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Mormon Temple is ’Uplifting’ Experience for Work Crews

Wed June 28, 2000 - Southeast Edition
Cindy Riley

With virtually no room for error, construction crews are working to complete a 3,352-meter (11,000 sq. ft.) Mormon Temple on Mt. Olive Road in Gardendale, AL. When finished, the temple will be used for religious ceremonies and various covenants.

“This is considered holy ground. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ specifications are very strict because the church feels we’re building for a perfect man; therefore, it expects nothing less than that in return,” explained project manager Randall Bugg of Gary C. Wyatt Inc.

Construction began last fall and is expected to end this summer. The one-story, $3.5-million structure is a wood-frame building framed with LVL studs and steel. The temple is covered with plywood and a marble veneer, and from ground to steeple measures 19.8 meters (65 ft.).

“We had to put up a steel frame tower which serves as the steeple. It weighs ten tons, so that was no small task. It was manufactured by a company out of Virginia and had to be shipped to Birmingham. We put the marble veneer on while it was on the ground. That took over a week, and then we placed it on top of the building,” said Bugg.

According to project superintendent Larry Browning, also of Gary C. Wyatt Inc., two cranes had to be used.

“We had a 150-ton crane to lift the tower and a 35-ton crane with a hook and man basket on it, to guide it into place,” Browning said.

The tower was constructed to accommodate a 2.1-meter (7 ft.) fiberglass angel, named Mironi, which is perched atop the temple facing east. The 158.8-kilogram (350 lb.) figure has a base of steel tubing and is covered in gold leaf.

Said Browning, “The demands were very high and restrictive from the intricate design of the building to the woodwork and framing. Even the gold inlay must all be very precise, uniform and matching on the interior and exterior. It’s a pure place — the purity and excellent workmanship are what the church is looking for and we recognize that.”

Browning also mentioned that as the deadline approaches, night work may be necessary.

“The weather certainly hasn’t helped. We’ve had 17.5 inches of rain just in the last three weeks,” he said.

Construction on the temple officially began in October, when subcontractor Borden and Brewster cleared and grubbed the land, excavated the subgrade and laid pipe as part of the storm drainage process. Equipment used on the job included a Caterpillar 963B loader, 322 trackhoe and a Dynapac compactor.

One of the first contractors on the job was J & L Electric Inc., which was responsible for providing power to the construction trailers and all areas where saws, drills, etc., might be used. According to co-owner Jack Whiddon, “We’ve been on site throughout this project, and will be among the last to leave.

“First, footings were dug and conduit sleeves were placed for the outside power to come in. Then slab was poured and the walls were put up. Our conduit is in the slab, so we had to go in at that point and bring everything up to the proper elevations and install all the boxes,” said Whiddon.

J & L used a John Deere backhoe for outside digging and trenching for primary power and telephone service. Rented Clark lifts were used inside, as conventional ladders and scaffolds could not accommodate the high ceilings. In addition to installing plugs, switches and the fire alarm system, J & L provided power for the sound system and closed-circuit television.

“The closed-circuit TV is interesting,” added Whiddon. “On dedication day, the ceremony will be broadcast to Mormon temples all over the world.”

The temple also will feature five chandeliers, including one weighing 500 pounds with 1,000 crystals.

“A Salt Lake City, Utah, company installed a hoist for the chandelier, and we’re doing the wiring. We’re also dong the wiring for the baptismal pumps, so we’ve had plenty to keep us busy.”

One crucial step in construction was the steel erection for the temple. That task was handled by Cash Contractors of Pinson, AL.

“We had three or four men on the job for about two weeks,” explained owner Jerry Cash.

“We used a National boom truck 500C for lifting and a Miller welder 225 for welding pieces together both on the ground and in the air. There were some steel columns involved in this project, along with several steel beams [for support] that weighed a couple of hundred pounds.”

With plans that allowed for zero tolerance, it proved challenging for crews to complete their assignments. They also worked under the watchful eye of an on-site missionary and representatives from a construction management firm based in Salt Lake City. Curious onlookers stopped by daily for a closer look as well.

“There’s definitely a lot of interest in this particular job,” added Cash.

One of the biggest tasks was the framing. Bland Construction Inc. was responsible for all of the LVL stud and wood framing, as well as setting the roof trusses. According to company president Jon Bland, “We were at the site for about 16 weeks. We handled all the Simpson anchors and straps — we had a tractor-trailer load of the hurricane straps, plus there were numerous bolts needed to anchor the structure to the slab. We also installed the clad sheathing on the exterior.”

Bland’s partner, Raymond Smith, also was involved in the project.

“A rented Lull 844 skylift was used throughout the job, along with an 80-ton crane for setting the roof trusses. With 10 to 20 men working 10 hour days, we kept pretty busy,” said Smith.

In addition to putting in the plates, crews built the temple’s walls on the floor, then lifted them by crane. Roof trusses were put in place and all of the parapet walls were built. Blocking was also completed for detailed crown moulding and trim.

Two 12.2-meter (40 ft.) all-terrain scissorlifts were used both inside and outside the building.

“Everything had to be exact. We worked hard on this project and I hope we can look back on this in the future and be proud of what we accomplished,” added Smith.

At the end of construction, the church will oversee the installation of lead stained-glass windows, imported from Germany. Once that and other finishing touches are completed, a summer open house is planned for public tours. After that, however, entrance into the temple will be limited to Mormons only and will require bishop approval.

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