are two other drywells, as well. We really, really don’t like mopping up floods!
What’s that new box behind the Elevator/Stair tower? It’s the new Shed, for trash, recycling, and landscape equipment. It needs a better name than ’trash shed’…any offers? Here’s the view from Barnes Place.

Does that redtail hawk like to swing on the steeple weathervane? Yes! Surprise – look what we can see from our new Sonin Room skylight!
Are Nancy, Alice and Valerie delighted by the view?

June 27 Update from your Construction Oversight Group (COG)

I (Alice) have been away for two weeks and it is great to be back and see the progress! So much more wallboard, insulation, and wiring piping and HVAC, and so much more work on the exterior canopies (or ‘loggias’ as we call them)!  Our Parish Board Chair, Stephen Ervin, has only 3 more days in office, but we will happily keep him on COG, with our AV design and installation supervision – thank you Stephen!  And ever so many thanks to Chris Walters, who will also stay on COG, even as he finishes off his Program Council President term! Rosemary Trowbridge, the incoming President, has been coming to many of our meetings.

Back to construction photos: the shot of the steel frame for the loggia between Marshman and the new elevator/stair tower also shows the crew working on the Sanctuary eaves. For many years, Building & Grounds struggled with ice dams on the various roofs! So we worked with a building consultant to design a new roof ventilation system. That was approved by Lexington Historic well before this project was started, and consists of a ridge ‘cap’ on the octagon, and continuous eave ventilation to provide good flow to remove condensation.  It made sense to fold this roofing project in with the new work, and it is very satisfying to see this proceeding.

Check out the view from our new roof hatch: the new ventilation cap on the octagon, the steeple beyond, and the new ridge for the elevator/stair tower in the foreground. And an easy way to get access to these roofs!

While it is very frustrating that our window order is delayed, we have been keeping up the pressure to get as much done with the protection we have now, so that the windows can be installed later; in a slightly inverted order, the siding will be going on before the window frames are in. Never fear, the flashing details have been well chewed over!

And, so much besides…Valerie has done amazing work while I was away, and it is good to be back with the amazing COG!

Perseverance furthers, Alice and Valerie

June 20 Update from your Construction Oversight Group (COG)

This week all trades are on site completing preliminary electrical, AV and Data wiring, rough plumbing, and insulating before wallboard covers it all up over the next few weeks. The steel posts for the North Loggia have been delivered and installed and await the 37 foot steel beams to be set on top.Framing for the sanctuary roof venting is underway – with 2 large hawks keeping a watchful eye from the steeple weather vane! Ongoing HVAC fabrication and installation puzzles continue to be solved. Unfortunately, due to the frustrating number of rain days delaying our complicated site work and complications with our exterior window and door order, ZVI is now estimating a Certificate of Occupancy date of Mid-August at the earliest.

Ever vigilant and hopeful…..Valerie & Alice

June 13 Update from your Construction Oversight Group (COG)

Be sure to check out the sky view of our new building with its many roof lines. See Joe Turner’s latest drone photos from this afternoon!

Lots happening over the last week:  More HVAC equipment has been installed. The first phase of interior wallboard is complete. Preliminary electrical and plumbing inspection are completed.  And, now 3 full days of insulation are underway. Exterior site work continues with foundation waterproofing (thanks to a few consecutive dry days!), and installation of many trench drain pipes. The first Alaskan Cedar siding boards have arrived and are being prepared. They are so beautiful and smell so good!

Alice & Valerie

June 6 Update from you Construction Oversight Group (COG)

We were so glad to welcome many Follenites to another site walkthrough after service last week!

We on COG are always so happy to get a chance to talk about the project, and all the various measures we are taking to plan for resiliency, accessibility, and delight!

This week we enjoyed the sight of vast quantities of wallboard being delivered.

We are expecting lots more site work in the next two weeks, too.

-Alice and Valerie

Check out this recent article from the Colonial Times!

May 30 Update from you Construction Oversight Group (COG)

Site walkthrough this Sunday (June 2) after service! If you didn’t get a chance to walk though the building project last time, or are curious to see what’s happening, come join us on guided tours of the project!

