Compiled by Eamonn Ryan

This church renovation project is part one of a two-part article, wherein RACA Journal will revisit the technical details of the project upon completion.

A flowery entrance for a church.

A flowery entrance for a church. ©RACA Journal

In a bold move that blends business acumen with community spirit, GSB Development Trust Company Limited is spearheading the renovation of a longstanding exhibition centre into a versatile multipurpose venue in Sunnyrock, Ekurhuleni.

Director Gregg McAlpine says: “Historically, the property served as a permanent building exhibition centre, with a legacy spanning over 30 years. However, recognising the evolving needs of the community of Bedfordview and Edenvale, the decision was made to repurpose the space into two distinct uses.”

McAlpine, who also serves as a director of Alpine Property, sheds light on the transformative vision driving the renovations. At the core of the project is the concept of partnership between business and church leaders – a vision that emerged from the need for a state-of-the-art conference venue that could also facilitate as the venue for the Lighthouse to the Nations Church during certain days of the week and quieter business times over the weekend, thus maximising use of the facilities.

With the church experiencing growth and larger premises being unviable in the upmarket neighbourhood considering the specific hours of a church which leave premises vacant through most of business hours, the idea of repurposing the exhibition centre gained traction as a solution that could benefit both the church and the broader business community, as a conference facility.

Central to the HVAC upgrades is the installation of a centralised air-conditioning system.

Central to the HVAC upgrades is the installation of a centralised air-conditioning system. ©RACA Journal

He outlines the schedule of activities, including church services on Sundays, youth gatherings on Fridays, midweek Bible studies, and occasional events hosted by the church. Additionally, the venue will cater to the broader community as a conference facility, serving the Greater East Rand Area.

Acknowledging the demand for such conferencing facilities, he points to the importance of providing accessible spaces that meet commercial needs without exorbitant costs. By repurposing the exhibition centre, the venue aims to fill a gap in the market, offering state-of-the-art facilities at competitive rates.

With the auditorium/church hall designed to comfortably seat around 300 people, the venue is poised to host a multitude of events, from church services to conferences and seminars. Consequently, versatility was central to the design with the layout allowing for seamless transitions between different activities, and for various seating arrangements and configurations to suit the needs of different gatherings.

Church activities, including worship services and Sunday school classes, are seamlessly integrated into the venue’s design. Breakaway meeting rooms double as classrooms, equipped with built-in cupboards to store supplies and materials, ensuring efficient use of space between church and conference activities.

It was crucial to create a conducive environment

It was crucial to create a conducive environment

“This collaborative solution utilises space efficiently to meet the needs of both religious and commercial sectors. By creating a venue that serves dual purposes, the project aims to bridge the gap between business viability and community service, ensuring that the facility remains both fully utilised and financially sustainable,” says McAlpine.

“This renovation project symbolises more than just a physical transformation—it embodies a spirit of collaboration and innovation that holds the promise of revitalising community spaces and fostering meaningful connections. The location is anticipated to emerge from the project as a vibrant hub for both church activities and commercial events, thereby setting a precedent for creative repurposing and community-driven development.”

What became evident from the outset, explains McAlpine, is that the project held major implications for the HVAC system on site. This had previously relied to a considerable extent on natural airflow, but the closing off from each other of the two floors meant that solution was no longer viable except in certain sections, while complying with building fire regulations required a retrofit.

“With projected large numbers of visitors – whether for church services or as a business meeting venue – it was crucial to create a conducive environment for the various activities.”

Work underway on the project.

Work underway on the project.

Central to the HVAC upgrades is the installation of a centralised air-conditioning system to cover the bulk of the venue, supplemented by smaller systems for breakaway meeting rooms. Natural ventilation is retained in certain areas, balancing energy efficiency with comfort. Moreover, a fresh air system is being installed to ensure optimal air quality while complementing the cooling process.

Safety considerations are also paramount, with the installation of a six-cubic-meter per second extraction fan rated to 200°C in the main auditorium to extract smoke in the event of a fire. This system is integrated with a centralised smoke detection system, ensuring swift response and evacuation procedures.

As the multipurpose venue prepares to open its doors to the community, it embodies a vision of inclusivity, adaptability and spiritual enrichment. With its flexible design, state-of-the-art facilities, and commitment to serving both church and community needs, the venue stands as a testament to the transformative power of thoughtful design and collaborative vision.

Project name: Lighthouse to the Nations Church
List of professionals: Name of company:
Owner GSB Development Trust Company Ltd
Developer GSB Development Trust Company Ltd
Consulting engineer       | Mechanical Cool Reaction
HVAC and associated product suppliers Toshiba           | AMS