COG Blog: 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.

March 5 Update from your Construction Oversight Group

Calling all landscape enthusiasts…it’s time to think SPRING planting!  We are planning a landscape ‘charrette’ session for either Sat or Sunday afternoon of March 21/22 or March 28/29, to design the future of our grounds, including the parking lot area/Polly’s Park renewal. It’ll be a lot of fun – if you are interested, please contact Tom Ryan to be included in the doodle poll to settle the date!

And the BIG NEWS…Success! We have Mass. Plumbing Board approval for our gender-neutral bathrooms! All bathrooms are now entirely gender-neutral and we are able to change all the signage…and we’ve already taken down the plywood panel in the CC multi-stall bathroom.  (So glad to see that go!)

COG members and our architect and plumber went before the state plumbing board this morning, and thanks to excellent groundwork, and the support of the Town of Lexington (Jim Kelly, the Building Commissioner, also came to the hearing!), we passed easily.  You’ll also be interested to know that we were among 7 variance requests relating to gender-neutral restrooms, for just this month’s hearing alone. The demand is increasing; the Plumbing Board is clearly going to have to re-work their code language!

March onward, Alice, Valerie, Nancy, Chris, Mart, Tom, Greg & Stephen

Thanks, COG!

Your Construction Oversight Group From left: Steve Ervin, Tom Ryan, Valerie Perkins, Alice Dunn, Nancy Sofen, Greg Shenstone, Chris Walters, Claire Feingold Thoryn, Mart Ojamaa

January 9 Update

Joe Turner has taken some new pictures of the building as the sun was setting. Check out the Nite Time album for a new perspective!

The Community Center – completed in time for winter!


December 19 Update from your Construction Oversight Group (COG)

We of the Construction Oversight Group, and Capital Campaign Comm., were so delighted to see all your happy faces around our North Stair, as we cut the ribbon last Sunday! What a great day, and what a wonderful expression of our new possibility for connections. (And yes, our structural engineer did pre-bless our loading of the stair: no problem!). Please mark your calendars for the next event: the formal dedication of the Epp Sonin Music Room & Center, on Saturday evening, Jan 11!
We are striving to prep the last meeting/classroom spaces: second floor back room of Marshman and the floors of the Dickens Room in the Undercroft are the last in the queue. We are pushing to get the Dickens floor ready for this Sunday’s RE program.
We also are working with the HVAC company to try to even out the heating in our new spaces…please be patient and wear layers! Thermostats are still confusing! There’s a lot of tinkering to go, and during the holiday weeks, it’ll be tough to get their crews on site, but be assured: we know about this.
We’re excited to see all the ways you are all moving in, trying out and adding on. The Library is amazing!!
The COG blog is now on vacation for a week or so! Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Solstice, Kwanzaa, New Year…and all the ways we celebrate.

December 12 Update from your Construction Oversight Group (COG)
Welcome one and all, to our Ribbon-Cutting on Sunday 12/15, right after service is over! We will all gather, with Rev. Claire, in our new North Stairway next to the elevator, all around the landings and stairs, to officially open our buildings and welcome all to our fully accessible spiritual home. Ribbon will be cut! Cake and refreshments to follow.
Our architects will be joining us, too, and there will be audio/visual shows of the project process, in our many gathering places. We’d love to have lots of you with us, and will try to take a group photo of all!
And save the date: Jan. 11 in the evening, for our dedication of the Epp Sonin Music Room! Big party!
In other updates- the elevator is running fine, and the Marshman classrooms are close to being fully restored, and you’ll see an old friend in the Sanctuary, out from under wraps! Our organ is visible again – although it will not be playable until it has had a thorough cleaning (of 20 years of dust and 16+ months of construction).
While our punchlist of items-to-be-finished is still long, they’ve made significant headway. As always, with moving into a new/restored space, we have lots of adjusting and tinkering still to go!
Ever onward, Alice and Valerie

December 5 Update from your Construction Oversight Group (COG)

Happy December! We are in, fully using the new building! And the Marshman building is already half restored to full classroom function. We are hoping for elevator inspection soon, maybe even today. We have a TCO (Temporary Certificate of Occupancy), but won’t be granted the permanent CO until the elevator is inspected.