Here’s the plan: right after service lets out, we will be starting tours from the former French For Kids entry door (off the Waldorf driveway). One COG/CCC guide will take a 10 person group at a time, giving a little space between each group, on a roughly 10-minute tour. The site is a construction zone, so no sandals please, but hard hats won’t be required.

Where we are now:  town inspections of rough plumbing and wiring are complete and the wall-boarders have started on the interior walls! HVAC ducting is largely in place and the chiller arrives in the next week or so. The elevator is being assembled, and you’ll see it in the CC.

Rev. Claire joined us as we walked through confirming switching and outlets and all sorts of other details.
The Sonin Room is going to be so great!

As to the project timeline: You’ll note that the windows aren’t in yet, and boy oh boy, are we eager to see them go in. But they won’t be here for a few more weeks, and the siding is a bit delayed, so the realistic move-in is end of July, not June, as we had hoped.  But we are still making lots of good progress and are very happy with what is developing.

May 23 Update from your Construction Oversight Group (COG)

The Ikea assembly party was a huge success! Thanks to Valerie and Stephen’s extraordinary organization skills, 14 Fearless Follenites assembled a giant pile of cabinet boxes and drawers, ready to be installed in our new Kitchenettes, copier room, and meeting room. Thanks to all who came – and very thankful for the sunny day – with just the right level of skills!
The birth of a drawer
The garage workshop

Back at the site, as promised, insulation of the roof is done and fireproofed. The Sonin Room sound has already improved enormously and we’ve been happily imagining all the new activity to come. We’re also very glad to see the new insulation/waterproofing of the undercroft stone foundation walls. B&G has wanted this for decades.  The spray foam insulation is painted with a thin layer of fire-retarding intumescent paint (google that!).

And, many many sub-contractors are installing many many feet of conduit, wiring, ducting, AV low-voltage wiring. We expect rough-in inspections for electrical and plumbing in the next day or so, and then next week, the drywallers will take over. Everything will completely change! In the meantime, we enjoyed the impromptu cup-holder (last photo). Onwards, ever onwards!  Alice and Valerie (who’s off on a well-deserved vacation)

May 16 Update from your Construction Oversight Group (COG)

IKEA assembly folks: you know who you are!  Thanks in advance to the 12 or so Follenites who have already volunteered to help build cabinets. This Saturday, May 18, at the Perkins/Ervin home, we will be assembling cabinets, and folks are still welcome to join. The schedule remains: work from 9am – 3pm (allowing for the 3-5 pm tea for Lucinda), in several teams of 2-3. Come all day, or just for a few hours. Please contact Alice or Valerie ( to let us know if you are coming!

On site, to keep ahead of the fast-moving HVAC installers, the roof insulation is underway: The insulation starts with a coat of closed cell spray foam up in the rafter bays and then they add a thicker layer of open cell spray foam below. They stopped the operation so we could do our walk-through inspection; by now, the whole roof is insulated. (See photo as Mart Ojamaa casts his eagle eye!) Many thanks to Mart and Nancy Sofen, who carefully and laboriously cleaned out and re-graveled the drainage in our Undercroft, prior to insulation of those original rubble-stone walls!

Once the roof insulation is complete, the attic HVAC ducting will installed. Rough wiring and plumbing inspections are expected next week and then wallboarding will start; we’re told that there may be a crew of 20 plasterers on site at once. They will make fast work of this project!

Looking forward to a sunny and warmer weekend, Alice and Valerie

May 9 Update from your Construction Oversight Group (COG)

Calling all IKEA assembly folks! On Sat. May 18, at the Perkins/Ervin home, we’ll be assembling cabinets. (See photo of shipment in the the garage!) We’ll be working from 9am – 3pm (allowing for the 3-5 pm tea for Lucinda), in several teams of 2-3. Come all day, or just for a few hours. Bring a screw gun and lots of good humor, and please contact Alice or Valerie to let us know if you are coming!

On site, now that the building is mostly weathertight, the interior is full of subcontractors, working away on framing details, installing electrical wiring, HVAC ducting, the roof hatch for access to our new hood vent, etc.   The new CC entry roof is underway, complete with cool steel posts that are configured for the wood cladding.