All doorways are useable, and the keypad doors (at CC entry and at Terrace entry) will be unlocked during the day. At night, for all your meetings – please contact Sarah for the key code!

Also, the bathroom signage on the lower level will be a bit puzzling at first: to get our TCO, the town plumbing inspector required us to post some antiquated signage that contradicts our gender-neutral design. We and our architects are working hard with the Town and maybe State Plumbing regulators to have all bathrooms fully gender-neutral.

There are many, many ‘punchlist’ items still to go, including lots of tinkering/ experimenting with the heating system and fans and lights and the AV system…please be patient while we work out the kinks. It may take a few months. You’ve all been very kind and appreciative, and so very helpful as we’ve been moving in – thank you very much!

Alice and Valerie and all of COG

November 27 Update from your Construction Oversight Group (COG)

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Big News! We have our TCO (Temporary Certificate of Occupancy)! Except for the elevator, we can use the whole building!

We have so much to be thankful for – all the beloved staff and volunteers who showed up (and will keep showing up!) to do all the moving-in tasks!

Unpacking, cleaning dishes, organizing, picking up chairs, mounting shelves, cataloging books, connecting AV systems, checking supplies, and on and on!
You are all so wonderful. Thank you.

We are waiting for final elevator inspection, hopefully early next week.

Hooray! Are we ever thankful!  Alice and Valerie

November 21 Update from your Construction Oversight Group (COG)

It’s finally happening: the moving truck arrives today, Thursday 11/21! Please note: we will NOT be unpacking on Friday 11/22, as we need to give ZVI just a bit more time, and not have volunteers crossing over the masses of sub-contractors on Friday. Please DO come help on Saturday 11/23, and look for ways to help out over Thanksgiving weekend, too by emailing Jackie and Jane at We may – fingers still crossed – have a Temporary Certificate of Occupancy from the town inspectors by tomorrow or the next day, but there are still a few regulatory hoops to jump through. As one of our consultants said: “and here I thought Lexington was a sleepy suburban town!”

Also note: to get through inspections, we may have to post some temporary (Ugly) signs – the permanent signs are on order and will be much nicer!

There’s nothing like a deadline! The finish crews and the cleaners have been hard at work, and the site has been packed with all the subcontractors tidying up and completing flooring, trim, putting pipe protection on, mounting baby changing tables, shelves, door hardware…The water is turned on and we have tried out the drinking fountains. As soon as we pass our final plumbing inspection (again, hope for tomorrow!), we can use all our dishwashers and bathrooms.

Before the photos – here’s a few ’Save the Date’ items: First, a project party/celebration/ribbon-cutting on Sunday Dec. 15, after services. Second, we will formally dedicate the Epp Sonin Music Room on Saturday evening, Jan. 11. Mark your calendars and come join the fun!

And now, some photos; these may be the last previews, as you’ll be able to enjoy these spaces yourselves by next week!

A few fun photos of the new stairwell, as we – delightedly – tour the new North Stairwell with Doug Jack, our project architect from Maryann Thompson Architects. (Fun note: Doug is just back from a two week paternity leave; he and his wife welcomed their new daughter, Faye, on Nov. 1. He certainly thought this project would be born well before his daughter would be!)

Tuesday night, as a bunch of us were putting up extra shelves, we came out to admire the open stairwell, now that the scaffolding is finally gone. The Sanctuary door was open and the choir was rehearsing for Music Sunday. We stood and listened and smiled – what a wonderful feeling. We’re almost home again.

And a few more – the cleaners have already cleaned these up…these were taken in the last 24 hours and already a lot has happened:

Here’s our new Library, and a view of the hallway on the middle floor, and of an office (Beryl’s).

See you all around the new spaces! Still biting our nails, Alice and Valerie and Nancy and Mart and Greg and Tom and Chris and Stephen!

November 14 Update from your Construction Oversight Group (COG)

The movers are coming, the movers are coming!  Viking Movers will be moving furniture, boxes, and stuff from Marshman and the POD and the remote storage on Thursday 11/21.  We are still on tenterhooks about whether we’ll get the Certificate of Occupancy on Tuesday/ Wednesday next, so we may have to wait to move the staff over to their new offices til a bit later, but we can do a lot before then. And of course, we will do our best to ease the move for our beloved staff, delay or no delay!

Please see Jane Spickett and Jackie Hawkinson’s note re: signing up to help unpack on Friday 11/22 and Saturday 11/23. And to sign up to move chairs out of Alice’s garage on Saturday morning at 9 am. And don’t worry if you are away…never fear, there will be more opportunities to help out in the future.

And the heat is coming! We have our gas ‘tag’, meaning we passed gas inspection yesterday; the HVAC company will be firing up the system today, assuming National Grid comes to turn on the gas. Fingers crossed and crossed again that we’ll be cosy warm soon! It was a bit brisk in the Sanctuary on Sunday, as the heater had to be turned off during the service so we could all hear.

This weekend, the wood floors will be getting their finish coatings, so we are not going to be able to conduct tours of the new spaces from Friday afternoon until Monday morning; if you need to view storage space options, please plan around that! The Sanctuary will be open, as usual, all weekend. COG folks will be working in the new space on Tuesday evening starting at 7 pm, adding storage shelving ahead of the move, so that’s a good time to stop in.

So much new to show you all:

The stair railings are looking great and the carpenters are doing a wonderful job, resolving many a tricky angle and joint. You can see the pendant lights in the middle of the stairway. Valerie and our architect, Maryann Thompson are happy about this!

We are also thrilled to see the nearly completed playground side of the building: the fence around the chiller, the safety chainlink fencing and the brown wooden fence will go in soon, as will the rest of the downspouts. We’d hoped to plant our protective shrubs at the new retaining wall area at the new Community Center side doorway, but the ground is frozen right now!


And the Epp Sonin Music Room – or the ESR, as we sometimes now call it! – is getting its finishing touches. The lighting valance and truss track lighting is on, floors need two more coatings.



And here’s the orderly chaos of the chancel audio-visual wiring, with Howie Bernstein at  play work; he and Stephen Ervin have spent hours and hours hooking up and testing all our AV systems and transferring the connections to the new IT closet. We are so glad they know how to do all this!

There’s something new happening every day…Onward, Alice and Valerie and COG!

November 7 Update from your Construction Oversight Group (COG)

Hear Ye, Hear Ye!  All hands on deck for the big Move-Back-In!

We are scheduling the moving company for Thursday Nov. 21, to move everything from the Marshman Center and the POD across the street and the remote storage, into all our new and renovated spaces. Then the fun begins, as we unpack and figure out how it all works!  Jane Spickett and Jackie Hawkinson are the co-managers of the move: please look for their notices about how you can help, and please sign up – many hands make light work. Thank you all! Sign up here:

We on COG will be crossing our fingers about the Certificate of Occupancy inspections on the 18th and 19th! (In any event, there is much that can be done to unpack stuff, even if the CO is delayed a few days). The following days: Friday 11/22, Saturday 11/23 and Sunday 11/24 we will be unpacking, and picking up chairs and boxes and stuff from various garages/attics across the region. And we will be demo-ing the temporary partitions in the Marshman Center, to restore the rooms to their former configurations, as classrooms/meeting rooms.

In the meantime, we are finding wonderful changes every day:
Here’s Sarah’s office  – 99% complete!  This is the blue carpet that we are using on the top two floors; by the time you read this, it will be done in almost all those rooms and corridors. It looks so great with the maple and maple-tinted pine trim.