And Nancy and Mart and Alice are ‘breaking in’ our incoming President, Rosemary Trowbridge, so she’ll be up and running for July 1. We’re standing on the North Terrace, where new meets old. The Sanctuary window is blocked to protect it from all the commotion, but once the exterior is done, it’ll be back open!

And ever onward, Alice and Valerie

May 2 Update from your Construction Oversight Group (COG)

What a wonderful Sunday after church: we were able to conduct the promised – and long hoped-for – walkthrough of the new construction! We on COG were just thrilled to finally be able to share our vision with so many of you. We think about 90-100 Follenites, young and old, toured through the freshly-framed spaces. It was such a pleasure to take you all up to the new top floor, to see the Music Room and all the new meeting rooms/classrooms and the new stairs.

The only part that wasn’t completely framed was the North Stair, and here’s a few familiar faces enjoying all of our first walk on the new flights. For those of you who didn’t get to join us, we will have more opportunities.

In the meantime, we have been working intensively to get details of the HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning) system sorted out, coordinate our new fire sprinkler system, and get the undercroft and all the exterior walls and roofs ready for insulation. We’re still working on our Landscape plans, selecting finishes and working to reduce costs. And we’ve had our first planning session with the J2 team (Jane and Jackie) about moving back in!

And we’ll see you at Annual Meeting!

Onward, Alice and Valerie

April 25 Update from your Construction Oversight Group (COG)

Site Walk-through is still possible this Sunday.

Well, good news and less good news: the good news is that plants are happy with all the rain, and as of this writing, we are really, really close to having a fully closed-in building.

But the less good news is that the rain has delayed our building framers just enough so that we are still tentative on our planned walk-through for this Sunday right after service.  We’ll let you all know at service on Sunday- crossed fingers! The big issue is safety and waterproofing- with the predicted rain on Saturday, we need to be confident that we can safely allow groups to go through. But never fear, we can always try for another Sunday in May.

If we go ahead, here’s the plan: right after service lets out, we will be starting tours from the former French For Kids entry door (off the Waldorf driveway). One COG/CCC guide will take a 10 person group at a time, giving a little space between each group. The 10- minute tour will end over at the new Terrace area between Sanctuary and Marshman. The site is a construction zone, so no sandals please, but hard hats won’t be required.

In the meantime, here’s a few photos from this sunny day, as the site is drying out (until the next rainstorm!).

The roof of the elevator and north stair was just completed. The steps are part of the new North stairway, the section up from Sanctuary level to Offices level, next to the elevator shaft. Our architect, Maryann Thompson, is gazing up at where the next flight of stairs will go. We continue to be very happy with the new spaces that are being created, and look forward to sharing the full experience of both the new stairways and all the new circulation patterns!

Soggily and sunnily yours, Alice and Valerie

April 18 Update from your Construction Oversight Group (COG)

Save the date (tentative)! On Sunday April 28, after church, please plan for a walk-through of the new spaces (weather and progress dependent, of course). We believe the framing will be far enough along to invite all you patient Follenites to take a managed tour up into the new floor levels, to see what we have all created. Hard hats will not be required, as no one will be doing construction on Sunday, but it is an active site. Children are welcome, with a parent or responsible adult, and they must be carefully supervised the whole time. And we’ll be watching out for adults, too!  Choir members who are going to a 1 pm event get the first tours.

Here’s a few teaser photos –  The top of the South stair (on the Waldorf driveway side), and Claire in the Sonin Room (Which will have a roof in the next few days!)

And here’s us and our design team, hard at work on the HVAC coordination, as the rough-in of plumbing, electrical, and heating/cooling systems is well underway.

We’ll provide more details next week!
Alice and Valerie

April 11 Update from your Construction Oversight Group (COG)
More roofing, more enclosure, more partitions!  Ice & Watershield membrane has been installed over most of the new roof; the other half of the roof is now ready to be framed, with the new North Stair addition and roof to follow. The gray sheets installed over the Tyvek on the playground side are a cementitious board for fireproofing; as our building is so close to the lot line, we are required to provide an extra layer of protection.
At the North Stair, check out the photo of the angling steel – that’s the side of part of the new stairwell, from Sanctuary level up to the Offices level. We’re standing down in the CC level bathrooms and Mechanical room.
We have also been finalizing a lot of the finishes for the floors, ceilings, cabinets. We have a beautiful palette, and will try to bring some of the samples to coffee hour, so you can see the colors and wood and tile.  And, of course, we’ve many, many meetings and emails about HVAC, site grades, door hardware and locks, lighting, AV…so much dedicated work by so many!
Is it really April?!  Alice and Valerie

April 4 Update from your Construction Oversight Group (COG)
We have roof! We have walls! We have Tyvek!  And we promise, there will be window openings, lots of them.
The framers are moving fast and we on COG were able to climb up our new South stairway (on the Waldorf driveway side) to see the actual spaces on the top floor for the first time. The new Sonin Music Room is going to be lovely and spacious – the photos are looking up at the new ridge beam, which roughly defines the shape of the new room (the diagonals in the foreground are temporary bracing). It will be even more real when the roof framing – and the skylight opening – show up, later today.
We are eagerly looking forward to seeing the north stair, next to the elevator shaft, and the connection to the new terrace space between Marshman and Sanctuary. The meeting/class rooms and the offices are taking shape as they raise the partition walls and we were able to measure for the kitchenette cabinets. So good to be above ground!
We continue to tussle with a number of areas;  HVAC ducting coordination, landscape pricing and the constant steam of questions about door hardware, walk-off mats, lighting, audio-visual options etc. etc. As we work to contain the budget and to balance unexpected over-runs with cost-cutting, we very much appreciate the vote by Program Council in support of our use of the pre-approved ‘contingency’ tap on the Heritage Fund, an endowment fund specifically set aside for the building. It means a lot to us to have such support from the congregation and from the leadership.
Also, some very happy news as we look forward to Moving Back In over the summer: Jane Spickett and Jackie Hawkinson are returning to manage the move in! We are delighted and thank them in advance.
Happy April, Alice and Valerie


March 28 Update from your Construction Oversight Group (COG)

Major Construction Milestone: We Topped Off the Building!

Follen passed a major milestone in the construction/renovation project yesterday with the topping-off of the building. This means the top piece of structural framing was put in place – the trusses that form the roof were dropped onto the top story walls by a huge crane. And, following long-standing building tradition, we attached a small pine tree to the truss, festooned with ribbons, to be the highest point. We signed the truss before it flew up into the air, and then we toasted everyone who worked on the project. Rev. Claire read an excerpt of a poem to celebrate the moment. What a happy occasion!

Now, after months of complicated, but necessary, foundation work, we can see the outline of the finished space. All that remains is enclosing the structure, drywalling, electrical work, plumbing, cabinetry, flooring, painting … okay, there’s a little bit left to be done, but it should be finished by summer!

Here is the poem Rev. Claire read:

For a New Home by John O’Donohue

May this home be a place of discovery,
May it be a home of courage,
Where healing and growth are loved,
Where dignity and forgiveness prevail;
A home where patience of spirit is prized,
And the sight of the destination is never lost
Though the journey be difficult and slow.
May there be great delight around this hearth.
May it be a house of welcome
For the broken and diminished.
May no guest leaves without a blessing.

Finally, Check out Joe Turner’s pictures of the event, including drone shots of the little evergreen placed on top!


March 21 Update from your Construction Oversight Group (COG)

Spring has sprung and the building site is buzzing. Framing has finally started on the top level and walls are going up, and we expect to see a ridge sometime next week. Wow! Roofing will follow very quickly, and we on COG will try for a ‘topping-off’ ceremony in the middle of it all. Watch this space!

And, a big concrete pour yesterday. Thankfully it went quickly, as the concrete truck had to wedge itself on the Marshman front lawn; our Barnes Place neighbors have quite a construction site to live next to, and we’re grateful for their patience!

We on COG continue to work on value-engineering, to reduce costs. We’re developing alternate landscaping approaches, purchasing appliances and some lighting ourselves, and are going to be building some of our own kitchenette cabinets. Those of you who enjoy assembling IKEA cabinets- let us know if you’d like to help!

Hooray for Spring! Alice & Valerie