The interior trim/stair carpenters are doing excellent work, and the North Stair treads and trim are well underway, as is the doorway from North Stair to the Community Center! We particularly like the angled ceiling treatment that echoes the trusses up in the ceiling of the Music Room – and hides a lot of pipes and ducts! The scaffolding is in the way of this photo, but that will go as soon as the ceiling lights are hung.

A last note: we would like to remind the whole Follen community not to park along Barnes Place (the small street that serves the houses next to Marshman and Follen). Thanks.

Every day, a few steps closer!  Yours in Progress, Alice and Valerie and COG

October 31 Update from your Construction Oversight Group (COG)

BOO!  Trick or treat! The trick: to get all the building inspectors and elevator inspectors through by Nov 18 and 19. The treat: if all goes well, we have a scheduled move-in date of Nov 21 – just in time for our Thanksgiving services!  And will we be thankful. Oh yes.  Please watch this space, as we will be asking for volunteers to help with unpacking and setting up!

This weekend, the Saturday evening ‘Deeper Than the Skin’ event will take place in the Sanctuary, with intermission activity in the Community Center…the CC won’t have a finished floor, and folks will have to use Marshman Center for bathrooms, but the whole event will be fully accessible! The elevator isn’t running yet, but the ramps and entries give us a full path of travel to the spaces we’ll be using. And we do have handrails at the driveway-side steps!

This weekend, COG will be conducting tours of the new building for Action Team folks, to cue up closet space/storage space allocations. We’re laying out our initial thoughts, but wish for your input on what your AT and sub-committees need for storage. Please contact your AT rep to Program Council, as we’d like each to AT to come to PC with their compiled thoughts (not directly to us, please).

One benefit of early morning meetings: we get to see the most beautiful dawns:

Inside, we have even more beauty: the wood floors on the top floor, in the hall and the Epp Sonin Room, have their first coat of finish! It dried fast and then, until the rest of the finishes are done, it was covered up with Ram board. So you won’t see how pretty it looks for a while;  the wood floors get their final coats right at the end.  But here’s a sneak preview, and then a view of the protected ESR floor:

Then, the various inner workings: the things that excite us… Boilers! Anne Smith Room door! First door handles!

Happy Halloween, every one!

Alice and Valerie and COG

October 24 Update from your Construction Oversight Group (COG)

The move-in date is getting nearer!  We hope (fingers crossed) to have a firm move-in date declared in early November; we’re hoping for before Thanksgiving. To get ready, we’re conducting Action Team tours of the project on Sunday Nov 3, both before and after services, so the AT reps can meet with their teams to discuss closet storage allocations. AT folks – this will be discussed at PC on Monday Nov 4!

And all – please keep your eyes open for volunteer opportunities to help with moving-in. Jane Spickett and Jackie Hawkinson, our fearless Move Managers, will be coordinating this. We’ll need folks to help with moving the Anne Smith Room wood chairs out of Alice’s garage attic, moving tables and boxes from the POD and from Marshman…lots of fun to come, and we appreciate all your help, in advance.

In the meantime, the finishes keep on coming! The new quartz-composite sink top with the three sinks is in at the big restroom at the Community Center level and the accessories – mirrors, paper holders, grab bars, changing station – are on site ready to be installed, along with the faucets, of course!

Window and door trim is making everything look better and better, and the Epp Sonin Music Room is looking great, with the new vertical slats at the skylight and the lighting valance defining a lovely band around the room.

And, the metal handrails have been installed in both the stairways. They will be fitted with maple slats (the rough framing lumber you see in the photos is for safety until the slats are installed) and we very happy to try them out. The top of the guardrail will also have a wood cap.

Our pull-down attic access ladder is in and Valerie is showing off ‘below’ and ‘above’- the space is packed with HVAC piping and ducting but very well-organized. And let’s not forget the fantastical maze of copper piping at our new Mechanical Room! That’s our new boilers, and new hot water tank.

Ever onward. ever vigilant, Alice and Valerie and your COG

October 17 Update from your Construction Oversight Group (COG)

More and more finishes:  the cabinets are being installed! Here’s the view of the new copier/ mailroom, with the wood laminate doors. We even set the placement for the cabinet handles and then spent a pleasant time laying out the pattern for our new cobalt blue carpet squares. That’s what will go on the floor of this room, and of the whole Offices level and the Anne Smith Room. It will look so great with all the maple trim and doors!

Ceilings and lighting are nearing completion on the upper levels, and sprinkler installation in the new part is largely complete. We’re working on our tactile signage package for the whole building: every room has a number that relates to the fire protection system and all the room names and numbers will have braille and raised lettering.

Here’s a view of the Community Center level bathroom – tile is on, ready for grouting and – while you can’t see this in this photo – the four toilets are mounted. The countertop for the three sinks will be installed next week.


Outside, the site contractors are back for a few weeks to complete the exterior steps, install the fencing for the HVAC condensers, complete the handrails and re-grade the parking lot across the street. The gutters and downspouts arrive some time soon, too. We are very happy with the granite veneer stone and cap at the retaining wall at the Community Center entry.

Do look for the new posts for the Black Lives Matter banner, courtesy of our multi-talented Nancy Sofen.  (The site contractors would like to hire her! ) She also re-planted the azalea at the top of the Marshman ramp, saved in her garden throughout construction.

One step at a time…we are getting there!

 Alice and Valerie

October 10 Update from your Construction Oversight Group (COG)

The new features are coming thick and fast!  Check out the new railings for the front walk (the railings for the steps to the Waldorf driveway will come next week, and will be similar in appearance).

Also, the upstairs bathrooms are close to completion, just need a bit more paint and some accessories. Doors are mounted – and looking great – throughout the upstairs, and the kitchenette floors are ready for the sheet Marmoleum flooring, to be quickly followed by the base cabinets. Those are the IKEA cabinets we all assembled!

And here’s a few photos from our new Anne Smith Room and new meeting room on the top floor, right above – with the East Village Fair underway, and after; the views are terrific!  And yes, we will have shades; we’re trying out different fabrics and solar screening types.

We on COG continue to be so very grateful for all the community support!  Thanks again to the VSN and to Anne Englehart and Doug Durant for the delicious dinner.

Your ever-vigilant Alice and Valerie and team COG

October 3 Update from your Construction Oversight Group (COG)

We are thrilled to announce – as many may already know –  that we have received a Temporary Certificate of Occupancy to use the Community Center for the East Village Fair flea market! The finishes aren’t complete,  the new flooring isn’t in place, but alarms, lighting and egresses are complete enough in that space for life safety. Lexington building and fire departments have reviewed the whole building and are pleased with the progress, enough to allow us a partial occupancy, and the flea market is a GO!  The set-up volunteers stepped right up and the donations are pouring in and being priced, even as I write. There’s already lots more!

Here’s Valerie enjoying the view of the flea market set up, through one of our new windows!

The new glass is making an enormous difference!  The views from inside are just amazing. The beautiful octagonal form of the Sanctuary and of the steeple are now visible from the north stair well, and from the open corners of the Anne Smith Room and the new meeting room above – the views really highlight the exterior of the unique historical building we love. And, connect us to the lovely spaces all around us!
And a few shot from inside:

Here we are enjoying the scene from the top of the North stair  (For those of you who use Instagram, Maryann is making a video to post on the Maryann Thompson Architects Instagram feed). The space and light are wonderful. The handrails go in next week and the pendant lights await our review- there will be five lights extending the height of the open atrium.

And here’s from inside the new Music Room.

More to go, more to come, and we are really looking forward to getting the whole building open!
Alice and Valerie

September 26 Update from your Construction Oversight Group (COG)

We have glass!  We have grass!  We are so happy to see the windows, frames and all: in our commercial system the frames are installed first, and glass is put in separately. Wednesday morning, we saw the first of the glass being installed, and by the end of the day, so much was done. By the time you read this, even more will be in place…less and less flapping plastic!


The view from the North Stair
The view from the Anne Smith Room
And let’s not forget the care and teamwork required to just get that glass in place.

If all goes as fast as we hope, we will be in good shape to use the Community Center to host the Fabulous Follen Flea Market for the East Village Fair on 10/5. To set clear expectations: the builders, ZVI Construction, are working toward clearing the CC for us to set up, starting this Saturday 9/28, assuming that the Town of Lex. approves the Temporary Certificate of Occupancy permit on Friday morning. So far, so good.  The CC will be roughly finished, with glazed windows, full lighting, and some heat. But likely the doors will be rough (plywood!) for security and safety, and we won’t be able to use the bathrooms or CC Kitchen at all.

Contractors will be active all around during the week, so if you are sorting/pricing, there will be noise and activity in all adjacent spaces. Dropping off items: do not bring furniture or sporting goods, and only leave donations  during the hours posted!  We are working around Waldorf’s school pick-up times, and the contractor’s work hours. PLEASE be mindful of the site conditions, and don’t bring items that need cleaning, as we don’t have a water supply.

Last week, we also enjoyed last Sunday’s Religious Education activities:  to help connect our wonderful youth to the new spaces, the kids planted daffodil bulbs in a few of our new garden beds – thanks to Janet Lane, Nancy Sofen and the RE teachers!  And, Valerie and Alice took groups of kids through the new spaces, to talk about what was the same and what will be different. They were so excited and observant!

And, our unending thanks to the Volunteer Service network, and to this week’s dinner provider, Harriet Peterson – delicious and so nourishing, on many levels.

Thanks to all, Alice and Valerie

September 19 Update from your Construction Oversight Group (COG)

Isn’t it exciting to see our front yard again!? No fences in front (just in time for a wedding this weekend!) and the walkways and exterior ramps are almost complete. The walkways look so good, and we have a complete Anne Smith Room Deck!!

We will keep the fences up around the back part of the project until windows and exterior doors are all installed and other exterior work is done. Here’s Tom enjoying our new CC entry sloped walkway (technically, not a ramp).

Also, there’s been great progress on the windows, and it is transforming to see how the views open up from inside. Here’s the view from the new top floor meeting room!

We are still on target to have a Temporary Certificate of Occupancy (TCO) for the Community Center, in time for the East Village Fair Flea Market. The Fair is on Sat. Oct. 5, but set-up (tables & shelves, sorting, pricing) will start the weekend before, and we’ll have CC access all through the week before the Fair!

Again, we are grateful to the Volunteer Service Network, for organizing the regular Wednesday night meal deliveries…this week, our thanks to Caroline Jacobs, Margaret Micholet, and Mary Fitzpatrick!

We’re getting there…

Alice & Valerie

September 12 Update from your Construction Oversight Group (COG)

We have windows! We have windows! We have windows! I guess I can’t say it enough — we were so very happy to see many window frames unloaded into the Community Center this morning, with several windows installed already. The outlook is much sunnier, and will be be even more so when they install the glass (commercial systems require a two step process: frames, then glass).

And — We have walkways! We have walkways!

The other huge step forward: the Mass Ave side of the church now has complete ramps, steps and walkways. However, as the railings aren’t installed yet at the two steps up to the main walkway to the Sanctuary, this Sunday we will have everyone use the walkway to Marshman and then traverse the new brick walkway to the Sanctuary front steps. Please don’t step off the walkways, as the newly graded soil is freshly seeded.

And you all can check out the memorial bricks in the pathways. Please note – we intentionally did not do the layout of the names ourselves, but set a pattern and allowed the contractors and Chance to do the infill. It seems to have worked out well. We’ll have a few flowers for this Sunday, too!

And another new feature: our Mechanical Room water heater is ready to be installed – no, that’s not a cryogenic chamber!  😉

Ever onward, Alice and Valerie

p.s. Thanks to Jackie Hawkinson and the Volunteer Service Network, for yet another delicious meal! We are so grateful.

September 5 Update from your Construction Oversight Group (COG)

And here it is, September and we’re tantalizingly close, but not quite there yet! Our project is moving forward at a fast clip, with many, many decisions daily and constant changes, but we are still waiting for the window company to install our windows and doors.  Fortunately, we have been able to work around this delay and can keep moving forward on finishes inside and out.

COG and the Fair chairs are putting our heads together this week about the scope of the flea market; come to Ingathering this Sunday and you’ll hear the update.

And then come join us on a tour of the project after service; as with previous tours, please wear close-toed shoes and we will take you through in groups of 10 or so. Line up on the Waldorf driveway side, near our new stone wall!

The site is looking better and better: here’s the new steps from the driveway side, with Mart Ojamaa and Rosemary Trowbridge in front of the alcove for the new bike rack. The concrete walkways were poured today, and the new Terrace is almost completely paved. We think some of the brick walkways may be in place before Ingathering!

Inside, the plasterers and painters are working away. The upper levels of the stairways are being painted, and the ceiling of the Epp Sonin Room is looking amazing. (The ceiling truss beams will be sealed and stained to be a bit lighter)

And we on COG are again grateful to the Volunteer Service Network, and to Sally Cassells and Jane Spickett, for our yummy dinner and beverages last night, at our weekly meeting! So good.

Thank you, thank you, and see you all on Sunday,  Alice and Valerie and COG

August 29 Update from your Construction Oversight Group (COG)

The activity intensifies! The site is hopping!  Behind the fencing, there are a lot of site changes, as the landscape contractor sets the granite steps, the pathways are being readied for concrete and brick, the Terrace pavers are being laid (that’s the dark gray pavers, with the Sanctuary wall to the top right) and the new stone retaining wall is underway. We are also expecting to see some necessary re-doing of the curbing work for the next few days, on both sides of the site – better to take the time to get it right.

We also have some railings: the Anne Smith Room deck is framed, and the railings are on, except for the mahogany cap.

Everyone is VERY focused on getting us in, or at least to a Temporary Occupancy permit, before the Fair. We need to have the Community Center for the week before the Fair, if we’re to have the flea market, and the builders are meeting with the Lex. Fire Department and Building Inspectors to see what they will require. Lotta ducks to keep in a row, but we remain hopeful!

And we on COG are deeply grateful to the Volunteer Service Network, and especially to Craig Sandler, for our delicious dinner last night, at our weekly meeting! We are sustained!

Thanks, Alice and Valerie

August 22 Update from your Construction Oversight Group (COG)

The late August update from your Construction Oversight Group – We heard some very encouraging news recently: Gaudi’s La Sagrada Familia Cathedral in Barcelona, Spain, finally received its building permit, after 137 years (and $41 million in fines!).  We are in so much better shape!

But seriously, we are doing fine, even with more schedule delays than we could wish. The trimmed window openings and siding are making all the difference, showing the promise of eventual completion. The photos below show the progress. As to when we see the windows – the metal window parts are at the local fabricators, but won’t be actually installed in the openings for another week, likely after Labor Day.

There is plenty of other progress:  the elevator installation is moving fast (see the metal door frame photo, below). The Anne Smith Room deck (which overlays the flat roof) is being framed and the railings for it and the north terrace are in fabrication. The CC Kitchen floor is being prepped for the new flooring, now that the old range has been taken away (for re-use by our site contractor!) and the new cabinetry is being fabricated. HVAC is being installed throughout the lower levels, sprinkler piping is everywhere, and the drywalling crew is right behind them.

We are pressing our builder to give us the realistic completion date, as it seems unrealistic to look for a mid-September occupancy. Watch this space for a time-line update next week.

Ever onward, Alice and Valerie

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.

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

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